Despite predictions as far back as 1975 that offices of the future would be totally paperless, the reality is that printing still plays a major role in day-to-day business operations. Not only did offices not become paperless, print volumes increased steadily well into the 2000’s until beginning to slowly decline .
The COVID-19 pandemic did lead to a sharp decline in print volumes as businesses went to more distributed work models or stopped operations altogether, but in 2021 volumes started to rebound.
Meanwhile, sustainability has become increasingly important across industries, with pressure mounting on companies to present a sustainable and profitable business model for the future. Streamlining print is an obvious place to start for most companies, since printing is often poorly managed and outdated.
The good news here is that there’s an opportunity to make a significant impact on the bottom line and adopt practices that are more environmentally responsible—just by making a few changes to how, when, and why printing is done.
What Is Environmentally-Responsible Printing?
Environmentally-responsible printing is simple in concept. It means taking resources into account when it comes to printing and doing everything possible to reduce waste and streamline print operations. In practice, this could mean a host of changes—from replacing old printers to changing paper and ink sourcing to changing office printing habits.
Printing has a definite environmental impact and is often one of the largest unmanaged costs for many companies. Introducing sustainable printing practices can coincide with improving the bottom line. For example, refurbishing and reusing ink cartridges means cost savings as well as reduced burden on the environment.
Adopting printing practices that are more environmentally-responsible can show customers and investors alike that your company takes responsibility for its environmental impact.
Examples of Environmentally-Responsible Printing Practices
It may seem that environmentally-responsible printing is simply a matter of printing less, but it turns out there are many opportunities to make printing more sustainable without losing the benefits of printed material altogether. That said, the first place to look is always at unnecessary or wasteful printing.
Best Printing Practices for Improving Sustainability and Reducing Cost
With a few tweaks to office culture, printing costs can be reduced quickly.
- Print to PDF: Determine what jobs need not be printed at all—in these cases, print to PDF may be enough.
- Rethink printing documents from the web: Printing from the web is another area where companies find plenty of waste. Web pages are heavily laden with images, ads, menus, and footers—material that’s not needed in a print version. The best way to handle this is for web developers to create print-friendly versions of pages. When that’s not available, employees can print only certain pages, copy and paste important information, use a third-party web printing service, or choose not to print these documents.
- Reduce abandoned prints: Reduce waste and printed documents left forgotten or abandoned at the printer with secure release workflowsthat require authentication by the owner to print and release the submitted print job.
- Always print two-sided: Reduce paper consumption by requiring double-sided printing (“duplex” printing).
- Track and measure: Using proper print analytics, companies can get an accurate measure of the environmental impact their printing has and identify paper-intensive processes as potential opportunities for digitalization and efficiency. Using analytics is one of the quickest ways to identify problem areas and implement fixes.
Recycling and Reusing Consumables
Consumables like paper, ink, and cartridges make up the bulk of environmental and cost impacts of printing. That’s why the Washington state legislature mandated that all state agencies including the University of Washington reduce paper use by 30% and buy only recycled paper. UW is taking on that task with paperless records, managed print services, and a robust recycling program.
Meanwhile, recycling materials and using recycled paper reduces carbon footprint, but re-use is even better from both a cost and environmental perspective, since recycled materials may cost more, and recycling itself has its own carbon cost. So the next step for a state like Washington is to look into re-using printed materials.
Legacy Printers, Upgrading, and End of Life
Older print devices tend to be less energy-efficient than newer models. Switching to efficient, Energy Star-rated printers and multifunction printers (MFPs) can immediately reduce energy consumption.
In any case, establishing a solid end-of-life policy is crucial to make sure obsolete equipment is properly recycled and doesn’t end up in landfills. In addition, transitioning to duplex (two-sided) printing can save tons on paper cost.
How Pharos Can Help
Pharos Analytics, our cloud-based print analytics solution, can help provide the comprehensive analytics to identify opportunities for digitalization, measure and track environmental impact, and reduce abandoned prints with secure release workflows.