Greening Your Office Printing and Copying

Printing and copying can account for significant amounts of office waste. Reducing your use of paper and ink can help you to lower the overhead costs for your company — and make your business practices more sustainable. Here’s how.

Paper Reduction

The EPA has found that paper accounts for about 90 percent of office waste, and the average worker throws away nearly 2 pounds of paper and paperboard material every day. To cut back on paper use, the Green Business Bureau recommends that you:

  1. Go digital. Electronic documents — from invoices to memos — can be easier to revise, simpler to distribute, and more efficient to manage. By avoiding printing or copying, you’ll effectively reduce your business’s need for paper and ink.
  2. Print double-sided. Double-sided printing and copying is now a standard feature in most office equipment. Take advantage of this option whenever appropriate, and consider changing your computers’ settings to print double-sided by default. You can re-purpose one-sided printouts to print internal documents on the unused side, too: Set up a collection point for old one-sided documents next to your printer with a note that explains its use to staff.
  3. Make paper recycling easy. Be sure to put paper recycling bins next to trash receptacles throughout your office, including at people’s desks and in any copying/printing areas. “Co-locating” bins helps to remind your staff of their recycling options and makes recycling as convenient as possible.

Ink Reduction

While many of the suggestions above for reducing paper use will also lower your ink use, here are a few ink-specific ideas to consider:

  1. Install an eco-font. Eco-font software adjusts the content of each letter to include a matrix of small empty circles. Although these circles are nearly invisible in printed documents, the fonts’ creators have found it can reduce ink use by up to 28 percent.
  2. Change print quality settings. Adjusting your computers’ printing settings can reduce ink use. Choosing the “draft” quality level will provide a lighter, lower resolution document that are usually great for internal documents: You’ll use less ink and your documents will print more rapidly.
  3. Buy refurbished ink cartridges. Do you already recycle your old cartridges? Consider taking the next step by purchasing refilled ones, which tend to be less expensive than new cartridges. You can buy refurbished cartridges through the manufacturer (perhaps the most convenient option for businesses) or from office supply retailers, some of which now offer do-it-yourself toner refills (that can reduce your expenses even further).

So, how much of a difference can these recommendations really make? A regional EPA office using basic paper and ink conservation efforts (such as double-sided printing and collection of one-sided printouts for reuse) reduced its paper and ink use by 30 percent, resulting in an annual savings of $49,000, the National Resources Defense Council notes. By taking steps to lower your demand for printing and copying resources, you can benefit your business’s bottom line and operate more sustainably.

About Marcos Cordero

Marcos J. Cordero is the co-founder and CEO of the Green Business Bureau, a leading green business certification organization that helps small and mid-sized businesses implement sustainability practices.
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