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Printing: The energy saving blind spot for business

10 Jul 12

Electricity, paper consumption and consumables — Anthony Toope, marketing and channel operations manager, Fuji Xerox Printers, looks at adding the green to printing.

Energy efficiency and recycling are important considerations for businesses trying to reduce their carbon footprint. As a result, many business managers will encourage their IT departments to carefully assess their processes and see where improvements can be made.

Managing a fleet of printers can involve significant electricity, high paper consumption and large quantities of consumables. It therefore makes practical sense for businesses to pay particular attention to their printing environments and assess where they could make more sustainable choices — whether those be regarding printing equipment or printing behaviour.

With the cost of electricity continuing to soar, the environment isn’t the only beneficiary of a greener approach to printing. Businesses which use more energy efficient equipment and adopt processes which encourage more conservative use of paper, toner and other consumables will realise significant benefits to their bottom line.

Although interest in green IT is growing, many SMBs are time-poor and unlikely to have any official policies in place, let alone consider the environmental impact of their printing environment. This represents an opportunity for resellers to add value to their relationships with end customers as they are well positioned to provide advice on simple ways to green up printing.

Audit checklist
SMBs are moving away from simply buying printers and are looking to invest in more efficient printing solutions. With this, and the growth of managed print services, channel partners are developing stronger, trusted relationships with their clients and stepping into a more advisory role.

In fact for end customers simply moving to a managed print services contract can help to green up their workplaces. By consolidating a printer fleet to include a smaller number of more productive machines, companies can reduce their energy consumption. Ordering only the consumables and supplies that are required will also result in reduced waste.

Partners can recommend simple practices to assist their customers in reducing their carbon footprint. One way of doing this is developing a checklist which can help customers complete an audit of their printing environments. This could include assessments of electricity consumption and paper usage, suggestions to set up a recycling programme or recommendations to consider environmentally friendly printing technologies such as solid ink printers.

This checklist does not have to be very complex — something as simple as turning off printers each night can result in significant energy savings. Here are some things that should be considered:

Paper consumption: When we think of being environmentally-friendly, reducing paper consumption is often one of the first things that comes to mind. Although many of us try to use as little paper as possible, the reality is that today’s office environments are a far cry from the paperless office that was predicted 30 years ago.

Partners should encourage their customers to be more aware of their paper consumption. They can advise on ways to assess their employee’s printing behaviour and where they can make valuable changes, for example encouraging double sided printing, if possible, or only printing important emails. A default can be set on printers so all printing is in duplex. Customers should also be encouraged to purchase recycled paper where possible.

N-up printing is another feature which can help reduce paper consumption as it enables users to print multiple pages on one sheet of paper.

Network management: For most companies, print and copy fleet needs have evolved over time. Machines have been bought as new needs have arisen. Old machines which have reached the end of their lifecycle have been replaced, or upgraded, as potential productivity gains from new technology became impossible to ignore.

Many of today’s offices have several printers on site, some with desktop printers for each individual office and several devices dotted around the office essentially doing the same thing. Multiple devices often mean more energy consumption and will also require the company to purchase more toner and consumables than actually required.

With a wide range of affordable, high performance workgroup printers and multi-function devices on the market, resellers can advise their customers on the printing solution that will best meet their needs while at the same time increasing energy efficiency and improving cost effectiveness.

Consumables: Depending on the individual device, most printers and copiers will need toner, ink cartridges, paper and perhaps laser drums. For a large business, or a company that has heavy volume printing, this can result in large amounts of waste.

To minimise the amount of colour printing, resellers can advise businesses to opt for mono printers or set a black and white default on their colour printers. Furthermore, partners can advise their customers on the various types of toner available, with some offering reduced power consumption and carbon dioxide emissions.

Partners can also recommend solid ink printers which can reduce a business’ landfill footprint. Solid ink is an environmentally-conscious way to print — with cartridge-free design and minimal packaging it is an almost waste-free printing process.

The wax-type blocks of colour which are used in a solid ink printer are shipped in a simple wrapper. There are no chunky cartridges full of plastic, metal moving parts or toners to dispose of or store for later recycling as a solid ink block is completely consumed. Solid ink printing has the added benefit of producing better quality colour and is quieter and faster than a colour laser.

Electricity: Printers, copiers and multi-function devices can consume varying amounts of electricity, depending on the model, how often they are used and whether they are in stand-by or print mode.

Channel partners should encourage their customers to consider the effect of having multiple printers and copiers turned on, particularly at night. They should consider the potential cost savings and benefits of consolidating their printing fleet into one or two more energy efficient, high-performance printers.

Companies should also take advantage of energy saving features that put machines to ‘sleep’ in idle periods. This can save hundreds of dollars each year on energy consumption and reduce a business’ carbon footprint.

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