Whether you are looking for your first mono/colour machine, replacing a fleet or require a high volume of colour commercial printers, we know sustainable printing will be a priority for you.

Implementing sustainable programmes takes teamwork and experience. Our guide gives you 10 initial steps you can take, based on environmental best practices in document processes and printing, which will contribute to a larger corporate sustainability strategy.

And it can do more than conserve energy: it can help control costs, increase productivity and reduce material waste.

The Environmental Impact of Printing

The act of printing, seemingly innocuous, has a significant environmental impact. Each page that rolls out of a printer contributes to the carbon footprint of a workplace. More than just the energy consumed by printers, the manufacturing process of paper and ink cartridges, the transportation involved, and the eventual waste disposal all add up to a sizable environmental cost.

Not to mention, the deforestation associated with paper production leads to habitat destruction and biodiversity loss. It’s estimated that a single office worker can consume up to 10,000 sheets of paper annually. Now, think about how this multiplies across an entire organisation, then globally. It’s evident that sustainable printing practices are not just an option but a necessity for companies committed to reducing their environmental impact.


Paper and Ink: The Primary Resources for Printing

The two most essential resources for printing are paper and ink, both of which carry a significant environmental burden. Paper production is a resource-intensive process, consuming vast quantities of water and contributing to deforestation. It’s worth noting that the pulp and paper industry is among the world’s largest industrial consumers of water. Additionally, the process frequently involves the use of harmful chemicals, leading to water and air pollution.

Ink production also has its environmental concerns. The manufacturing process of ink involves the use of petrochemicals, which can lead to the emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere. These VOCs contribute to air pollution and are associated with various health risks. Furthermore, the plastic cartridges that encase printer inks are non-biodegradable and often end up in landfills, contributing to the problem of plastic waste.

In light of these environmental impacts, it is imperative to adopt sustainable printing practices that minimize the use of these resources and promote recycling and waste management.


Energy Consumption and Environmental Impact

Printers, especially those used in commercial settings, consume a substantial amount of energy. This energy is used not only during the actual printing process but also when the machine is in standby mode. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, an idle printer can consume as much as 30% of its total energy use.

This energy consumption contributes to carbon emissions, a leading cause of global warming. When printers draw power from the grid, it results in the burning of fossil fuels at power plants, which release harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. As the demand for energy in offices and commercial settings increases due to the proliferation of electronic devices such as printers, so does the environmental impact.

Furthermore, energy production and consumption are closely linked to water use, another environmental concern. Power plants require substantial amounts of water for cooling purposes, and conversely, water utilities need energy to treat and distribute water. Therefore, excessive energy use in printing can indirectly contribute to water scarcity issues.

Given these considerations, a crucial aspect of sustainable printing involves reducing energy consumption. This can be achieved through measures like optimizing printer settings, promoting energy-efficient behaviours, and considering energy use when purchasing new printers.


Print Wastage and its Environmental Impact

Print wastage is another significant concern in the realm of sustainable printing. This wastage comes in many forms, from unused printouts and misprints to discarded ink cartridges and decommissioned printers. Each of these waste products carries with it an environmental cost.

Unneeded printouts contribute to paper waste, exacerbating the issues associated with paper production such as deforestation and water pollution. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, paper makes up nearly a quarter of municipal solid waste. This waste often ends up in landfills where it decomposes and produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Ink cartridges present another waste problem. More than 375 million empty ink and toner cartridges are thrown away every year, with most ending up in landfills. These cartridges are made from plastic, a petroleum-based product, and can take up to 1,000 years to decompose. The disposal of old printers also contributes to electronic waste (e-waste), which is growing rapidly and can contain hazardous materials harmful to the environment.

The environmental impact of print waste underscores the importance of sustainable printing practices that reduce waste production. Such practices include implementing print policies that discourage unnecessary printing, promoting the recycling of paper and cartridges, and properly disposing of old printers.


What is Sustainability in Printing?

Sustainability in printing refers to implementing practices that reduce the negative environmental impact associated with printing. This involves careful management of resources such as paper and ink, reducing energy consumption, and effectively managing waste.

Sustainable printing practices embrace reuse and recycling, advocating for less waste and more efficient use of resources. For instance, using recycled paper or refillable ink cartridges can drastically cut down on waste. Similarly, energy-efficient printers and optimized printer settings can help reduce energy consumption.

Furthermore, sustainable printing also includes end-of-life management of printers and cartridges, with proper disposal or recycling to prevent them from ending up in landfills.

