How to Print Sustainably

How to Print Sustainably

Remember the idea of the “paperless office”? There was a time when computers were predicted to eliminate the need to print paper documents—all documents could be created, updated, stored, sent, viewed, signed, and archived electronically, with no need to print anything.

Yet, here we are in 2017, and although there are no technical obstacles to the paperless office, sales of printers, ink, toner, and paper are as strong as ever. We are awash in paper. What went wrong?

Blame it on Moore’s Law. Think about it: Forty years ago, printing something usually meant paying a typist, and copying it meant carbon paper or relatively expensive (and poor quality) xerography, other office duplication methods, or professional printing. Since then, the inexorable advance in technology has made high-quality printing so convenient and inexpensive and easy that we do it a lot more. There’s the rub: The same technological advances that enable the paperless office also make it effortless to generate more paper.

Reducing Environmental Impact

So, it may be a long time before truly paperless offices become commonplace. In the meantime, there are things everyone can do to reduce the environmental impact of printing—that is, making printing sustainable, rather than a net environmental detriment:

  • Implement strategies to use less paper: Many office printers are capable of duplex printing (printing on both sides of the paper), and many of those can be set up to do so by default. In addition, some surveys suggest that 30% or more of pages printed are never picked up from the office printer. Using “follow-me” printing technology, where the user has to enter a code or swipe a card at the printer in order to run a pending print job, can eliminate much of this waste.
  • Drive toward good printing habits: Training personnel to develop good printing habits goes a long way towards reducing waste. Encourage them to print only the pages they need—for instance, when printing an email, you typically need only the first page or two, not all 46 pages of the email thread. You can encourage other tricks as well, such as using narrower margins and smaller font sizes.
  • Stock sustainable paper: Paper with high post-consumer recycled content costs a bit more, but has a much lower environmental impact. Some paper is also certified as being sourced from forests that are sustainably managed; look for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certifications.
  • Don’t forget the ink: The environmental impact of printing isn’t just about paper: Ink and toner also have a large footprint, when you consider the energy and materials required to produce the ink, manufacture the cartridges and packaging, and transport the products. Remanufactured cartridges reduce this impact and are often less expensive than OEM cartridges. Certain inks are made to be biodegradable. And always recycle your cartridges instead of throwing them away.
  • Doing a mass mailing? Purge your mailing list: By keeping your mailing list up to date, you can reduce the amount of paper that goes directly from the mailbox to the trash. Better yet, encourage customers to subscribe to emailed newsletters instead.

Professional Printing for Sustainability

At the Wide Format Company, we offer a number of products and solutions for sustainable printing, from biodegradable large-format print media to environmentally friendly inks. Think of us first for your eco-friendly printing needs.