How Small-Office IT Can Make a Big Impact

How Small-Office IT Can Make a Big Impact

Considering the pace at which the environment is changing and the mounting scientific evidence showing man as a contributing factor, the phrase "Think globally, act locally" quite possibly has never carried as much weight as it does today. People around the globe are realizing an obligation to contribute to the betterment of their surrounding environment.

Corporations, long in the sights of environmental groups, have a big role to play in this area, and many are doing a great deal. But large corporations are not alone. Small businesses, which make up the largest and fastest-growing segment of the global economy, are also doing their part. For example, great work to raise awareness and develop environmental processes and programs is well underway from groups such as the Center for Small Business and the Environment and one of its many projects,

Think a small business can't make a big impact? Think again. According to U.S. Small Business Administration figures, small businesses -- those with fewer than 500 employees -- represent 99.9 percent of all U.S. companies. There are about 25.8 million companies in America, of which only 17,000 are large. When a group this big takes similar actions individually, collectively, it can have a tremendous and swift impact.

And while much progress has been made, there is still a lot that can be done by companies -- around the globe -- to conserve energy and reduce waste, while also improving efficiency and productivity.

According to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, a typical office generates about 1.5 pounds of wastepaper per employee each day. The majority of this wastepaper is from single-side copying and printing. By simply selecting to print on both sides of a sheet of paper whenever printing, businesses will conserve storage space and reduce handling costs. But they will also eliminate up to 50 percent of their paper waste.

Another way to cut down on paper usage and increase productivity is to introduce workflow technologies through copier/printer devices. While capabilities vary by manufacturer, most sophisticated multifunction products come with workflow capabilities, such as, scan-to-network or scan-to-e-mail. These features allow a person who wants to make a copy to scan their document directly into an email instead. As a result, paper usage is cut, and energy consumption reduced. But such features also boost worker productivity and streamline business processes.

Office Recycling 101 Print and Toner Cartridges
Never throw a used print or toner cartridge away. These components can have multiple lives or be recycled. Many companies provide customers with prepaid postage labels to return cartridges for reuse and recycling. If unsure whether a cartridge can be recycled, check the company Web site or call the manufacturer.

Returned products are cleaned, inspected, and then remanufactured or recycled. Remanufactured cartridges, containing reused/recycled parts, are built and tested to the same performance specifications as new products.

PCs and Printers
Printers and computers can be recycled. Some pieces of electronic equipment must be returned to the manufacturer for recycling, while other machines can be recycled locally. For more information visit

Most of the paper used in offices can be recycled including colored paper, newspapers, magazines, manila folders, post-it notes and envelopes.

Office Furniture
Several charities accept unwanted office furniture and recycle it for use by other businesses, organizations, school and charities.

Purchase Policy
The best way to encourage people to close the recycling loop is to develop purchasing policies and guidelines that specify products with recycled materials and that are produced in an environmentally friendly manner.

Buying environmentally friendly office equipment is also a good practice, but this requires some homework. It's important to take a look at individual manufacturers and their particular environmental practices, especially involving end-of-life takeback and remanufacturing and recycling of equipment. Xerox has been proud to pioneer these practices in the industry, including a comprehensive takeback program that has diverted the equivalent of over 2.6 million copiers, printers, and multifunction systems from landfills in the last decade.

Speaking of recycling, about 70 percent of all office garbage is waste paper. Placing recycling bins close to photocopiers and printers and in an office's high-traffic areas encourages participation by making it easier for employees to recycle.

After documents are scanned, request that workers keep a digital copy for their files. Old hard copies that are no longer needed may be emptied out of filing cabinets and drawers, shredded if necessary and recycled. By simply changing the way you manage documents, workers can help the environment and use fewer energy resources. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates it takes 10 times more energy to manufacture a piece of paper than to create a print or copy.

When paper is needed, choosing recycled paper over never-before-used paper saves trees, energy and landfill space. According to The Recycled Paper Coalition, recycled paper creates less pollution and it cuts down on the use of toxic chemicals.

Take a hard look at your current peripheral network. Documents are created, copied, printed, scanned and faxed on a daily basis. Many offices have a variety of individual machines to handle these tasks, and each one uses up electricity. A copier, two printers and a fax machine can consume 1400 kWh of energy a year. By replacing such stand-alone office products with a single multifunction system that performs all of the same functions uses only 700 kWh annually. By consolidating these products, you're not only saving energy, you're opening up valuable floor space and most likely saving money on lease and service agreements. In fact, energy savings can double if the multifunction system replaces products that are not ENERGY STAR qualified.

The Ugly Truth About Trash

The next time you begin your wind-up to lob that empty toner or ink cartridge in the trash, stop and think. Most cartridges are thrown away after one use even though they can be refilled. According to the Cartridge World North America, 300 million cartridges end up in landfills each year. This is anticipated to increase at a rate of 12 percent each year, so by 2015 the U.S. should be looking at nearly 100 million cartridges ending up in landfills. With the average toner cartridge weighing 3.5 to 4.5 lbs, by 2015 we would be adding between 1.7 and 2.2 million tons of waste accumulated.

Not all printers are alike when it comes to the amount of waste generated. Compared to traditional laser printers, Xerox's solid ink printers create 90 percent less consumables waste. After 100,000 prints, a solid ink printer produces only five pounds of waste compared to a color laser, which can produce 157 pounds.

Small steps really do make a difference. Estimates by industry research firms Gartner and IDC indicate that more than 8.5 million printers have been shipped between 2002 and 2006. A single laser cartridge thrown into landfill from just one of those printers can take up to 450 years to decompose. By incorporating procedures to reduce, reuse and recycle, offices of any size can help improve the health of the environment one step at a time.

Jim Rise is the Vice President and General Manager of Xerox Office Group's Solid Ink Business Unit, and is responsible for the development of all Xerox solid ink products.