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Three Steps to Green Your Office Printing Practices

<p>Companies seeking a competitive edge don't usually start at the printer, but these easy measures can increase productivity, save money and cut your environmental footprint.</p>

When companies are searching for a competitive edge, they usually don't start with their office printing. But with some surprisingly easy measures, organizations of all sizes can improve their printing practices to increase productivity, save money and lower their environmental impact.

Modest improvements in a printer fleet's energy efficiency can trim your company's power bill, for example. Double-sided printing is a simple way to conserve thousands of pages of paper. And versatile multifunction devices can streamline workflows, boosting efficiency.

Knowing where to begin is often the hardest part. Many companies don't have a full grasp of how their current printing affects the bottom line, let alone their environmental footprint.

By following a simple three-step process, you can get insight into what's working -- and not -- with your office printing, set clear goals, and put an action plan in motion.

Step One: Assess Your Printing Products and Practices

Start by taking stock of printing across your company, with the aim of establishing a performance baseline. Form a team and include your IT manager, office manager, key decision makers and colleagues who are environmentally minded. Your success will also depend on getting support from your company's principal or management team.

In your assessment, look at both people and infrastructure. Study employee behaviors -- such as triggers for printing, device preferences, and how supplies and equipment are recycled -- and attitudes, such as whether they're concerned about the environmental impact of printing. Knowing how your workforce prints today will offer clues for focusing your efforts and managing the changes to come.

It's also important to audit your organization's printing and imaging equipment. Track which printers meet eco-label criteria, such as Energy Star in the U.S. Count the different devices needed to print, fax, copy and scan. Figure out the ratio of users to each printer -- chances are, you have devices that can handle a bigger load than they currently have.

Once you've gathered this information, develop a clear picture of the environmental impact of your printing. Leveraging tools like a carbon footprint calculator can help you quantify your paper use, energy consumption, carbon footprint and costs associated with printing.

Step Two: Test Your Thinking and Set Goals

Use the environmental snapshot of your office printing to zero in on areas for improvement and set priorities. Examine how each potential change will affect your business to understand whether it makes sense. Use online tools to help you quickly compare the estimated costs and environmental impact of replacing a single printer, consolidating workgroup printing stations or updating an entire fleet.

Define realistic targets that not only help reduce environmental impact but also align with your business goals. Make your goals as explicit as possible and link them to a clear timeline. It will help you measure progress, make course corrections and calculate the impact you're having along the way.

Step Three: Take Action

Once you've set clear, measurable goals, it's time to develop and implement your action plan. Keep in mind that you don't have to rely on sweeping changes to save money or reduce the impact of your printing. Relatively simple solutions can yield sizeable results while laying the groundwork for more improvements to follow.

For instance, you can reduce paper waste by setting two-sided printing, or duplexing, as the default setting on your entire fleet of printers. Pairing this with software applications that eliminate unwanted content when printing from the web can significantly reduce the amount of paper waste generated. You might also develop procurement guidelines requiring printers meet eco-label guidelines and feature energy-saving features.

At the other end of the spectrum, you might revamp your fleet by consolidating outdated, redundant devices into energy efficient multifunction printers (MFPs) or all-in-ones (AiOs). By reducing the number of devices with ENERGY STAR® qualified MFPs or AiOs, you'll not only use less energy, but lower your overhead support costs. MFPs and AiOs also help digitize workflows, making it more efficient for employees to electronically share high-touch documents.

The Bottom Line

Think of this three-step process as a blueprint for making the most of your office printing while meeting your environmental goals. Start small or think big, but be sure to return to your plan regularly to check that you're taking advantage of the latest opportunities to save money, use fewer resources and reduce your footprint.

Michelle Price is worldwide environmental strategic marketing manager in the Imaging and Printing Group (IPG) at HP. She is responsible for global environmental marketing strategy and planning across all of the group's businesses, segments and regions.

Photo CC-licensed by Don Fulano.

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