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Best Practices

System for reducing fax spam and wasted paper.

Contributed by Ned Parsons, IT Coordinator, Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology

I took an old Macintosh iBook G3 and set it to receive faxes, intercepting the incoming calls on the office fax line. It stores the faxes as .pdfs in a folder on the desktop and emails someone when something arrives - she can then delete the spam emails or pass the documents on to appropriate people. You can also print to it over the network and it will send your document as a fax.

Nothing was altered on the fax machine- the laptop plugs into it as a phone would, and merely picks up a little quicker. The fax machine remains fully functional.

This was all very easy to set up; this capability comes with MacOS X and though it seems best to run with an old laptop, nearly any Mac from the past 7 or 8 years with a built-in modem could do it.

Though we haven't really measured or kept track, people generally feel that there has been considerable savings in wasted paper.

A great example of reducing paper use while making office life a little saner!

MIT Sloan MBA Student Affairs office has a shared, access controlled, computer drive and document scanner that they put to use to scan and store all event and financial forms, contracts, etc. that come through the department. The files are stored as PDFs on that shared drive. The team invented naming conventions for each type of form, so they are automatically sorted and are easy to retrieve (i.e., Request For Payment forms are named by the date of purchase (mmdd), then name of the payee (LastNameFirstInitial), then last 2 digits of the account being charged (0321-DoeJ-75.pdf)). For invoices, the name of the payee is replaced with the name of the vendor (0321-Ambit-75).

Scanning and naming the documents takes a little time, but now when a student wants to check on something, or a document goes missing between offices during the approval process, the office can find it instantly. The same goes for contracts, event forms, agendas, announcements, and more. The group now has a perfect record of documentation from last year's events and therefore can duplicate the event more easily.

When original signatures are not needed, time is saved by using email rather than interdepartmental mail, In addition, the email sent folder provides an automatic record of when documents are sent and it is easy to track the amount of work completed each semester by looking at the files of scanned documents. Scanned documents are also more legible than those copied and faxed over and over!

Read how MIT labs are promoting recycling, reusing and reducing!

"We have a large blue toter in our lab. We assign a person in the lab to check the contents to make sure there are no contaminants and then take it downstairs to the loading dock when it's full. Any plastics that are clean can be recycled in there. Examples: empty tissue culture flasks, bleach bottles, plastic alcohol bottles, pipette tip boxes, plastic media jars... If it has been used with bio stuff, it can be bleached and that is enough for it to be put in the bin. If it needs to be autoclaved (because it has a lot of small nooks and crannies or because the person didn't want to bleach it), then it is usually not recycled.

Kathy Cormier, the Histology/Necropsy Supervisor in the Division of Comparative Medicine writes: One of the major things that we do is to reuse our ethanol (1 gal.) containers for hazardous waste collection. We use a lot of ethanol and xylene here (we are a histology lab of course!) and we stain a lot of slides with a variety of dyes. So we reuse the containers for our stain waste, ethanol and xylene waste. We also reuse these containers for our pipet tips too, the ones that have hazardous waste contamination. When we ship out slides and blocks, we reuse boxes and some packaging that we receive from vendors. Our diagnostic lab reuses cold packs and Styrofoam shipping containers (every one of the containers that they can get their hands on!).

Ideas from around MIT
If you have contributed ways to make your area more “green” please let us know by sending us an email at