Companies and organizations come in virtually countless shapes and sizes, but one thing that tends to unite them all is at least some reliance on printing. Hand in hand with that fact, in turn, come the ubiquitous paper, toner and other various related items, all of which can add up both in the budget and in their toll on the planet.
Just from a budget perspective, in fact, the average corporate organization spends between 1 and 3 percent of its annual revenue on printing, according to a report in the Recycler.
What's a green-minded company to do? Aiming to print less, of course, is the first, most basic step, as my PCWorld peer Tony Bradley pointed out today in a related column.
The world of technology, however, also has some assistance to offer. Here, then, are a few tech tools that can help you minimize the financial and environmental impact of the printing you simply have to do.
It's not uncommon to hear the recommendation to use the Century Gothic font if you want to use less toner. There's clearly something to that, but an even better option could be to use Ecofont, software that features tiny, practically invisible holes in its printed versions.
The software requires no change in the fonts you're currently using, and it works with your existing documents. It's also compatible with most all printers. The main difference is that when it comes time to print, the tiny holes in the multiple eco-variants of your chosen fonts save more than 25 percent of the toner you'd normally use, the company says.
Ecofont won a European Environmental Design Award last year. Its Small Business Edition covers 10 to 50 workstations, with pricing on a per-license basis. Most companies break even within 12 months, Ecofont says. Users of the software also get an official Ecofont certification and logo as proof of their green "creds" in their own communications.
Targeting all the paper that gets wasted every day unnecessarily, meanwhile, GreenPrint is a package that lets you preview print jobs and then remove unnecessary pages, such as blank ones or those with only images. You can also use the software to create electronic PDFs from the files instead.
The result is that users can print dramatically fewer pages than they would otherwise, thereby saving paper, toner and electricity. In fact, the software even tracks and reports the pages, trees and money you've saved. Its enterprise version, meanwhile, adds the capability to direct employees to lower-cost printers.
GreenPrint Home Premium for Windows and Mac is priced at $19, and a tree is planted with every purchase.
For documents that you'd print only so as to have them with you on the go, another option is software that "prints" it to your iPhone or iPad instead. Houdah Software's ACTPrinter is a package that does just that, as I recently noted in my look at money-saving green apps. The app costs $1.99 on iTunes, and the accompanying software for your Mac or Windows PC is free. I'm hoping Houdah will develop an Android version in the near future, not to mention software for Linux PCs.
4. Efficient Printers
This is not to say that you should run out and buy a brand-new printer if you don't already need one, but newer printers tend to be a lot more efficient than older ones, particularly if they carry a certification such as EnergyStar. Because they tend to run cooler and last longer, such devices could even help you save on air conditioning and maintenance as well.
5. Cartridge Alternatives
Last but not least, it's worth also mentioning toner cartridges, which remain one of the most expensive parts of running a printer. It's no wonder alternatives have popped up to the manufacturer-sanctioned varieties, and they can clearly help save you some money. Our Serial Refiller column, in fact, has looked in depth at several of these, including offerings from Office Depot, Cartridge World and Costco.
There are also toners that have been designed with environmental sustainability in mind. Fuji Xerox's EA Eco-Toner is one of these, and it can reduce power consumption by up to 40 percent, the company says.
Of course, there's also the perennial question of when to replace cartridges, since in some cases months can go by between when the "toner low" light goes on and when streaks actually begin to appear on the page. We're still waiting for software that will tell us the honest truth on that one.