Turning the Page – AASHE

Turning the Page: A Behavior Change Toolkit for Reducing Paper Use

Manufacturing paper contributes to multiple environmental problems, such as air pollution, deforestation, habitat fragmentation, excessive waste production, water pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions, in addition to human rights abuses. Surprisingly, the widespread implementation of electronic communication has not led to an overall decrease in paper use. And though many higher education institutions across the country have made commitments to sustainability, zero waste, and climate neutrality, many still purchase and use large amounts of paper, ink, and individual desktop printers. 

In 2017, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) and Root Solutions, with funding from the Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund, created the Turning the Page on Campus Paper Use initiative to assist institutes of higher education in developing and implementing behavior change projects targeting paper reduction. 

The participating universities met for an in depth training on the use of behavioral insights to reduce paper use and to choose the behaviors on which to focus their campaigns. Schools working on the same behaviors formed a cohort. Throughout the following two years, Root Solutions regularly met with cohorts to provide additional training, guidance, and behavior-based tools; we assisted with determinants analyses, intervention design, and myriad special circumstances that arose. Nine universities completed the two-year cohort process and are seeing tangible paper reduction results to this day; many reported applying behavior change techniques to other campus sustainability efforts.

To ensure our insights can be used by other institutions, Root Solutions and AASHE developed Turning the Page: A Behavior Change Toolkit for Reducing Paper Use, which lays out a behavior-science process and interventions for reducing paper use on college campuses. The toolkit draws upon real world experiences from the Turning the Page initiative as well as other paper reduction campaigns. Our hope is that the concepts, concrete examples, and tools in this guide will empower practitioners to more effectively target paper consumption behaviors at their institutions.



  • Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund
  • Fort Lewis College
  • Ohio State University
  • Portland Community College, Rock Creek Campus
  • Red River College
  • University of Central Oklahoma
  • University of Colorado Boulder
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • University of Iowa
  • University of Richmond

AASHE empowers higher education faculty, administrators, staff and students to be effective change agents and drivers of sustainability innovation. AASHE works with and for higher education to ensure that our world’s future leaders are motivated and equipped to solve sustainability challenges.

"Paper use contributes to a range of serious environmental problems and also comes at a significant financial cost to colleges and universities. We are delighted to work with Root Solutions to accelerate the use of high-impact behavioral interventions to reduce paper use within higher education.”
Meghan Fay Zahnizer
Executive Director, AASHE
"As a Sustainability Coordinator in higher education I oversee a myriad of programs and projects. I try to apply behavior change principles to these efforts but I do not always have the time, staff or resources. I have been fortunate to attend in person and web-based trainings with Root Solutions for a project I am working on. I have benefited greatly from the relevant research, engaging and interactive presentations and the supportive training. I have been provided with resources, encouragement and coaching to help make my latest project seem less daunting. I would highly recommend Root Solutions workshops for professionals that are novice or experienced in behavior change strategies."
Elaine J Cole, PhD
Sustainability Coordinator, Portland Community College