In a general office, printing is one of the main environmental impacts associated with day-to-day operations.
It is also one of the easiest environmental impacts to tackle that will deliver immediate environmental benefits as well as costs savings.
This article provides practical green printing tips and advice.
Printing has three main environmental impacts:
- The paper used to print on
- The ink and toner used
- The energy consumed to power the printer
The easiest way to reduce paper usage is using double-sided printing. This can halve your paper consumption overnight. Double sided printing can be setup as a default setting on the printer or a user can stipulate in the printing dialog box on their computer that they would like all printing to be double-side.
If your printer does not have double-sided functionality it is possible to retrofit a printing tray that supports the functionality. The investment cost will be paid back relatively quickly from savings in paper.
Some older printers cannot be retrofitted and therefore the only option is to invest in a new printer. If you take the decision to invest in a new printer you should source a verified waste collector who can recycle your old printer, or indeed find a charity that would benefit from receiving a 2nd-hand printer.
Other ways to reduce paper use include investing in ‘follow-me’ printing technology which requires uses to activate their printing request at the printer.
Recent research suggests that 30% of printing requests are never collected at the printer and hence become waste immediately. ‘Follow me’ printing technology is relatively cheap to install and will definitely save paper from print jobs that are never collected by the user who sent the printing command.
Behaviour change is also key in reducing printing volumes. Many people print without thinking about whether they need the document printed or whether they can isolate only the pages that they need printed. Communicating this to staff and demonstrating the benefits in terms of cost savings is a good way to change behaviour. Adding a simple message at the end of an email such as, ‘Please consider the environment before printing this email’ has been shown to reduce the number of emails printed.
Finally, most offices have lots of scrap paper that only has print on one side. This paper can be used as scrap paper for people to scribble thoughts on or indeed used in a free tray in the printer for single sided scrap printing.
Note: when purchasing paper consider using recycled paper as it has a lower environmental impact associated with its production. Also make sure the paper comes from a sustainable source – this can be identified by the international paper label called FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)
Ink and toner
Ink and toner are critical components in the printing process – they are also highly hazardous. By reducing the amount one prints, one can also reduce the amount of ink and toner used. Nonetheless, one cannot prevent using ink and toner if one needs to print.
To reduce the impact from ink and toner we suggest making good purchasing decisions and ensuring that waste ink and toner cartridges are properly disposed of. The former requires purchasing inks and toners that are vegetable based. Nowadays, most inks and toners are vegetable based but it is worth checking the environmental credentials of your ink and toner manufacturer.
Disposal of ink and toners should be conducted by a verified waste collector and properly recycled. Most ink and toner cartridges can be recycled. Again, check with your stationery supplier or ink / toner manufacturer on their recyclability characteristics
Printers consume a lot of energy when running. Reducing the amount of printing required will reduce your energy consumption and hence help with reducing your carbon footprint and saving on electricity costs.
Most modern printers have energy saving settings which allow users to setup their printer to go into a ‘deep sleep’ mode when not in use. Check whether your printer has the right settings and if not get the printer manual out and setup the energy saving parameters to suit your organisation. A good benchmark is that a printer should go into sleep mode after 15 minutes of non-use.
Most people leave their printers on overnight, on the weekend and over holiday periods. These periods can lead to stand-by loss of energy. A good solution is to install a timer switch to the printer plug input which can automatically shut down a printer in the evenings or over periods where the printer is not in use for extended periods. Bye-bye standby is a good technology and can found here.
Note: some printer manufacturers may remove their warranty when using a timer device to automatically shut-down a printer.
Outsourcing your printing needs
Of course there will always be some printing in the office that you will have to outsource to a specialist printing company.
When looking for a printing company, spend some time to see if they have an environmental policy and find out how they go about reducing their environmental impact.
There are many things to consider when choosing a sustainable printer, which we cover here, but in general a sustainable printing company will use sustainable inks and papers, and will have set procedures to deal with hazardous waste and conserve water and energy. We recommend the company, Onlineprinters, as a leading sustainable printing outfit.
I hope this article on green printing tips and advice has provided you with useful information on greening your printing.