Toolbox: Energy Conservation in Your Office’s Printing Operations

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Everyone is concerned about conservation these days, and doing their part to reduce their carbon footprint. One place you may not have thought about that can help companies become more sustainable is in the printing and document generation component of the business or organization.

Businesses and organizations typically spend somewhere between 1 percent and 3 percent of their total bottom line on document generation. A company with $3 million in annual revenues typically spends between $30,000 and $90,000 on printing related expenses. Through the principles of what is called MPS (Managed Print Services), most businesses can reduce those costs by around 20 percent, or savings of between $6,000 and $18,000.

MPS analyzes an organization’s printing infrastructure and recommends ways to make the process more efficient and cost effective – which could include new printers, document management software and other strategies. As one quick example, the “big box” store printers which are comparatively inexpensive end up being inefficient because the per-page cost to generate documents is much higher than more efficient units with a higher initial purchase price. The MPS model seeks to find the lowest per-page cost of document generation.

Beyond the cost savings, however, is another significant benefit: MPS can also give businesses and organizations the chance to be good environmental stewards. 

For businesses where printed documents (generated on a copier or printer) are a key part of their day to day operations, there are steps that you can implement to reduce your carbon footprint and improve efficiencies overall. Here are some ways to achieve that.

Begin by conserving the use of paper. That may sound somewhat obvious, but the average employee in an organization prints 10,000 copies per year. In dollars and cents, that can amount to between $600 and $1,000 in cost per employee per year. And across the United States, the number of pages that are printed or copied annually is more than a trillion. So it is a good place to begin conserving. 

  1. Two-sided printing is one option. This can be accomplished by changing the commands on a computer connected to the printer. This step may not save a full 50 percent on printing costs, because not every job lends itself to two-sided printing, but it should result in significant savings.
  2. Think before you hit that “print” button. Does the document need to be physically printed, or would a PDF or emailed word document achieve the same purpose? Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), or the practice of automating and simplifying business documents, can save a business up to 35 percent of its paper costs. Think of just a few of the basic tasks that can be accomplished by computer – invoices, work orders, shipping documents and more. And even if you are sending a proposal or other document, the electronic transmission is becoming more accepted each day. You may want, with sensitive documents, to work with an IT professional for encryption where necessary.
  3. Re-train yourself and your employees to revise online and not to print until the final document is ready. Proofreading can be a big paper-waster, with the temptation being to print out each revision (and often there are many). Tracked changes electronically can help reduce paper costs. 
  4. Document management software is a great way to curb paper use. This process can control which printer is used (aim for the most efficient), who is authorized to operate the printers and serve as a “watchdog” to eliminate unnecessary and wasteful printing.

When replacing printers, consider a multifunction printer (MFP). These devices are capable of scanning, copying and printing (and some even can fax). They are far more energy-efficient than their predecessors and will save on energy costs, as well as being easy to program for more efficiency.

Another way to improve the carbon footprint is to implement a paper recycling program, as well as a recycling program for toner and cartridges. The benefits of recycled paper are many. And millions of empty ink and toner cartridges find their way into landfills each year. There are reputable organizations which can help set up these programs. 

With the proper configuration of printers and copiers, the use of document management software, and strong recycling programs, you can be a good steward of the environment while improving your efficiencies and even saving on the bottom line all at the same time. And who could say no to a proposition like that?

Ray Belanger is CEO of Bay Copy,, specializing in Managed Print Service programs, located in Rockland.