It's no surprise to most that home or office printing is not friendly to the environment. Beyond the obvious amount of paper waste, many types of printers use complex internal printing mechanisms and ink cartridges that produce a lot of added waste. As the two groups forming the Environment Industry Associations report, every year 300 million empty cartridges get added into the waste stream. Because it takes 1 gallon of oil to produce a single ink cartridge, the environmental impact is enormous.
However, with advances made to printer quality, recycling, and awareness over printing practices, your printing experience doesn't have to wreck the environment in the process. Printing green also has an added benefit--efficiency. With more efficient practices, you'll save yourself money in the process. The following tips are intended to be starting points for thinking about what impact your home or office practices have.
- Print double-sided on post-consumer recycled paper. It seems like a no-brainer to print on both sides of a sheet of paper, but surprisingly few people do it. By using double-sided printing, you instantly reduce your paper waste by half. At the same time, it's important to find post-consumer recycled paper, meaning the paper is made of recycled pulp from other consumer products. Many stores like Staples or Office Max will have Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) labels to indicate these practices have been verified.
- Print on the lowest quality ink setting, except in necessary occasions. Factory printer settings typically aren't set up for the lowest quality ink setting, but unless you are printing professional color documents or photographs, there is no need to print outside of the 'draft' setting. You can significantly reduce how quickly you use up the existing ink in your cartridge.
- When shopping for a new printer, consider ENERGY STAR labels and intended usage. Like the FSC labeling paper products, ENERGY STAR labels consumer and professional electronics and appliances on how effectively they use energy. When shopping, be sure to look for the distinct light blue logo. Thinking about intended use is a good consideration when making a printer purchase. One of the first questions to ask is, "Do I need to print only in black and white or color?" Monochrome printers use only one ink cartridge, reducing waste, whereas color printers can have four or more separate cartridges that can increase waste.
- Recycle your cartridges! This is the single most effective way of reducing cartridge waste. When throwing out a cartridge in the trash, it'll likely end up spending decades in a landfill. With increasingly sophisticated methods for repurposing old cartridges, there is really no reason not to. Earth911 even has a search for companies that re-purpose cartridges by city.
- Ask yourself, "Do I really need to print this?" While we are an ink and toner business, we also want to make sure you're printing only what you need. With new digital systems for reading, signing, and storing documents, printing out items, especially related to work, may not be necessary. Consider synching email, documents, photographs, or other items to your smartphone, tablet, or reading device to save on printing output.
- Finally, and perhaps easiest of all, power off and unplug your printer when not in use. Unless you expect a busy day of high-use printing, having a printer on and/or plugged in uses a lot of residual energy. This will help reduce your monthly electric bill as well.
Though these are just some of the tips we have for printing in a more eco and wallet friendly way, there are many other tips we haven't included. Leave your favorite green printing trick below.