Greening Astrophysics

The Dept of Astrophysics is trying to become a more environmentally friendly department. By implementing a few simple initiatives we can lessen the impact our daily routine has on the environment substantially.

Recently the Green Office Program (GOP) rated 100 UNSW schools and departments (Kensington campus) in terms of their environmental performance. The School of Physics recieved a Green Office Rating (GOR) of 1 (out of 5) which means we are: "Below average. This office has a substantial effect on the environment. No efforts are currently being made to reduce the environmental impact". We were actually third from the bottom - one of the worst environmental performers at UNSW.

There are 4 specific areas in which we can make a difference:

Paper Conservation

Our department, like many, is grossly inconsiderate when it comes to printing. Every week we go through reams of paper for printing, alot of these print jobs remain uncollected by the printer. Here are a few simple things to do to cut back on paper usage in the department:

Print using multiple pages

There are many programs that enable you to print multiple pages per sheet. If you have a ascii (text) file print it using a2ps, by default a2ps will stack 2 pages per a4 sheet

a2ps file.txt | lpr

Linux by default doesn't come with a2ps, linux's alternative is mpage. To print 2 normal pages per A4 sheet the command is

mpage -2 file.txt | lpr

With postscript files you can use psnup to print multiple pages per sheet. The following example will print '2' pages of the file '' per A4 sheet

psnup -2 | lpr (or psnup -2 > to output to a file)

DVIPS also enables you to print just the page(s) you need in your latex document

dvips -pp43,44,70 file.dvi

will print page 43, 44 and 70.

To find out further info on using any of these commands as most have a variety of options check the manual pages (eg: man psnup).

Remember combining these commands with double sided printing decreases paper usage by 4!!!

Always do double sided printing

Always send large print jobs to p62fd for double sided printing. In UNIX the command lpr -Pp62fd will accomplish this.

In windows you need to install the correct drivers, HP4050TN, which can be obtained here. Once the printer drivers are installed enable duplexing in the printer properties dialogue box.

Don't send the same print job multiple times - Check the print queue

This is one of the most common mistakes made. If your print job doesn't come out it is most likely that the print queue has stalled, sending your job multiple times will not reactivate the print queue it will just result in the job being printed multiple times once the print queue is active again.

All print jobs in the school are spooled through newt. Therefore if you send a print job and it doesn't come out you need to check the print queue's. On the machine from which you sent the print job (for example bat), type lpq -Pp62fd, if your job is just sitting there, the print queue on bat may have stalled, in that case contact If the print queue is empty your job has been spooled to newt and you need to log into newt to check if the print queue is progressing. If the print queue on newt seems to have stalled email, (Remember I cannot reset the print queue on Newt you need to tell Kristien or David via the helpdesk).

Also read the official guide to printing in physics at:

Don't print documents unless absolutely neccessary, especially emails!

Paper Recycling

Finally, don't forget to recycle all your paper using the big blue recycling bins provided. Do not put paper in your office bins as it won't be recycled, in fact you will find most cleaners will not empty your office bin if it is found to be full of paper.

Nearly 50% of all waste generated in buildings at UNSW is paper. A waste audit in 1996 found that less than half of this is recycled. To find out more about recycling at UNSW go here.

Cardboard recycling

Remember that you can recycle cardboard too. Just fold it up and leave it next to the big blue paper recycling bins for collection.


The department of Astrophysics now has a bin for recycling drinks containers. It can be found in the kitchen area of Astrophysics and is clearly labelled.

Did you know that twenty cans can be recycled into new cans using the same amount of energy required to produce just one can from raw material? Sounds like a good enough reason to make that extra effort and walk over to the recycling bin to dispose of your recyclable rubbish. Especially considering the Astrophysics chocolate club can go through over 24 cans in one week!

You can put aluminium cans, glass bottles and jars and PET bottles in the recycling bin. Items such as tin cans, tetra packs, milk cartons and take away plastic food containers should not be placed in the recycling bin. You can find more info on drinks container recycling here.

Energy Conservation

Did you know that over one year a computer and monitor left on all the time requires the energy produced from burning 500 kilograms of coal which produces more than 1000 kilograms of carbon dioxide. This single computer is equivalent to the green house gas emissions produced by an average car driving 3700km.

Remember energy conservation results in reduced greenhouse gas emissions - if all offices in NSW were equipped with energy efficient office equipment, the greenhouse gas emission savings would be the equivalent to taking 50,000 cars off the road. Find out more about energy conservation at UNSW here.


Switch off unnecessary lights - one fluorescent tube releases one kilogram of greenhouse gas every 15 hours. An energy audit in 1999 found that 18% of lights were left on at night in UNSW offices.

If you are the last person to leave of a night, switch off all the lights in the main Astrophysics areas as you leave. Most importantly when you are at work during the day, open your blinds and make use of the natural light.


Many people use personal heaters to keep warm during winter. UNSWITCH will replace your existing heater with a new energy efficient heater - for free. If you would like to swap your old heater for a new energy efficient heater please e-mail the Green Office Program. More information on the 'Swap your heater' campaign can be found here.

Computers and Monitors

By now you are probably all familiar with the UNSWITCH's Turn off your PC campaign. The main points to remember are:

  • Shut down computers at night and on weekends -This saves significant energy without affecting the performance, and may increase (rather than decrease) the operating life of the equipment.
  • If your computer doesn't have energy saving software installed you can still save energy by switching off the monitor. The monitor can consume up to three times as much energy as the PC.
  • In cases where the computer is deliberately left on for network services or remote access the monitor can be safely shut off without interfering with the running of the computer.
  • Computer monitor 'screen savers' do not save energy - this a very common misconception,

In the 2001 energy audits, the Faculty of Science and technology had the highest CO2 emissions of any faculty at UNSW. Not surprisingly the School Of Physics hit rock bottom again and was ranked 104 out of 110 (where 1 is most environmentally friendly) in terms of the total annual CO2 emission for monitors. Our monitors generate approximately 42,000 Kg of CO2 per year!

Here is a guide with step by step instructions that will enable you to activate the Energy Star software in your computer if available. Many computers, printers and copiers allow you to change the time interval before they slip into their low energy state - the shorter the interval, the greater the savings.

More Information?

Visit the website of the Environment Management Program of UNSW

The Astrophysics Green Office Initiative was started on 2nd May 2001. Please help our department become a more environmentally friendly environment. If you have any questions or further suggestions email

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