Still dreaming of a paperless office? Here are 12 fantastic green printing tips to start doing today.
Selecting sustainable recycled paper, eco-friendly ink cartridges and changing the print settings on your device are some great places to get started.
I would love to give up printing but personally, I still find it necessary in work and study situations to print things, so giving it up all together is a little unrealistic, and I know I'm not alone!
I've talked to lots of people about printing and yes, the older generations tend to print and perhaps hoard paper items way more, but younger generations want to print too and maybe technology hasn't quite come up with an optimal way to avoid it completely.
So, rather than feel guilty about not sacrificing the habit completely, there are a number of ways to reduce the environmental impact of printing documents by changing how you do it.
1. Do you really need to print it?
Obvious question right? But some of the things we print are purely habitual and unnecessary and there are times I've realised as soon as I get my papers from the printer, that perhaps I needn't really have hit the print button.
It's as simple as just asking yourself if you really need it? How useful will it really be? How long will it actually be in use, what will happen to it once it's no longer useful?
I've observed many people print emails or memos as a simple physical reminder to do a small task where a To Do List item on scrap paper would probably be more efficient. For those things you need to read later, but don't want forever, opt to save it on a device like a phone, tablet or laptop so you can do this paper-free.
Don't forget, once printed, you will have more paper and potential piles on your desk to deal with at some point.
Paper clutter can cause more stress and add to the time taken to find the really useful things you need in a hurry.
2. Recycled and Sustainable Paper
Not all paper is created equally and most people do choose printer paper made from recycled materials.
What you may not realise is that these percentages can differ and 100% recycled paper is better than 10% so be sure to check the small print on this detail.
Using recycled paper means that less resources had to be used to produce it including trees, energy and water.
Another factor to check if it is from a sustainable source as not all recycled paper is equal.
In Australia we have an FSC logo that ensures our forests, communities and wildlife are protected during sourcing.
There are other options you might want to explore too such as unbleached recycled paper and carbon neutral paper.
One last consideration is paper-miles (the miles the paper must travel). You can reduce this by buying local, or at least within the country you live in to reduce those hidden impacts of transport, shipping and contribute to the local job market.
If your really keen, you can check for ISO14001 certification, which involves a company's commitment to sticking to environmental legislation and making continuous improvements in how they operate. You can read a bit more on that in a previous post here.
Planet Ark has paper that is quite possibly the best option as not only is it Australian made, but it recycles Australian paper, is FSC certified, carbon neutral and suitable for all types of printing.
It is becoming more important to make sure we can process recycling locally within Australia and we need to close the loop by purchasing recycled products.
3. Quality & Colour Options Reduce Ink and Toner Use
Black ink cartridges produce many more pages than a colour ink cartridge meaning less waste.
Set printing defaults are double sided/duplex, draft quality, black and white (or greyscale if available), this is going to cut down the overall quantity of ink you use, reduce the frequency of ink replacement and still give you good quality documents.
Under Printing properties, select the Paper/Quality - Many are set to 'Best' and 'Colour' by default and you can quickly change this. I find the Draft print setting is perfectly fine for the things I want to print and this option should definitely be used for draft documents in any office.
Printing black and white can still be using some of your colour ink, while opting for grey-scale utilises black only to create varying shades of grey so choose this if you can.
4. Printing Double Sided Reduces Paper
Always print double sided (duplex) when possible.
Set your printer default to do this so that it's something you don't have to do each time and settings like these can be applied office wide.
By making settings like this a default on your printer, this will make it happen with every item you print and you wont need to select it every time.
This is clearly going to cut down your paper usage by half, but it also reduces energy usage. This is not enough to show up on your home electricity bill, so don't get too excited on that aspect.
If you have accidentally printed one sided, save it for scrap paper. This can be useful for all types of notes, reminders, to do lists and interoffice memos.
