According to the European Union Energy Star site, one sheet of paper represents 50 times the amount of energy it takes for a 50 page per minute office copier to print it. But did you know that you have the power to reduce your printing impact on the environment?
Nowadays, many firms, especially small start-ups, are of course far less dependent on paper than they once were. With most letters and faxes replaced with emails and paper invoices replaced with electronic equivalents, there’s less need for paper. However, being deeply paperless is still a distant prospect, especially for more traditional and established businesses. Most of the time, it is because of long-standing ways of working and a need for legal compliance. A study in 2016 showed that 80% of UK businesses print documents only so they can be signed. In financial services and the public sector, this number rises up to 90%.
Nevertheless, there are still some strategies and numerous ways for businesses who want to minimize the environmental impact of their printing practices without sacrificing their own benefits.
How can we print less?
- Use electronic signing systems for your official documents
As mentioned earlier, lots of unnecessary printings in lots of businesses are caused by the printing of documents only so people can sign them. Nevertheless, there are many ways to electronically sign official documents with methods that are legally compliant. The UK government even offers official recommendations to use electronic signing systems. Thus, these electronic signing systems enable the companies and businesses to eliminate a significant amount of paper. Moreover, because this electronic signing happens online, companies can now reduce the amount of travels made by their employees to sign documents as well as the costs that it triggers.
- Use electronic versions for papers handed out during meetings or trainings sessions
Another way businesses waste a lot of paper is through the “handouts” made for training sessions or meetings that often nobody looks at after these events. Not only does this represents a negative impact for the environment but it also creates a privacy issue, as companies are never sure where the “handouts” end.
With lots of people using nowadays tablets and laptops into meetings, it’s easy to reduce the amount of paper wasted for this purpose by distributing documents through an electronic form. However, if paper “handouts” are necessary, companies could also consider if it’s really essential to have a copy for each delegate.
How to deal with unavoidable printing?
In lots of businesses, there is an unavoidable need to print out at least some information. However, many solutions exist for businesses to do it the greenest way possible.
- Businesses can avoid printing documents “in-house”
Companies with periodic requirements for documents like leaflets, brochures and mail-outs can save money and time by outsourcing the printing to a specialized company. First of all, these companies are usually experts in printing, which means that they can avoid the waste of paper used in test prints or failed print runs. Moreover, by choosing a company which uses carbon neutral printing processes and shipping methods, businesses can limit and reduce their environmental impact from their major print runs. However, finding a carbon neutral printing company is not always easy, therefore, if a business wants to limit its carbon emissions as much as possible, it can also try to find a printing company close to its location by typing on a search engine document printing near me or a similar query.
- Businesses can reduce the number of printers
Whilst it may seem practical to fill an office with printers, it has a bad impact on the environment. Using a single and well-specified device for all office printing is a better strategy for businesses if they want to reduce their environmental impact.
- Businesses can use a duplex feature
Printers usually offers an automatic duplex feature which enables the companies to use double-sided printing. Therefore, companies use half as much paper. IT departments can program printers so they use duplex printing by default to enforce this behaviour.
- Businesses can use an economy setting
Lots of printers include an “economy” or “draft” mode, commonly accessed through the printer’s settings. Once again, the IT department can program printers so they use this “economy” mode by default. This setting commonly uses less toner or ink. In lots of cases, the print quality reached through an economy mode is still perfectly adequate. Personnel who need better quality printing for presentation goals need just to change the setting.
- Setting great recycling practices
Printing unavoidably generates a vast amount of recyclable material. Not only is there a lot of paper – both from unnecessary printouts and from documents that have been read – also there is the inkjet cartridges or toner.
These cartridges have a great value; many people will even purchase depleted cartridges from eBay, to refill them. There is usually something a business might do with ended cartridges – at least, they could send them to a business that recycles them.
Evidently, an option to save money is to use recycled and refilled cartridges. This is an individual business decision but, predictably, it is usual to find that producers don’t promote the use of unofficial cartridges.
Regarding the paper itself, personnel will be more willing to recycle if the infrastructures are there to provide for it. Thus, easily accessible recycling bins are imperative, as well as a business culture that promotes recycling.
- Reducing unnecessary use of color
Sometimes, it is not necessary to print papers in color, particularly if there is a work in progress in draft form. Businesses that promote personnel to only print in color when absolutely required will only deplete their cartridges rapidly, rather than an entire set of color cartridges.
- Discouraging printing in general
The best step is to work for a culture where printing is not the rule but the exception. Lots of people are used to print files with no second thoughts – maybe printing something just to read it comfortably. Personnel with alternatives, like access to tablets, aware that the company is seeking to work in a more green way, will print less, thus this becomes a habit.
Despite being debated for a long time, the real paperless office still seems like a futuristic ideal. Nevertheless, it is still realistic to try to drastically reduce the quantity of printing in each modern business.
Author Bio: Iñigo is a London-based digital copywriter passionate about the new technologies and the online universe. He spends his time writing about the topics he loves, travelling as much as he can and playing sports“