In essence, sustainability in printing is about making conscious decisions at every step of the printing process to minimize environmental impact and promote sustainable practices.

10 Tips for More Sustainable Printing Practices

1. Think E-documents Over Paper

Before you hit ‘print’, consider if you really need a hard copy. Digital documents are easier to share, store, and search through. They not only save paper but also eliminate the need for physical storage space. Implementing a document management system can help you transition to a paperless office. Whenever possible, view documents on your computer or mobile device, and use digital signatures for official documents. This simple yet powerful shift in practice is one of the easiest steps to make towards sustainable printing.

2. Analyse and Optimise the Number of Printers You Need

Keeping multiple printers in an office can lead to excessive energy consumption and unnecessary waste. Therefore, it’s essential to carefully evaluate your business needs and determine the optimal number of printers required. Consolidating your printing devices can result in significant energy and cost savings, and reduce the waste associated with discarded ink cartridges and decommissioned printers.

To do this, conduct an audit of your current printing practices to understand which machines are used most, which are underutilised, and whether any can be eliminated. Also consider investing in multipurpose devices that can print, scan, and copy, further reducing the need for multiple devices.

3. Asset Management, Recycle and Responsible Disposal

Proper asset management is key to sustainable printing. This includes regularly maintaining and servicing your printers to extend their lifespan and reduce the need for new devices. When printers reach the end of their life, ensure they are disposed of responsibly. Many manufacturers offer take-back programs where they will recycle used printers and cartridges.

Recycling not only prevents these items from ending up in landfills but also reduces the demand for new materials. Similarly, used ink cartridges can often be refilled or recycled. Many office supply stores offer cartridge recycling programs, and some even provide incentives for participation. Always look for the most environmentally and socially responsible disposal options for your printing assets.

4. Encourage Sustainable Habits

Encouraging sustainable habits among all users of printers is a crucial step towards more sustainable printing practices. This can be achieved by educating and motivating employees about the environmental impact of excessive printing and the benefits of sustainability. Implementing policies that encourage double-sided printing, black and white printing over colour, and using print preview to avoid unnecessary printouts can significantly reduce paper and ink waste.

Rewarding employees who consistently demonstrate such behaviours can also be an effective strategy. Establishing guidelines for when to print and when to go digital can lead to substantial reductions in energy consumption and waste. Remember, sustainability is as much about individual actions as it is about systemic changes.

5. Redirect Printing to the Most Cost-effective Printer Device

When aiming for sustainable printing, it’s important to direct your printing tasks to the most cost-effective printer device. This doesn’t only mean the printer that uses the least amount of ink or toner, but rather a machine that operates efficiently across all aspects, including energy consumption, ink usage, and lifespan of parts. Networked printers can be set up to push jobs towards the most efficient printers automatically.

If a high-capacity printer is available, use it for large print jobs to take advantage of its superior efficiency. Having a clear understanding of your printers’ operating costs can help identify the most cost-effective devices, and using them appropriately can lead to considerable financial savings and a significant reduction in environmental impact.


6. Minimise Power Consumption

Reducing energy consumption is a fundamental aspect of striving for sustainable printing. Modern printers often come with eco-friendly features such as Energy Star certification, which guarantees lower overall power usage. Make full use of energy-saving modes, such as sleep mode or automatic shutdown, when printers are not in use. Regular maintenance of printers can also enhance energy efficiency, as a well-serviced machine operates more smoothly.

Additionally, consider the location of printers. Position them in easily accessible areas so that multiple employees can use the same device, reducing the need for multiple machines and consequently lowering energy consumption. Finally, remember to turn off printers completely at the end of the day to avoid unnecessary power drainage. By consciously minimising power consumption, we not only reduce our environmental footprint but also generate significant cost savings.

7. Reduce Paper Usage

One of the most straightforward ways to adopt more sustainable printing practices is to simply reduce the amount of paper used. Start by setting your printers to default to double-sided printing. This instantly halves the amount of paper used for each print job. When printing internal documents, consider using draft mode to save ink and set margins to be as small as possible to maximise the space on each page.

Also, consider using recycled paper, which has a significantly lower environmental impact compared to new paper. Centralise your waste paper collection for recycling and encourage employees to reuse paper whenever possible. By consciously reducing paper usage, you not only save resources but also contribute significantly to your eco-friendly practices.

