You know that old-fashioned scribble pad you tucked under your arm as you frantically tried to solve for beta in your grad school valuation exam? Well, next time you're about to rip off four pages because your pencil ground too deep, think about this: According to a Brown University study done in 2000, paper made up a staggering 37.4% of all waste in the United States.

The report went on to suggest that institutions like universities that are in the business of "transmitting information" are likely to see this percentage substantially higher. Enter Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick Blackboard (NASDAQ:BBBB), a provider of software to the education industry that allows professors to use online teaching, communication, and learning tools.

The company offers a "save-the-trees" capability that increases profitability for schools and universities, providing a good long-term investment opportunity for Fools.

We can look to corporate America to illustrate just how much cost savings are possible by reducing paper usage. According to Waste Wise, Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) saved more than $100,000 in 2001 by reducing its paper usage by six tons. Verizon (NYSE:VZ) saved $2.7 million by reducing its paper usage for employee correspondence by 1,300 tons. And Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) cut down on its paper usage by more than 23 tons.

But it's the electronic option that's quickly becoming more popular. In 2001, Motley Fool Inside Value pick Anheuser-Busch (NYSE:BUD) was able to reduce paper waste by converting 300 hard copy reports into electronic format.

The move to e-communication is one reason for j2 Global Communications' (NASDAQ:JCOM) recent success as an investment. It profits by providing a platform that allows businesses to reduce costs while still maintaining a high level of efficiency in transmitting information. Blackboard provides a similar investment opportunity as more universities and schools move to an electronic platform to take advantage of these savings.

The company's stock has risen over 75% this year due to high double-digit top-line growth. The strong revenue growth year to date caused the company to revise its earnings guidance upward into a range of $0.84 to $0.86 per share. Now trading at roughly 28 times FY 2006 earnings, this enterprise still bears a reasonable price tag given its growth prospects going forward.

If there is one hurdle, it's that not enough professors are using the system yet. Of my six graduate school classes, only half are implementing the Blackboard tool into the class structure.

It will take time for some professors to get on board, but there's no question that Blackboard's product is not only beneficial in creating a more accessible learning environment but also in reducing the amount of paper used. And this means dollar signs for institutions and Blackboard investors, not to mention a sigh of relief from an untold number of trees.

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Fool contributor Jeremy MacNealy does not own shares of any companies mentioned.