According to Parade magazine, paper consumption in the US peaked in 1999. But although paper use may be trending down, most companies still deal with pounds upon pounds of paper every day. Let's look at three ways to better create, send, receive and retrieve paper and the information thereon.
Reducing paper use saves money and gives you green credit that's earned, not faked. Am I the only one who finds the “We're going green!” brochures contradictory?
The first rule of using less paper (no small business can really go paperless) is to print less paper whenever possible. Now that everyone connects to everyone else inside the company and across the Internet, everyone should use e-mail, shared document workspaces or even fax rather than print and snail mail.
If something comes in an e-mail, don't print the message and hand it to your coworker, forward that e-mail. Copy and send the Web page, or better yet, send the Web address for the page, rather than print it and hand it. It's always disappointing to see a worker print a page then feed it to a fax machine to send to a coworker in another area.
If you fax, fax smart. Don't print your message and walk it over to the fax machine and feed the paper into the machine. Check out any of the e-mail-to-fax services, or just e-mail the information. Outbound e-mail-to-fax and inbound fax-to-e-mail services work great and are inexpensive.
If you haven't discovered the great values in multi-function printers, check them out. I bought an HP PhotoSmart 2610 several years ago. It prints, faxes, scans and copies pages in full color. It saves space by combining four functions in one housing. This model uses ink jet technology, but I rarely print full color today, so the cost isn't a problem. For black and white only, monochrome lasers cost a bit more to buy but cost less per page to print compared to ink jets.
Ink jet multi-function printers have come way down in price over the past few years since I bought my unit. Epson just sent me a WorkForce 600 multi-function printer that ups the ante over my old HP in two ways. First, it includes an automatic document feeder, a great improvement. Second, it supports wireless networking. Of the two, I feel the document feeder is much more valuable.
Copying or scanning pages on the HP requires me to put the paper on, hit the button, take the paper off, put the paper on, hit the button... With the Epson, I just feed pages into the top and the copies come out the bottom. Or the scans show up in my EspsonScan application on the computer. We can't blame my old HP for not doing this, but I won't ever buy another printer or scanner without an automatic document feeder. And the price of the Epson WorkForce 600 is under $200.