5. Try Printing Multiple Pages to a Page
Printing multiple document pages to a printed page is definitely a waste saver for PowerPoint presentations and other documents.
You may be able to fit 3, 4 or more to a page when printing a PowerPoint!
For other documents, this may not be as effective, but always look first to see if it will be readable if printing multiples to a page.
It can be a bit disheartening to print small and discover you need a microscope to be able to read it. Have a quick glance at the Print Preview first.
6. Remove or Adjust Images Before Printing to reduce Ink
Lots of reading material has pictures, charts, graphs and other images that you might not actually need which drain your ink reserves unnecessarily.
You can remove images before printing, or even copy and past the important text elements into a separate document for printing.
This is especially relevant for online printables such as recipes or guides as these often produce extra pages with adverts, and items you didn't really want to have.
Again, check the print preview to get a visual on what you are about to print.
When printing from websites, look for a print friendly button that will allow you to print on A4 as an optimal size, without all the extra junk. If this isn't possible(and this works for awkward documents, that you can't alter too) use the Snipping tool (in windows software).
This allows you to select a portion of what is on your screen and copy and paste it into a document. It's a bit like the print screen function but won't take a snapshot of your entire screen.
7. How to Get The Most Out of Your Ink Cartridges
Use ALL of the ink before your replace it! Most printers give warning way ahead of running out and I have managed to print over 200 pages beyond the point where it told me I had actually run out of ink.
You may have to fool it into believing it has a new cartridge by opening your printer, clicking out the cartridge and putting it straight back in. Most printers will believe it has been replaced and will happily print without giving you constant warnings and refusals.
See if you can swap to refilling cartridges, this will save you quite a bit of money and can be up to 80% cheaper and low waste. Empty cartridges should be recycled after use and this is simple to do by dropping them off to the post office or other convenient locations.
Soy or plant based inks could be an option too. I haven't found this for my printer but I'm sure that this will be more readily available in the future.
8. Sharing is Caring (for the environment)
Heading off to the monthly Safety meeting or something similar? consider sharing a copy of the meeting agenda or minutes with the person sitting next to you.
Many meetings simply require a pen and scrap paper and often the printed materials are discarded within minutes of the meeting finishing. Using a projector can provide all the details for attendees without any printing required.
9. Be Prepared for Accidental Printing Emergencies
Ever been reading a 500 page document and accidentally pressed print? It's a great way to get a quick afternoon adrenaline rush, but you can do something about it.
Make sure you know how to find your printer icon on the computer and from here, you can cancel the printing.
If it's too late for that, head to your physical printer and cancel the print job. You may still have quite a few pages printed, but its better than 500.
Knowing how to do these tasks beforehand will help you deal quickly with events like this, so take 5 minutes to teach yourself how to do it.
10. Set Sleep Mode to Save on Power
Does your printer have a sleep mode? or perhaps you can switch it off when not in use?
Sleep mode allows the printer to remain on, but uses less power while waiting for your next command. If you can't find the manual, a quick google search should help you locate your brand and model to see if either of these options will work for you.
11. Consider What Happens to Your Printed Documents
After printing, and once the document is outdated or not of any use, the next step is to recycle it. You might even be able to compost it at home!
I've worked in many offices where people don't recycle purely because it requires walking more than a metre away from their desk.
Firstly, the walk would do you good, if your desk bound, but secondly, just grab an empty paper box from the stationary cupboard and write 'Recycling' on it. This will make it a no hassle habit and will prevent cleaners accidentally throwing it into landfill.
12. Do you Really Need a Printer?
If you rarely print, then seriously reconsider your need to own a printer in the first place.
When printers are seldom used (less than once a week), the ink can dry up and nozzles become blocked, meaning that when you do print, the quality is dreadful and it requires cleaning and printing test pages which defeats the purpose of implementing green habits.
You can find copiers and printers in many locations including public libraries, office supply shops and business hubs.
Happy GREEN printing....and Feel free to add in your own tips below!