Sustainable Printing: A Complete Guide

By Paula O’Gorman, Marketing Director of Docutec

Were you aware that traditional printing processes might contribute up to 25 per cent of the total waste found within landfills and that global production of printing paper has tripled over the past three decades? When we consider the impact that additional materials such as ink can have on the environment, the importance of adopting sustainable printing practices becomes clear.

What does this approach involve and perhaps more importantly, what steps can businesses take? These are all important questions when we consider the threat of climate change.

What is Sustainable Printing?

Sometimes referred to as “green” printing, a sustainable approach to printing is associated with balancing the operational requirements of a business with its carbon footprint. The goal is to embrace more environmentally friendly approaches without being forced to sacrifice in-house efficiency.

However, sustainable printing does not necessarily require that a business goes completely paperless. It is instead meant to offer a means by which stakeholders can integrate innovative approaches into their overall workflow.

Let’s examine ten steps to getting closer to achieving sustainable printing.

Sustainable Printing: hands holding a blank piece of paper over a wooden table

Your Ten-Step Guide to Sustainable Printing

Take Stock of How Many Printers are Necessary

Many offices have unused or outdated printers. What you need to do is count the number of units and if any of these have become redundant. Note that this includes similar devices such as copiers and fax machines.

It could also be wise to determine if any existing printers can be upgraded to more efficient models (such as multifunctional printers which provide additional options such as scanning documents). Not only will this free up space, but it can help to reduce energy consumption within a short period.

Electronic Documents

It is estimated that the average office worker will use a staggering 10,000 sheets of paper on an annual basis. While physical documentation is still required in some instances, management should opt for paperless solutions such as electronic documents. Even wasteful paper copies of newsletters can be easily replaced with the digital outreach provided by hiring a Pinterest Manager. These documents can thereafter be stored within a virtual repository (such as a cloud-based system). If physical printing is still required, the office should utilise paper derived from recycled sources.

Clients should be equally encouraged to use electronic methods when sending or receiving information. Not only will this reduce waste, but it is simply a much more efficient solution for most communication requirements.

Asset Management and Responsible Disposal

We also need to touch on the notion of proactive oversight. In other words, managers and stakeholders should analyse which devices are no longer serving any purpose. These can then be sent to the appropriate recycling centre. The is the same for printer-related materials such as toner bottles and ink cartridges. Businesses can partner with trusted ITAD (IT asset disposition) services to ensure that the most environmentally friendly methods are used.

Develop a Sustainable Workplace Culture

Many experts will argue that the notion of sustainability is inextricably linked to employee behaviour. It is therefore the responsibility of management to encourage sustainable practices within the workplace. Here are some methods which can be leveraged:

  • Providing orientation sessions when learning how a new printer functions.
  • Requiring workers to keep track of how much paper they use.
  • Offering office-wide incentives if sustainable targets are met.

Those who become aware of the importance of sustainable printing will be much more likely to adhere to the associated guidelines. In-house efficiency can lower costs, reduce waste and achieve even the loftiest of performance milestones.

Analyse the Functionality of Various Devices

Let us imagine for a moment that an office contains four printing stations. Three of these are rather old while the fourth has been recently installed. In this case, it’s best to redirect the majority of printing tasks to the most efficient unit. There may also be times when a printer can be adjusted so that it offers a more environmentally friendly edge (such as changing image resolution or adjusting the colour output to save ink).

Address Excessive Power Consumption

The good news is that most modern printers have been equipped with environmentally friendly technology. This is often denoted by the Energy Star rating. Energy Star ratings can range from zero to 100. Industry experts recommend purchasing an office printer with a score of 75 or higher.

There are also additional options that can be employed. For example, quick startup modes will limit power consumption and “sleep” settings will essentially deactivate the device when it has not been used for a specific amount of time. These options can often be modified by authorised users.

Take Advantage of Paper-Saving Features

There are many ways in which paper consumption can be reduced within office settings. For instance, printers can be programmed to use both sides of a sheet when creating a document as opposed to printing on a single side (this is referred to as a duplex function).

Another excellent way to reduce paper usage is to stress the role of e-documents in the workplace. Not only will this help to reduce its overall carbon footprint but sharing information via digital means can help to increase overall rates of efficiency. After all, there is no need to reprint a document if it can simply be sent by email to the appropriate recipients.

Reduce the Volume of Printed Material

Many offices are associated with large stacks of documents that have not been accessed in some time. There may also be occasions when material needs to be printed for an upcoming event or presentation. The issue here is that some workers tend to make more copies than required.

This is extremely wasteful and once again, it can lead to cost overruns. The wiser strategy is to adopt an on-demand printing strategy. In other words, only produce physical materials when they are needed.

Examine Printer Settings from Time to Time

One of the many advantages associated with modern printers involves their sheer versatility. Here are some ways in which they can be modified to adopt a more sustainable approach:

  • Choosing high-speed duplex printing.
  • Activating a mode that reduces the amount of toner used.
  • Printing a specific section of text as opposed to an entire page.
  • Choosing a certain default toner.

Of course, each printer will vary in terms of what options are available. Management and any relevant stakeholders should become extremely familiar with the owner’s manual. Once the correct settings have been selected, they can be saved so that others are unable to modify the controls.

The Importance of Ongoing Optimisation

Sustainable printing is a great environmental initiative for companies that hope to reduce their overall carbon footprint. However, be realistic as these changes will take time and require a fair amount of commitment. They must also be proactively monitored to ensure that the right steps are being implemented.

Therefore, businesses should analyse each strategy that has been put in place. Furthermore, stakeholders can also determine if any additional steps need to be taken. These findings can thereafter be shared with the appropriate departments; helping to increase overall levels of in-house transparency.

Sustainable Printing: Responsible Practices Today for a Greener Tomorrow

To summarise, here are some of the main advantages associated with sustainable printing practices:

  • Increased levels of efficiency.
  • A greater sense of social responsibility.
  • Reduced energy costs.
  • The ability to limit the destruction of rainforests.

Of course, the notion of a paperless office environment is certainly nothing new. Some would even argue that it first emerged as far back as the late 1980s. The main point here is that environmental sustainability is now more important than ever before.

As governments are striving to meet lofty green goals while reducing their carbon emissions, even the smallest of organisations should adopt the practices mentioned throughout this article. There is no doubt that the results of these efforts will have a positive impact on future generations.