Note: Occasionally a client may opt to remove a piece, change strategies, go out of business, merge with another company, etc. In those cases, I do my best to put my latest version here. This piece was originally for Pharos.com. I’ve also included social media add-ons that were part of the project.
Despite predictions as far back as 1975 that offices of the future would be totally paperless, the reality is that printing still plays a major role in day-to-day business operations. Not only did offices not become paperless, print volumes increased steadily through the 80s and 90s, all the way through 2007 when printing finally started to decline by 1 to 3% annually.
The COVID-19 pandemic did see a sharp decline in print volumes as businesses went to more distributed work models or stopped operations altogether in 2020, but in 2021 volumes started to rebound, even if not quite to pre-pandemic levels. Now, an average company still spends between 1 and 3 percent of its revenue on printing. To boot, most companies do not track printing expenditure with any accuracy, meaning they have very little control over how much they spend.
Meanwhile, sustainability has become the go-to buzzword across industries, with pressure mounting on companies to present a sustainable and profitable business model for the future. Streamlining print is an obvious place to start for most companies, since printing is often poorly managed and outdated. The good news here is that there’s an opportunity to make a significant impact on the bottom line and improve carbon footprint – just by making a few changes to how, when, and why printing is done.
What Is Sustainable Printing?
Sustainable printing is simple in concept. It means taking resources into account when it comes to printing and doing everything possible to reduce waste and streamline print operations. In practice this could mean a host of changes, from replacing old printers to changing paper and ink sourcing to shifts in office culture.
In general, printing has a definite environmental impact. Employees use an estimated 10,000 sheets of paper per year, which is an obvious strain to the resources used to make paper. In addition, some paper emits methane when it decomposes in landfills, some printing practices emit harmful ozone, and bleaching practices can introduce toxicity into groundwater and soil.
At the same time, paper, ink, and energy expended to run printers are all costly. What this means for companies is that when it comes to printing, sustainable practices coincide nicely with improving the bottom line. For example, refurbishing and reusing ink cartridges means cost savings as well as reduced burden on the environment.
Finally, sustainable printing is an important piece of the overall sustainability puzzle, and showing customers and investors alike that your company takes responsibility for its environmental impact is crucial for future readiness and long term viability.
Examples of Sustainable Printing Practices
It may seem that sustainable printing is simply a matter of printing less, but it turns out there are many opportunities to improve sustainability in printing without losing the benefits of printed material altogether. That said, the first place to look is always at unnecessary or wasteful printing.
Best Printing Practices for Sustainability and Cost
With a few tweaks to office culture, printing costs can be reduced quickly. To start, employees should be sure to proof documents thoroughly before sending print jobs, so as not to waste a print job due to preventable errors. Next, determine what jobs need not be printed at all – in these cases print to PDF may be enough.
Printing from the web is another area where companies find plenty of waste. Web pages are heavily-laden with images, ads, menus, and footers – material that’s not needed in a print version. The best way to handle this is for web developers to create print friendly versions of pages. When that’s not available, employees can print only certain pages, copy and paste important information, use a third-party web printing service, or choose not to print these documents.
Recycling and Reusing Consumables
Consumables like paper, ink, and cartridges make up the bulk of environmental and cost impacts of printing. Recycling materials and using recycled paper reduces carbon footprint, but re-use is even better from both a cost and environmental perspective, since recycled materials may cost more, and recycling itself has its own carbon cost.
Legacy Printers, Upgrading and End-of-Life
Older print models are less energy efficient than modern, multifunction printers (MFPs). Switching to the most efficient, Energy Star rated print technologies can immediately impact a company’s carbon footprint while reducing energy costs. Just be sure to take productivity impact into account, as MFPs often utilize sleep mode, which can cause a delay for some print jobs.
In any case, establishing a solid end-of-life policy is crucial to make sure obsolete equipment is properly recycled and doesn’t end up in landfills.
Carbon balanced paper refers to the process of purchasing carbon offsets to balance the average CO2 created during milling and delivery. To take it a step further, companies can choose to offset CO2 output from all their printing activities.
For small to medium runs of things like brochures and flyers, using a digital printing method means there’s no plate required, which means less wasted ink. Removing the plate from the process also can improve speed, which means more efficiency for shorter runs.
LED UV Printing and Uncoated Paper
LED UV printing uses ultraviolet light for instant drying. This method not only creates sharp output with vivid color, it uses less energy than traditional drying methods, and eliminates the need for sealing coats or powder spray.
Uncoated paper goes perfectly with LED UV printing and has the added benefit of being lighter and easier to transport, and more readily recyclable. In combination, LED UV printing on uncoated paper is a much greener and more cost-effective method for printing promotional material such as booklets, brochures, and leaflets.
How Pharos Can Help
Pharos pioneered print management software over 25 years ago. Print management – whether in the cloud or on-premises, is the key to evaluating your print solutions to make smart changes. With improved workflows, robust analytics, and cutting-edge print management, Pharos can help you take your printing from costly and unclear to sleek, efficient, and sustainable.
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Most companies spend 1 to 3% of their revenue on printing, and many don’t even know how much they spend. Find out how using sustainable printing methods can improve your bottom line, while simultaneously growing your reputation as a responsible brand, and how Pharos can help you get there.
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Find out how using sustainable printing methods can improve your bottom line, while simultaneously growing your reputation as a responsible brand, and how Pharos can help you get there.
Most companies spend 1 to 3% of their revenue on printing, and many don’t even know how much they spend. Meanwhile, printing has a profound environmental impact. Sustainability is crucial for maintaining a great reputation in your market, and cost control is what keeps you in the black. Find out how using sustainable printing methods can improve your bottom line, while simultaneously growing your reputation as a responsible brand, and how