The Paper Chase: Should we eliminate paper receipts?

We believe we speak for a large portion of the Allegheny community when we say we are fed up with being forced into a system which perpetuates paper waste through the automatic receipts at McKinley’s Dining Court. You may have seen our brief message as it appears on a green sign hanging from the second floor of the Campus Center.  For those who haven’t, the message is simple: “Why?” Why so much paper waste?

At an institution which forces the overwhelming majority to use meal plans through its residency requirement and additionally pushes an eco-friendly image, cutting down on paper waste through eliminating receipts is an easy decision. Especially when, according to Parkhurst, 12,000 to 15,000 receipts print each week.

Whether it’s a full meal, an insignificant pear or the third Gatorade of the day, we have to accept the receipt for it. Most of us only glance at our receipts if we’re worried about our account balance.

It’s important to keep track of our SHOP, Munch Money, and Brooks meals. However, we currently have to buy an item at McKinley’s, a meal at Brooks, or go to Financial Services to find out how much Munch Money, how many Brooks meals, or how much SHOP money we have. Putting this information on WebAdvisor would make it easily accessible and instantly remove one of the principle reasons we have paper receipts in the first place.

Web Adviser serves faculty and students alike well for so many reasons. From vehicle registration information to class schedules and GPAs, from students’ phone numbers to their home addresses, there is a great deal of information available on Web Adviser. But there is no way for students to determine the status of their meal accounts.

Why are we not given the option of whether or not we want a receipt? For a college which professes to be progressive on environmental issues, it seems silly that such an easy way to cut down on waste has not already been enacted.

According to Parkhurst employees we spoke with, the mandatory receipt-printing policy at McKinley’s is an accounting driven policy that is currently unchangeable. The policy is intended as a safeguard for customers as well as for Parkhurst, to ensure all transactions are rung out correctly and completely.

We challenge the validity of Parkhurst’s mandatory receipt-printing policy. While it is important for the company to protect itself and its customers by keeping records of transactions, this seems a clear case where it is unnecessary. Students know how much items cost. They’re labeled all over McKinley’s. If someone is overcharged, it’s because they chose not to pay attention when going through checkout. We learned basic addition in grade school. If Allegheny truly is the prestigious liberal arts college it bills itself as, I’d like to think its students can handle figuring out what their burrito and milk cost.

Putting balances online and making receipts optional (if they are not eliminated altogether) not only cuts down on unnecessary paper waste but helps the college live up to the sustainable reputation it advertises.