8. Print On-demand

Print-on-demand has emerged as an effective strategy for sustainable printing. It capitalises on technology to produce documents only when they are needed, thus avoiding unnecessary printing and waste. A robust print management software can facilitate on-demand printing by allowing users to queue print jobs, but only processing them when the user is ready to collect.

This not only avoids unnecessary printouts that get discarded but also maximises the efficiency of your print devices. The on-demand approach extends to larger print jobs as well, where instead of bulk printing materials, they’re printed in smaller quantities as needed. This reduces the risk of excess prints becoming obsolete and ending up as waste, ultimately aligning with the goal of sustainable printing.

9. Reset Settings and Save

To make sustainable printing a default practice, it’s important to reset your printer settings to eco-friendly options and save them. For instance, set your printer to always print double-sided, use draft mode for internal documents, and black and white mode for all non-essential documents. Also, activate power-saving modes such as sleep mode or automatic shutdown for periods of inactivity.

Once these settings are in place, make sure to save them so they become the default for all print jobs. This not only ensures consistent sustainable printing practices across the board but also eliminates the need for users to adjust settings for each print job. Remember, small changes in settings can result in significant savings in resources, energy, and money, aligning with the pursuit of sustainability.

10. Measure, Manage, Optimise

Just as in any initiative, sustainable printing practices can benefit from a cycle of measurement, management, and optimisation. Start by measuring your current printing practices to establish a baseline. This may include tracking the amount of paper and ink used, the number of printouts made, and the energy consumption of your printer devices. Once you have a clear understanding of your current situation, you can manage it by setting targets for reduction and implementing strategies to achieve these targets. Remember, what gets measured gets managed.

Once the changes have been implemented, regularly review and optimise them. Are there areas where you could further reduce your resource usage or waste? Are there new technologies or techniques that could help you further improve your sustainability? By continuously measuring, managing, and optimising, you can ensure that your printing practices remain as sustainable as possible.

Sustainable Printing Materials

Sustainable Paper

Sustainable printing paper is a crucial element in achieving eco-friendly printing practices. Unlike conventional paper, sustainable paper is produced using environmentally friendly methods, often from recycled materials or sustainably sourced wood pulp. Utilising post-consumer waste (PCW) paper can significantly reduce the environmental impact, as this type of paper is made entirely from the paper we recycle daily.

Also, look for paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or similar bodies, as these guarantee that the paper comes from responsibly managed forests. However, it’s important to remember that even sustainable paper has a cost both financially and environmentally, reinforcing the need for strategies that minimise paper use overall. By prioritising sustainable paper, we can ensure our printing activities contribute to the conservation of our planet’s resources, aligning with the ultimate goal of sustainability.

Eco-friendly Ink & Toner

Eco-friendly ink and toner, often referred to as green ink and toner, are significant players in the realm of sustainable printing. These products are manufactured with a lower environmental impact compared to their traditional counterparts. Standard inks and toners are typically petroleum-based, which has a considerable environmental footprint, both in terms of extraction and usage. On the other hand, eco-friendly alternatives are often plant-based, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and decreasing carbon emissions.

Furthermore, many green inks and toners are designed to be low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds), reducing air pollution inside the office. It’s also worth exploring refillable ink and toner cartridges, which drastically reduce plastic waste. Selecting eco-friendly ink and toner for your printing needs not only lessens your environmental impact but also often results in higher-quality print outputs, showcasing that sustainability and performance can go hand in hand.

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Adjusting Your Print Settings for Environmentally Friendly Printing

To make your printing more environmentally friendly, adjusting your print settings is a straightforward yet effective strategy. Here are some adjustments you can make:

  • ol]:!pt-0 [&>ol]:!pb-0 [&>ul]:!pt-0 [&>ul]:!pb-0″ value=”2″>Adjust font sizes for optimal layout and best use of space
  • ol]:!pt-0 [&>ol]:!pb-0 [&>ul]:!pt-0 [&>ul]:!pb-0″ value=”4″>Check for page and section breaks to avoid half-empty pages
  • ol]:!pt-0 [&>ol]:!pb-0 [&>ul]:!pt-0 [&>ul]:!pb-0″ value=”6″>Use Print Preview on the screen to check the document layout is correct before you print
  • ol]:!pt-0 [&>ol]:!pb-0 [&>ul]:!pt-0 [&>ul]:!pb-0″ value=”10″>Consider using recycled paper

Once You’re Done Printing

After completing your printing tasks, there are additional steps you can take to further promote sustainability. Always remember to turn off the printer after use to conserve energy. If you are disposing of unwanted prints, make sure to recycle them responsibly. When your ink or toner cartridges run out, opt for recycling programs often provided by manufacturers, or consider refillable cartridges.

