The True Cost of Printing to the Environment

Your print fleet includes some of the most energy-intensive appliances in your office. Printing also requires the use of consumables like toner and paper, which contribute further to the financial and environmental cost of printing.

The larger your organization is, the greater a share of preventable costs printing represents. Upon implementing duplex printing at its New York offices, global banking giant CitiGroup saved over $100,000 in five weeks.

Not only does that represent $100,000 that the bank’s print department can invest in more valuable initiatives, but it is $100,000 worth of paper and toner cartridges that will not end up in landfills. The bank also reported a net savings of 43.8 billion BTUs of energy – enough to power 430 homes for a year.

While it’s easy to expect this impressive figure coming from one of the nation’s largest banks, the truth is that every company can save significant resources and drive environmental initiatives by adjusting print processes. There are practical measures you can take to mitigate the cost of printing both for your organization and for the environment.

The Environmental Impact of Paper

Understanding the environmental costs of printing requires delving into the environmental costs of paper production. The worldwide pulp and paper industry accounts for about 6 percent of the world’s total industrial energy consumption. This makes it the fourth largest industrial energy user in the world.

At the same time, paper is one of the most often-discarded waste products generated in America. Despite the fact that it is eminently recyclable, the EPA estimates that only about 56 percent of paper actually gets recycled.

Additionally, more water goes into the manufacturing of a ton of paper than a ton of any other material in any other industry. Paper production is a leading contributor to deforestation, and paper mills emit a broad variety of sulfur-based compounds responsible for acid rain.

Environmental regulations keep the damage to a minimum. However, these regulations confer costs that paper consumers – organizations like yours – have to support.

What You Can Do to Reduce the Cost of Printing

Businesses and individuals throw away one million print cartridges every day, yet 97% of the materials used to create printer cartridges are recyclable. This means that the environmental costs of cartridge disposal are equal to the opportunity cost of recycling cartridges.

The first way your organization can reduce the cost of printing is by recycling your print cartridges. Managed print service vendors can help you with this by buying back your used print cartridges and replacing them with recycled ones at far lower prices than buying brand new OEM cartridges. Sharp takes recycling a step further by offering the Stop Drop and Recycle Program which provides free pre-paid postage bulk style recycling boxes.

Secondly, you can earn greater savings by making better use of paper. There are several approaches you can use to boost the efficiency of office paper use:

  • Use duplex printing to print on both sides of every sheet of paper. Almost all modern printers support duplex printing. If yours does not, upgrading to a duplex printer can immediately start generating savings.
  • Expand document margins so that individual sheets of paper fit more text. This helps you print fewer overall pages.
  • Reuse scrap paper whenever possible. There is no need to use new sheets of paper for one-off printing and note-taking.

Paperless workflows can reduce your need to print paper documents. While there are a handful of processes that cannot be digitally transformed, the vast majority of printing jobs can be bypassed through the thoughtful implementation of digital transformation technology.

Why Not Go Entirely Paperless?

As anyone with access to corporate accounts payable documents knows, paper and printing costs take up a surprisingly large proportion of organization’s overhead costs. Transforming workflows from paper-based processes to digital ones can represent a huge advantage for corporate accounting.

However, digital transformation requires overcoming two important obstacles. Organizations need to:

  • Reliably convert existing paper-based workflows to digital equivalents without sacrificing production or efficiency.
  • Accurately identify which processes can be safely made paperless, and which ones must retain the use of paper to some degree.

Despite advances in cloud technology, digital signatures, and digital communication, there are many situations where companies have to use paper. Expert assistance developing digital workflows can add value to the paperless decision without risking the processes at hand.

While paperless workflows will save businesses a great deal of money, they do not eliminate the need for printing altogether. Digital transformation will reduce the number of times employees have to print individual documents, which will generate significant savings when implementing alongside an environmentally responsible print policy.

Have Smile conduct a print audit of your company’s print fleet to identify cost-saving opportunities you can implement now!