5 ways to champion sustainability at your child’s school

It’s that time of year again—back to school. Yellow buses, alarm clocks, and of course parent paperwork! Seems like each day my child’s backpack is filled with more and more paperwork. One day it’s Contact and Internet Use forms, and the next Volunteer Release and Field Trip Chaperone forms. Shepherding the distribution, signing, and collecting of these forms must be the bane of each teacher. Who wants to be bogged down with administrative paperwork instead of teaching? Not to mention how many gallons of water, pounds of wood and waste are generated.

Before filling out and returning all that paperwork, consider going digital instead to pioneer sustainability at your child’s school. Here’s how you can start:

  1. Born digital.  When paperwork starts out digital, sustainability begins, so ask for an electronic copy first that you can fill out on your computer.
  2. Take a picture. If you can’t get an electronic copy of the form, take a picture with your iPad or smartphone camera.
  3. Stay digital. Try filling out the form electronically. This is easy to do using the free Adobe Fill & Sign app (iOS or Android). No more worrying about scribbling out mistakes or messy handwriting. Just open a PDF of the form or camera image to fill it out.
    formTap the screen to enter text and press and hold to bring up the check box tools as seen here.
  4. E-mail a completed form. When you’ve finished, use the Share icon in the Adobe Fill & Sign app to send your child’s teacher an e-mail with a PDF attachment of the form.  This attachment can easily be forwarded to the school administration for filing.
  5. Keep a digital archive copy. Are you ever plagued with Déjà vu when filling out a form? It looks familiar but you can’t remember if you filled it out? No worries—just keep a PDF for your records so you know.

Imagine the savings to the school district if each parent filled out forms electronically.  For example, there are approximately 7,500 students in our district and each student has at least 6 paper forms to fill out and return. 6 paper forms is an extremely conservative estimate and doesn’t include permission slips, transportation forms, medication forms,  free and reduced lunch applications, or even the concussion awareness form. So, for just 6 forms, that’s 45,000 forms that are printed, filled out, and returned. Using the ResourceSaver Calculator*, this could result in over $12,000 dollars in savings, not to mention 51,421 gallons of water, 4,325 pounds of waste, and 16, 763 pounds of wood.


So start the school year off right by going digital with your child’s paperwork, and making a commitment to sustainability.

Disclosure: I do independent contract work for Adobe Systems, but I was not compensated for this post. I merely saw an opportunity to use the Adobe Fill & Sign app to create a more sustainable school system.

*Developed and operated by the Environmental Defense Fund, now under ownership of the Environmental Paper Network.

Building a multilingual PDF document with direct access

It’s common to see PDF files that contain multiple languages – like product assembly instructions. Usually these documents contain a sequential layout of the translated pages (i.e, English on page 1, French on page 2, etc.). But, this type of layout can be time consuming to navigate, especially if there are many different languages. So, instead of building documents with sequential access consider building multilingual documents with direct access to each a language to increase usability.

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Extracting non-sequential pages from a PDF file

This question gets asked with some regularity on AcrobatUsers.com.

In quite a few documents, I would like to extract pages that are non-sequential. Acrobat X Pro only allows me to extract sequential pages, so I have no quick way to grab just the five or six pages I want to extract without doing it one page at a time. This gets tedious, so is there a better way to do this or an add-on that would allow me to do so?

Unfortunately the Extract command doesn’t allow you to grab non-sequential pages but there are a few different workarounds that you can use instead. The newly redesigned Page Thumbnails navigation in Acrobat XI makes this task much easier as well.

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View the same PDF document in multiple windows

Depending on the task at hand, sometimes it’s clumsy navigating large PDF files. Recently I was assisting an Acrobat user that regularly received large PDF files he reviewed for completeness. The PDF file contained a “lead sheet” that referenced other scanned pages within the document. The problem he faced was trying to keep the “lead sheet” page view static while double checking that the file actually contained the referenced pages.

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