Lastly, periodically maintain your printer to ensure optimal performance and longevity, reducing the need for frequent replacements. By implementing these practices once you’re done printing, you are contributing to a cycle of sustainable usage, not only reducing your environmental impact but also promoting cost-effectiveness.

Recycle Empty Cartridges

Recycling empty cartridges is an essential practice in sustainable printing. Many manufacturers offer recycling programs, allowing users to return used cartridges at no cost. These cartridges are then refilled or their components are reused to produce new ones, resulting in a substantial reduction in waste. By opting for these programs, you’re not only minimising your environmental footprint, but you’re also contributing towards a circular economy.

Furthermore, there are also third-party companies that purchase used cartridges, providing an opportunity to recoup some of the costs. It’s important to note that cartridges should be handled carefully after use to prevent any residual ink or toner leakage. In this way, recycling empty cartridges not only reduces waste but also saves resources and energy, further promoting sustainable printing practices.

Disposing of Wastepaper

Disposing of wastepaper in a sustainable manner is an important practice that can significantly reduce the environmental impact of your printing habits. Simply throwing away used paper contributes to the growing problem of landfill waste. Instead, consider recycling wastepaper at designated recycling facilities. This process allows for the transformation of waste into new paper products, drastically reducing the need for virgin paper derived from trees. If your office generates a large quantity of paper waste, you may want to consider contracting with a paper recycling service, which can provide scheduled pickups.

In addition to recycling, another effective way to reduce paper consumption is by reusing one-sided printouts as note paper or for draft prints. This approach encourages the efficient use of resources and fosters an eco-conscious mindset in the workplace. Following these steps will help you to effectively manage your wastepaper and contribute to the broader goal of environmental sustainability.

Educate & Raise Awareness

The journey towards sustainable printing practices is not one to be undertaken in isolation. Educating and raising awareness about these practices within your organisation is crucial. You can start by holding informative sessions or workshops to discuss the importance of sustainable printing and to introduce the various strategies discussed in this guide. Encourage the use of eco-friendly paper, ink, and toner, and the adjustment of print settings for less waste and more efficient use of resources.

Regular reminders about cartridge recycling and proper wastepaper disposal can also be beneficial. Consider creating a team or committee dedicated to implementing and monitoring these practices, and celebrating success to motivate everyone involved. By fostering a culture of sustainability, we can collectively contribute towards a greener planet and a more cost-effective printing approach. In doing so, we all play a part in preserving our world for future generations.


What is the most eco-friendly printing ink?

The most eco-friendly printing ink is typically vegetable-based ink. Unlike petroleum-based inks, vegetable-based inks are derived from renewable resources, are biodegradable, and emit lower levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). They also tend to spread further than traditional inks, making them a more cost-effective choice.

However, it’s important to consider the entire lifecycle of the ink. For example, soy-based inks may be a more sustainable choice if the soy is sourced responsibly. Always check with the manufacturer about the sourcing and disposal practices associated with their inks to ensure you’re making the most sustainable choice.

Is UV printing sustainable?

UV printing can be considered sustainable to a certain extent. The process involves using ultraviolet lights to dry or cure ink, paint, or coatings almost instantly, which means it uses less energy compared to traditional drying methods. Furthermore, UV-cured inks are free from volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are harmful to the environment.

Additionally, UV printing helps to significantly reduce waste because it allows for printing on a variety of surfaces with high precision, minimising errors and reprints. However, it is essential to note that the UV curing process involves the use of mercury bulbs, which are harmful if not disposed of properly. Some printers have started using LED lights instead, which are longer-lasting and mercury-free. Therefore, while UV printing has its advantages, sustainability largely depends on the specific practices of the printing company.

Which kind of paper cannot be recycled?

Not all types of paper are suitable for recycling. Papers that are heavily dyed, laminated, or coated with plastic or aluminium foil are typically not recyclable. Similarly, thermal paper, commonly used for receipts, is not suitable for recycling due to its chemical coating. Other non-recyclable paper products include tissue paper, paper towels, and food-contaminated paper, as these are often soiled and can contaminate recycling processes. It’s crucial to understand the recycling guidelines in your local area to ensure the correct disposal of these types of paper.