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Start cutting IT costs by cutting IT waste

In any business, the primary levers for profitability involve either increasing revenue or reducing costs. In today’s economic climate, where sustainability is also a growing concern, reducing IT waste presents an opportunity for cost savings and enhancing your company’s eco-credentials. This article explores how adopting Green IT practices, mainly through efficient print management, can help your business cut costs and reduce environmental impact.

As it turns out, IT sustainability practices are one of the best cost-reduction strategies you can pursue. Not only can print sustainability and so-called ‘Green IT’ help your budget, they’re an important part of your overall eco-credentials. In other words, how green you look to the outside world. With consumers increasingly favoring more ethical brands, and given the current economic uncertainty, cutting IT waste should be an important part of your overall ESG strategy. Basically, it’s just good business.

Here’s how to cut your IT costs – by first cutting IT waste. Step one: stop printing so much.

What is IT waste?

IT waste generally refers to physical waste generated by information technology equipment: printers, scanners, computers, servers and so on. For most offices, printing will be the biggest cause of IT waste. According to some sources, the average office worker uses about four dozen sheets of paper per day, of which half is considered waste. Around 70% of all waste in offices is made up of paper.

This is simultaneously a massive problem and a massive opportunity. With the right sustainability practices, you can really shrink your operating costs, and help the planet at the same time.

The environmental impact of IT waste

Paper accounts for about 26% of all waste in landfills, and the production of printer paper uses a vast amount of energy and water, not to mention the obvious effects of deforestation. Between 2001 and 2019, we lost 386 million hectares of global forests – a 10% decrease in tree cover since 2000.

It gets worse. From 2010 to 2060, despite incredible digital advances that should (in theory) make paper obsolete, the global consumption of paper and pulp is expected to double. And we haven’t even started covering ancillary waste products, like toner cartridges, ink cartridges, printer parts and components, plus the electronic waste from discarded circuitry. You can see how it all adds up!

You might think IT doesn’t have much to do with sustainability practices, but it’s a department that can generate a sizeable amount of commercial waste.

The cost of IT waste

How much does IT waste actually cost your business? As always, that depends on the business. What we can say is that, according to research firm, Gartner, paper accounts for about 3% of the average company’s expenses.

But it doesn’t stop there. A PWC study found that the average white-collar employee spends about eight hours a week managing paper documents. When you multiply that by an entire workforce, it represents a significant chunk of overall productivity. The cost of finding a single lost document? That’s been estimated at $122. And 750: that’s the number of lost paper documents a mid-size business loses every year

Benefits of Reducing Print Waste

Reducing print waste is among the most effective ways to cut IT costs. By implementing sustainable printing solutions like PaperCut, businesses can achieve a 10-20% reduction in print-related expenses. Moreover, reducing paper consumption contributes to lessening your organization’s environmental footprint, addressing the massive 26% of total waste that paper constitutes in landfills.

How does this work? Well, with the right IT stack and print management software , you can actually get an overview of your current print ecosystem. At a glance, you can see who is printing, how often they’re printing, and where the biggest sources of waste actually are. With secure print release , you can eliminate abandoned print jobs, cutting down on paper and ink usage. You can even introduce print quotas , to encourage responsible printing behaviour.

The role of IT managers

Where should sustainability practices originate? Well, there’s a strong argument to be made that printing sustainability is everyone’s business. We all use the printer, so we should all learn to use it responsibly. But when it comes time for actual policy change, IT managers are usually a good place to start. As department heads, they know their team and their budgets best.

As Mark Schwartz from AWS says, “This budget-driven approach is sensible and gives middle managers discretion. It doesn’t dictate which [budget items] to cut but rather entrusts the manager, who knows their area best, to make the tough calls. Nevertheless, it gives the finance department predictability; they know how much spending will be cut and can be transparent with investors and the public.”

IT managers also have an important role to play when it comes to culture. IT waste and ‘Green IT’ are top-down initiatives: they rely on training, encouragement and communication. IT managers should first identify areas of potential waste, then formulate a plant to remove or reduce them. Once this plan has sign-off, it should be communicated to the wider team, then checked periodically to make sure it’s working effectively.

Implementing Green IT Practices

  1. Print Management Software: Tools like PaperCut allow you to monitor and control printing practices across your organization. Features such as secure print release and print quotas help ensure that only necessary documents are printed and collected, significantly reducing wasted prints and associated costs.
  2. Digital Document Management: Encouraging digital document handling can drastically reduce paper use, save trees, and reduce water and energy consumption. Investing in a digital management system reduces physical waste and enhances accessibility and security.
  3. Device Upcycling and Recycling: Properly recycling or upcycling old IT equipment prevents harmful electronics from ending up in landfills and supports the circular economy.

If you need more ideas, check out our Top 10 tips for saving paper .


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