Technology has done much to make running a business more environmentally sustainable than ever before. People are traveling less for work and relying on video conferencing and cloud computing to fill the gaps. Emails and text messages have taken the place of costly faxes and mailers, and the visibility and reach of social media have led businesses to spend less money and fewer natural resources on traditional print advertising. Yet printing remains a necessary evil in the business world, and a major culprit in material waste. But while you may not be able to run an office without any printing whatsoever, ‘how’ you print is completely adjustable to the needs of conservation. To help you along, here are five environmentally friendly printing tips.
First of all, adjust your approach to printing based on the requirements of each document. That means looking at the printer settings each time you choose to print. If you can lower the print quality, switch to black and white ink only or skip out on printing images you’ll save big in the long run. It may seem trivial, but each day you can extend the life of your printer cartridge is another day you don’t have to buy a new one. And the fewer cartridges used up, the less chemicals released into our landfills and the less plastic we must figure out how to recycle.
Although ‘reduction’ is the goal, recycling should be first and foremost in your mind. That starts with the paper you use. By purchasing reams of recycled paper you’ll help cut down on the amount of trees that are exploited for paper production by as much as 50%. There are subtle other ways to recycle the paper you use in the office. If the documents are only for employee reference, try printing double-sided. Another great idea is to shred old documents and use that as packing material for your shipping needs. Finally, recycle your printer cartridges after they are used up. More than 70 million cartridges are thrown in the trash each year. It is up to each one of us to help drive that number down.
When it comes to purchasing printer cartridges, look for options that will save resources. Some cartridges can actually be refilled and reused as many as seven times. So try to purchase a printer that can take advantage of those recycled cartridges, and look for a local vendor to help you through the process. Some printers can also used soy-based inks, which are much better for the environment. Finally, look at solid ink technology that doesn’t require cartridges at all. You’ll have to buy a new printer, but you’ll cut down printing waste by as much as 90%.
Also hunt around for software that can help you in your conservation efforts. Xerox leads the way in this regard, with their GreenPrint program now included for free on many of their printers. The software actually analyzes the usage requirements of each page you are going to print, then makes recommendations on how to cut down on waste. The program will also help you simply cut images out of your documents, so you can avoid unnecessary ink expenditure.
Finally, make a push for your office to go completely paper free. Although some will argue that printing is a must, it’s getting harder and harder to make that assumption. Wireless networking can send documents to any machine in the office, and anywhere in the world instantaneously. Filesharing services allow you to deliver documents for meetings at certain times, wholly secure and in any format required. Why rely on old technology, just to help sell Brother ink products? Regardless of your needs, there are now paperless solutions. So think creatively and you might be able to avoid printing waste entirely.