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Bemidji State: Sustainability, information technology mix

Mitch Davidson, chief information officer at Bemidji State University, spoke about sustainability and information technology Thursday at a National Teach-In on Global Warming event at BSU. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Sustainability and information technology are high priorities for Mitch Davidson.

As Bemidji State University's chief information officer, he is bringing the two together.

Davidson spoke about opportunities in information technology for reducing paper and energy consumption last week at a National Teach-In on Global Warming event at BSU.

Davidson, for example, said he wants BSU to install solar panels to offset the power consumed by the SuperLab, the largest computer lab on campus, which would help reduce the campus' carbon footprint.

BSU is developing a request for proposals for recommendations from solar companies.

"I'd really like to see this happen," said Davidson, who has brought the idea to BSU's Student Association Student Senate. "It's a small step, but it's a step in the right direction."

Davidson said installing solar panels would be a good demonstration of the university's commitment to the American College and University President's Climate Commitment.

BSU President Jon Quistgaard signed the commitment last fall. BSU is one of more than 600 colleges and universities nationwide to sign the commitment to become carbon neutral.

Davidson also said having solar panels would be a good educational tool for students. He added that generating clean energy on campus would be a step in the right direction.

"This would be one more piece to show BSU's commitment to sustainability," he said.

Davidson also spoke about other opportunities at BSU.

He said BSU implemented duplex printing in several computer labs last fall, and he would like to see BSU require all new purchases of computer printers to be duplex printers.

"Duplex printing is simply printing on both sides of a page," Davidson said.

He said about 20 percent of the printers on campus have the ability to do duplex printing.

"So we try to encourage that as much as possible," he said.

While buying printers with duplex printing capability would add some cost to the purchase, BSU would recover that cost in the long term, he said.

Davidson also said he would like to see a limit on printing at BSU. At computer labs on campus, printing currently is unlimited for students, he said. He noted that most university campuses in the United States limit printing to 500-1,000 pages per student per semester.

Also on campus, Davidson will evaluate the usage of computer labs to determine whether there are an appropriate number of labs and computers within those labs.

Additionally, he said he uses the online Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool to find ratings, primarily for computer technology. He said EPEAT evaluates electronic products based upon 51 different environmental criteria.

Turning off printers on campus when they are not in use would also make a difference, Davidson said. He estimates BSU would save about 30,000 kilowatt hours annually if all BSU-owned printers were turned off when they are not in use in the evenings and on weekends. The savings in terms of dollars, he estimates, would be about $2,400 annually.

"But it you're talking about environmental costs, that's a completely different calculation," he said. "The cost is more than just the dollar amount."