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Sustainable print services: A guide to eco-friendly printing

Looking around the modern office, it might seem like a completely paperless workplace is impossible. And at the moment, that might be true. Printing physical documents is still a big part of commercial activity, although we’re definitely seeing things move in the right direction: in 2020, for example, the total volume of printed pages dipped 14%, down to 2.8 trillion, and while those numbers climbed again in 2021 due to the p-word, they’ve been steadily declining ever since.

With that in mind, sustainable print services represent a huge chance for businesses to cut down on their overall office waste. Printing less, printing duplex, and shifting hard-copy jobs onto the cloud are all contributing to a paper-free workplace. If you’re looking to make the jump to environmentally friendly printing, you’ve come to the right place. This is PaperCut’s comprehensive guide to sustainable print services.

The environmental impact of traditional printing

It’s fair to say that traditional printing is a bit of an environmental nightmare. Just to start with, did you know that 35% of all harvested trees are used for paper production? Not only that but printing consumes a lot of energy, often from non-renewable sources. Then there’s the e-waste: over 500 million ink cartridges are discarded every year, not to mention old MFDs, toner cartridges, cables and cords. Paper production itself is very water intensive, too, requiring between two and 13 liters to produce a single A4 page.

It all adds up to an incredibly costly, inefficient and energy-intensive technology – one that businesses should be minimizing wherever possible, and it’s our goal to help.

How sustainable print services reduce your IT footprint

Eco friendly printing is really a catch-all term for several business practices and technologies, including the use of recycled printer paper, more energy-efficient machines, powered by renewables, and sustainable print services to tie everything together. It’s important to look at environmentally friendly printing as a holistic practice because none of these things (on their own) make a printing service ‘sustainable’.

Recycled paper. Every ton of recycled paper represents 17 trees still standing, 1,440 liter of oil not used, and 4,000 kilowatts of energy saved. That’s a huge sustainability win right there.

Eco-friendly inks. Water-based inks can make a big difference in your overall printing footprint. Without the need for petroleum-based solvents, they significantly reduce VOC emissions, too.

Sustainable print services. By choosing sustainable print services, and the right print management software, you can start tracking and reducing your overall printing volume. More on this below.

Renewable energy. If you must print, at least print with renewable power. Switching over to renewables is easy, affordable, and should be a fundamental part of every serious commercial ESG strategy.

Cost benefits of sustainable printing

Did you know, on average, print-related costs alone make up about 3% of a company’s overall expenses? And this is just the cost you can see. Printer enquiries also represent about 40% to 60% of IT help desk time, which eats into productivity. Then there’s the waste factor: 65% of printed documents get thrown away or recycled the same day they’re printed!

When you add all this up, there’s a huge cost-benefit argument to be made for sustainable print services. The true value will be different for every business, and depend on the scale of your print operations, but speaking anecdotally, we’ve helped tens of thousands of organizations save big bucks on their annual print budget. It’s not magic – it’s eco-friendly printing.

The latest sustainable printing technologies

So what are some of the key environmentally friendly printing solutions you should be looking at?

Eco-friendly inks. Look for soy-based, vegetable-based, water-based or recycled ink cartridges. There are plenty of options on the market now, and they all avoid volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) making them better for your people as well as the environment.

Recycled paper. In just one year, the average office uses roughly 50kg of paper – about 10,000 A4 sheets. Look for reputable recycled paper brands and make the switch. It’s such an easy win.

Sustainable printing solutions. By implementing sustainable print management services , like PaperCut, you can set print quotas and limits, choose black and white printing as default, make user prompts to improve printing behavior, and track your overall print volume.

Energy-efficient printers. Using separate printers, scanners and fax machines chews up a lot of energy, so look for efficient multifunction devices instead. Pay attention to energy efficiency rating, toner consumption and any integrated print management software.

Encourage recycling. Any printer that doesn’t have a recycling bin next to it is a wasted opportunity. Encourage sustainable practices by providing environmentally friendly paper in the office and encouraging recycling as much as possible.

Replanting schemes. If you’re using a print management service, consider whether they have a replanting or sustainability program. PaperCut Grows, for example, converts documents printed into trees planted, reducing your overall footprint.

An additional sustainable printing tip: implementing a paperless policy for hybrid work

Cloud print has eased the transition into hybrid work, allowing employees to print from anywhere. But our ultimate goal should really be no printing, or as little printing as possible. To that end, here are a few things you can do to kickstart a paperless approach in your hybrid workplace.

Embrace the cloud. Instead of printing everything, shift your day-to-day collaboration, document management and editing tasks to the cloud. It’ll save you money and paper and improve overall productivity.

Sign in here. Still using a paper logbook for visitor sign-ins? It’s time to go digital. There are tons of visitor management systems out there now, which allow guests to sign-in electronically. Much better for record-keeping.

E-signature software. The days of physically signing a piece of paper are pretty much over. E-signature companies, like DocuSign, provide a much more secure, efficient and paperless service. Bonus: find an e-signature tool that synchs with your visitor management system.

Sustainable print service features to look for

Eco-friendly printing isn’t just about printers and paper. It’s about shifting your entire approach to printing. And this is where print management services really shine. So, what should you look for when it comes to sustainable print services?

Print release. With secure print release at the MFD, and the ability to preview your documents before printing them, you can really cut down on ‘just-in-case’ printing that was never really needed.

Print preferences. Your sustainable print service should allow you to tweak your print preferences and permissions. For example, you can set duplex and black-and-white printing to default, or charge users more for colour prints.

Track your printing. The first step to eco-friendly printing is simply working out who’s printing what. If you’re not tracking your print volume and print ecosystem, there’s no way to improve it. Print management services, like PaperCut, can tell you exactly how much your printing, how much it’s costing the business, and where you can make sustainable cuts.

Quotas and charging. With print management software, you can incentivize sustainable printing by literally charging people to print. Print quotas and charging are great ways to make users print more mindfully. If they must pay for every page, they’ll only print the pages they need.

Carbon reduction. Does your print service some with any sort of replanting or carbon offset scheme? If not, it might be time to switch. PaperCut Grows is part of what we call ‘Forest Positive printing’. It’s a chance for organizations to help slash deforestation and balance out their printing footprint.



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