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Green printing: save money and the environment

Many companies are looking for ways to reduce their environmental footprint and sometimes working greener means saving money too. Printing is a great place to start. Cutting back on printing will not only save your business money, but improve efficiencies and reduce your carbon footprint.

Although most companies make it easy for their employees to recycle paper, nine out of ten sheets of office paper in Australia are going directly into landfill.  That’s 3.5 million tonnes of paper each year. The good news is, while ‘paperless’ may be an unachievable ideal, ‘less paper’ is not that hard a nut to crack, especially for businesses. Reducing your print output is not only a far better environmental outcome than recycling, it’s also a powerful way to improve your bottom line.

An office of 50 staff which is able to reduce its print output by just 10 percent could save hundreds of dollars and some 109 metric tonnes of greenhouse gases per annum; the equivalent of
removing 27 medium-sized cars from the roads. With a carbon and emissions trading scheme to start next year, there is a real requirement for businesses to understand what their carbon footprint is and how they can reduce it. In order to reduce your printing costs and carbon footprint, it’s a good idea to find out what they are. Currently, 90 percent of companies in Australia don’t track their printing costs, so this is a good place to start.

STEP ONE
Count the reams

How much are you printing? Perhaps the easiest way to estimate your printing is simply to count the amount of paper you have at the beginning of the month, and how much you have at the end of the month. Don’t forget to factor in seasonal variations, such as end of financial period or retail peak periods.

Get some help

If you lease your output equipment, the supplier should be able to provide you a basic idea of your current print volumes (at least for that equipment). Managed print services companies like Upstream will often provide you with a no-cost audit of your entire print environment. Audits typically cover a span of time, and will help you understand not only print volumes, but also metrics like the optimal ratio of devices to users, current total cost of output (including service and consumables) and more. They’ll also look to see what types of documents you’re printing, their flow throughout your business and whether there are any problems or inefficiencies in that process.

STEP TWO
Smart scanning

Count the number of filing cabinets in your office. If you have more than one, you’re probably printing too much. Ask yourself what the primary purpose of having the paper is. Is it to be stored or moved around the organisation? If it’s either, it can be scanned and an electronic copy sent to your files.  Keeping these copies electronically can help you reduce the cost of physical storage space, as well as making it easier to access information quickly.

Try e-forms
Get rid of pre-printed stationery (such as invoices and letterhead) and replace with electronic forms. One advantage is that you can quickly make updates without having to bin outdated documents. You can even organise to have commonly used forms reside electronically on your printer or copier, so that anyone in the business who needs to use that kind of form automatically has the right version. Consider redesigning forms so they fit on fewer pages.

Lose the snail mail
Convert frequently posted documents (such as application forms) to PDF so they can be emailed instead. Many business management software packages also enable you to send your invoices and statements electronically.

STEP THREE
Take advantage of simple technology

Electronic faxing
If you are still using analogue (phone line) fax machines, you’re printing more than you need to. Electronic faxing, offered as a feature in most print/copy multifunction devices not only reduces paper, but also cuts your phone transmission costs and the amount of electricity used by a standalone fax machine. When you must fax a hard-copy document, modify or eliminate the fax cover sheet. You can replace the fax cover sheet with a post-it note or rubber stamp that has space for the transmission details, or you can note the details in an email that accompanies a scan to electronic fax transmission.

Duplexing and multi-up
Looking for an easy way to cut your paper use in half? Duplexing (printing on both sides
of the page) and multi-up (printing more than one page per sheet) are standard features
on most modern print devices. However, few businesses take advantage of these capabilities unless they are configured as default options. You can even set up the defaults to vary depending on the type of document you’re printing. Every 100 reams of recycled office paper that is printed double-sided saves two trees, more than a tonne of greenhouse gas and almost a cubic metre of landfill space compared to 100 reams of paper that is not recycled or printed double-sided.

Celebrate your success
Get recognised for your efforts! Document your savings in paper, dollars and energy consumption to your management team, board, customers and other stakeholders. Many government agencies and groups offer awards to companies that significantly reduce waste.

Don’t just print less, use less toner
Australians use more than 18 million printer consumables each year. Unfortunately, up to 80 percent of these potentially hazardous wastes are thrown to landfill each year.

1.    Recycle toner cartridges
Many cartridges can be returned to the manufacturers for their manufacturing or component recovery programs. The remaining cartridges are broken down and processed to recycle their
component parts into new products. This process recovers materials such as aluminium, steel, plastics, toner and ink. In the last three years, these efforts have helped give a second life to more than 2.2 million cartridges.

2.    Optimisation
As with paper, the most environmentally sensitive approach for toner management is to reduce
consumption rather than recycling. While many device manufacturers preach the gospel of environmental and economic responsibility, the reality is that the majority of their profits come from selling toner rather than printers or copiers. For example, device manufacturers typically ship their equipment with density settings guaranteed to maximise toner usage, often much higher than required for high quality business documents.

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