Earth Day and other environmental events should be more than one-and-done celebrations or moral checklists we mark off our conscience before moving on to tacit indifference. As actor and activist Wendell Berry once said, “The Earth is what we all have in common.”
Businesses going green should be a continual state of mind. Being green is good for the heart, good for the community, and, as organizations are finding out, good for the wallet – especially when it comes to office printing.
In fact, printing is the great sustainability villain that can easily become an environmental champion for your business.
How is that possible? First, let’s look at the sustainability villain that is likely in your office right now.
The effects of printing on the environment
The stark truth is that every year more than 375 million empty printer cartridges end up in landfills. That amounts to approximately one million cartridges every day polluting the earth. And keep in mind that an estimated 1.3 billion printer cartridges are sold each year. Making matters worse, your average printer cartridge takes about 1000 years to decompose. According to research collected by The Recycler, toner and ink cartridges are classified as a potentially carcinogenic. Furthermore, the toxins and heavy metals of these products contaminate water and soil with “volatile organic compounds.”
This is not the kind of world we want to leave for Keith Richards.
What about the paperless office that the digital age promised? Keith Richards might not get this idyllic world either. According to statistics, 95 percent of all businesses still store information on paper, with an average worker printing 10,000 sheets annually (and it takes one tree to produce 9,000 printer pages, mind you). And half the paper produced is thrown away, much of it ending up in our landfills along with those poisonous cartridges.
But we still can’t get enough paper! Paper consumption worldwide has tripled over the last three decades, with an estimated one-third of it attributed to printing. As for an impact on energy, printer power can account for up to seven percent of a company’s total electricity consumption.
All this data is not good from any perspective, and certainly no satisfaction for the world or society in general.
But here is where we turn that printing villain into a printing savior.
Recycle easy and for profit
Recycling is not an easy task for many office products, but when it comes to printer products, you can preemptively recycle by considering third-party or remanufacture ink or toner cartridges. We’re proud that a large amount of our ink and toner cartridges are recycled before they ever get to a customer. Furthermore, some statistics say that remanufactured ink or toner cartridges have a 46 percent lower carbon footprint than a new cartridge.
Don’t worry: you don’t have to lose quality (even as you save on price) when choosing third-party or remanufactured ink or toner. As with any printer product, test the ink waters. Our ink and toner undergo a Triple Check System before ever getting in your or Keith Richard’s hands; and we offer a cartridge color challenge to directly compare the quality of our ink/toner versus that of competitors.
As for printers, consider recycling them as often as possible, either when they stop working or are getting long in the printing tooth. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that if your printer/copier/multifunction device is five years or older, its consumption is approximately 50 percent higher than a new machine. New Energy Star qualified printers are 40-55 percent more efficient than standard models.
Printers aren’t as easy to recycle as printer cartridges, of course, but it’s no longer a hard chore. The EPA provides a list and location of certified electronic recyclers.
We’ve also compiled several options to recycle your printer:
- E-Cycling Central
- Students Recycling Used Technology
- Dell Reconnect
- eBay Giving Works
But one of the best ways to save the planet is to save your office budget.
Policy and police your printing
Organizations usually have policies for parking or phone-usage – but 90 percent don’t have a proper print policy and two-thirds don’t track printing expenses. Both a print policy and expense tracking can save between 30-40 percent in costs. At the very least, print volumes tend to decrease by about 10 percent when employees believe their print usage is monitored.
To drum up research and consensus for a print policy (although feel free to download our dedicated print policy for your needs), simply start by asking these questions:
- Is double sided printing mandatory?
- Who’s allowed to print?
- How much can they print?
- Can they print in color?
- Are they allowed to copy too?
- Where should used paper be placed?
Beyond finding these answers, practical actions like leaning on digital presentations can go a long way in making your office greener. The same goes with robust managed print services, which track/manage your printers and paper-usage. Statistics show that managed print services can help reduce paper waste by 25 percent and energy use by 20-40 percent (and printing costs by 10- 30 percent!). With our printer programs, you don’t even have to purchase a printer, just buy our ink or toner (or recycling that printer is on us, of course).
Lastly, did you know that printer power consumption can account for up to seven percent of an organization’s total electricity consumption, even if only 15 percent of printer electricity usage is attributed to printing. Most of the electricity expenditure happens when your printer is on standby. So don’t pay for the electricity you’re not even using and turn off your imaging devices at least when everyone goes home.
Businesses going green is the happy future now
An American Express/Oxford Economics global survey last year found that nearly 75 percent of consumers actively seek out companies that provide sustainable services and products. It’s not just a millennial or GenZ thing. What’s more, almost 90 percent of small-and-medium business stated that sustainable is a key driver for growth and profitability.
Other research shows that an environmentally conscious office provides these positive effects on company culture:
- Happier employees
- Superior job candidates
- More innovation
In summary, there’s no excuse not to make Earth Day every day at the office. Everyone wins financially, emotionally, and physically. As environmental activist Wangari Maathai:
“The environment and the economy are really both two sides of the same coin. If we cannot sustain the environment, we cannot sustain ourselves.”
Don’t print this quote, but place it on an office screen, and then perhaps email it to Keith Richards.
Looking to reduce printing or paper usage at your home or office? Please contact us.