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The sustainability equation

01 Apr 10

Paper is always an easy target for businesses looking to improve their green status, and the first initiative is usually a move toward a paperless office.

But despite all the attempts made in the past decade, the truly ‘paperless’ office has never materialised; it’s simply not practical or effective to remove paper from our day-to-day work. In fact, it can be detrimental; studies have shown that workers actually retain more information using paper documents rather than working from a screen.

So initiatives to reduce the environmental impact of printing need to be undertaken with intelligent insight and strategy. Let’s start by addressing the way people work.

Walk over and look at your office photocopier. Right now, there is probably a stack of uncollected documents sitting on it or dangling from the output tray. I’ll also wager that the very same documents will still be there at the end of the day. Unused documents are not only a waste of paper; they’re a waste of ink and electricity too. Consider using a multifunction device (MFD) or printer software that requires a release authorisation before printing. This way, documents are produced only when a user is at the machine to collect them, reducing the likelihood they’ll be forgotten about or unused. Most programs will automatically delete print jobs that sit in the queue after a set period of time, so there’s no need for user intervention.

That same MFD will also have a setting to allow two-sided or ‘duplex’ printing by default. Using this feature will automatically reduce your paper consumption, and it’s easy to set up across the organisation.

A third behaviour change that helps enable green printing is the use of document management software to foster better collaboration when documents are still in the electronic stage. Research has shown that 40% of documents are only used once before being thrown away. Really, there is little need to print out a document when a colleague can edit it and include comments in real time. Software solutions like this that facilitate the development of documents are often preferable, as they leave only the final version to actually be printed.

Some documents will always need to be printed, so there are also strategies to reduce the impact on the environment there too. Start by evaluating the energy consumption of the device itself. There have been tremendous advances in energy efficiency in recent years; in fact, today’s MFDs consume less than a third of the energy of those made 10 years ago. Look for devices that have achieved the international Energy Star certification for energy efficiency – they meet stringent criteria and will lower the electricity consumption used to create your documents. Document-related activities in the office account for approximately 70% of total IT power consumption, so this is a great place to get started.

Consumables should be a second focus. Using recycled paper is an easy start, but for higher-quality print jobs when the output is important, look for paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Paper from these sources is made from forests certified as being sustainably grown and harvested, and is generally more earth-friendly.

While years ago ‘green’ thinking was deemed a fad, it’s now apparent that the philosophy has taken hold in business as an important part of a company’s culture. For resellers and vendors alike, there will continue to be a growing demand for products that demonstrate consideration of and responsibility for their impact on the planet. We can all do our part; the important thing is to get started now.

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