Home Small Business Managing Green printing: save money and the environment

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.

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.

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.

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.

Neil Tilleyhttp://www.upstream.com.au/
Neil Tilley is the CEO and co-founder of Upstream Print Solutions, a company that achieved success as Australia’s largest independent managed print solutions company. Neil founded Upstream after seeing an opportunity in the market to help customers save money on their printing. In 1995, along with Gordon Hoen, he formed the Upstream Group: a group of companies with the shared vision to help businesses reduce the cost and hassle of document output management. These companies, including Upstream Technology and Print Solutions Australia, merged in 2007 to become Upstream Print Solutions. In 2010, Upstream became a wholly owned, independent subsidiary of Fuji Xerox Australia. In his role as CEO, Neil is focused on providing continued innovation and value to customers, and fostering an environment where staff can show their own entrepreneurial spirit. Read more about Upstream at The Upstream Blog.


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  2. Don’t forget double-sided printing!

    So many businesses use twice the amount of paper than they really need due to single-sided printing. Unfortunately most printers are not equipped for easy double-sided printing but the savings in paper expenses alone should be encouragement enough to find one that does.

  3. I am happy to find this post very useful for me, as it contains lot of information. I always prefer to read the quality content and this thing I found in you post. Thanks for sharing

  4. Oh we have been talking about cutting back on printing for what 25 years and I can finally claim to be very very very green. The way I improved our behavior was not to connect the printer as when it is connected we tend to print out anything of remote interest, now we think about it before going to the trouble of connecting the printer to the network and using that precious art paper.

  5. Thanks for the advice. My small company is very keen on trying to cut expenses and remain green. We have tried a variety of things and its been great. I will have to suggest some of these ideas to help save money. Thanks.

  6. Thats so true. So much paper is wasted in smaller and bigger companies. And there still is the idea of having a hard copy of something feels safer to store. However making several frequent (external & internal) backups could do the job. Besides that, there are many Government organisations that have their protocols to stick to that require them to keep a hard copy on file. It would deffinately make a difference if you reduce your printing.

  7. Great information on how to save some money on printing. But also I would recommend get continues ink system feed if you using inkjet prints but I would be careful on which ink they use.


  8. Slightly off topic I was watching a documentary about waste food last night and how we should reduce waste and make sure it is used more efficiently. For example, in Hong Kong over 30 tons of food per day that is wasted from restaurants is taken to the landfill and the local christian charity does not have enough man power to pick up all the food from the restaurants to feed the poor and this is not the left overs from customers either this is food that is prepared but cannot be used the next day. Although recycling paper is really important and it does recieve lots of press the waste coming from restaurants and hotels which can help the needy does not get nearly as much attention in my opinion.

  9. Document scanners in my experience, are a great way to free mountains of paper for recycling. Digital copies make searching for the right page a breeze, with the modern scanners OCR capabilities. With the fall in price of desktop scanners that are capable of scanning hundreds of page per minute, there really is no excuse for companies not investing.

  10. Another great tip when it comes to saving money and the environment is to see if the there are re-filled versions of the ink or toner cartridges your printer uses. As long as you check reviews from the sites you are purchasing refilled ink cartridges from, you can get the same quality prints for alot cheaper.

  11. It is not an unfamiliar scenario when people multitask in order to get things done quickly. The same thing applies to copy machines, as there are new machines designed to copy, and fax documents. Take a Bizhub C253 for example, it can easily do both of these things and is will come in handy in any business office since a lot of savings can be made. We can just imagine the money saved from buying a separate fax machine because the same is already incorporated in the copy machine. The output is not compromised because people who have bought it are very satisfied with the results, and the toner used to operate this machine is actually so cheap.

  12. I don’t think there is any excuse for not having at least a 95% paperless office. We have ISO14001 as well as 9001 and we are continually reducing our paper flow, using Microsoft Office we have complately cahnged all out production processes and information flow to computerised systems, this has resulted in prodcution efficiencies as well as green savings with no loss of bits of paper floating around.

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