Nine ways IT can help organizations 'go green' and reduce paper consumption

Nine ways IT can help organizations 'go green' and reduce paper consumption

Summary: This holiday season, think about ways to give back to the environment, says IBM's Leslie Gordon. Re-aligning basic IT practices can help play a part in becoming more environmentally responsible.

Commentary - This holiday season, think about ways to "give back" to the environment.

The liquid in printer cartridges - which carries a price tag of about $10,000 per gallon - costs far more than the most expensive bottle of champagne any of us will buy over the next few weeks. And despite the popularity of recycling, each year millions of empty toner and inkjet cartridges used in laser printers, fax machines, and copiers are thrown in the trash, destined for landfills and incinerators.

As more enterprises look for ways to 'go green,' many do not realize that re-aligning basic information technology (IT) practices can help play a part in becoming more environmentally responsible.

One way for IT teams to help reduce waste is to implement new approaches within daily processes. It's not enough to reduce the amount of paper we use, as beneficial as that is to the environmental and the cost of doing business. As business processes move toward being completely electronic, enterprises need to think about ways to reduce our “paper footprint.”

Continued use of paper to record critical business transactions can weigh down organizations because of the cost of paper and printing, compliance risks and the environmental challenges of disposing of paper. Yet, there are fairly simple steps that organizations can take to reduce paper consumption. They are:

  • Use business analytics software: Integrate software that automates manual reporting and analysis, and electronically distributes reports over the Web or on mobile devices. One mid-size company estimates that it saved enough paper to cover 5,519 football fields on a yearly basis simply by moving manual-based financial and operational reporting processes to a business intelligence system.
  • Re-align business processes: Automate and streamline business processes among people and systems, reducing paper consumption by eliminating unnecessary papers trails and content storage costs.
  • Move business tasks to an electronic format: Encourage non-technical employees to try electronic forms and survey software that does not require an IT department's resources. Traditionally, compiling forms and surveys required several technical workers weeks, not minutes, at a significant cost in an IT department's time and salaries. For example, electronic forms are currently used by more than 1.4 million Army personnel worldwide, yielding a projected $1.3 billion in cost savings to the U.S. federal government.
  • Monitor and regulate printing: Encourage employees to edit and review documents in electronic form, while promoting a paper-free environment. For example, don't ask employees to print meeting agendas. Instead, use whiteboard or laptops to take note during meetings.
  • Eliminate the unnecessary printing of documents: Prevent IT teams from writing and then printing massive documents that are quickly out-of-date as requirements change. Use software to make requirements an electronic process, providing teams with the ability to visually capture requirements for a project using sketches, storyboards, comment threads and rich-text editors. An IBM “No Paper Weight” study indicates that when companies stop printing their "born digital" documents, paper consumption can be reduced by 80 to 90 percent.
  • Review software code – online: Don't print out code for "code review" - like proof reading a paper for grammar. Worldwide, more than 80 billion lines of code are written annually, representing a "mountain" of paper. Manual inspection is time-consuming and error-prone. IDC estimates the cost of fixing software defects at $5.2 million to $22 million annually, depending on an organization's size.
  • Increase Data Center Capacity: Grow the capacity of an enterprise's data center while reducing spiraling energy costs through facilities design, power and cooling infrastructure, active energy management and efficient, scalable systems.
  • Introduce Collaboration Tools: Use team collaboration software that lets people share links instead of attachments or hard copy documents, reducing storage and paper requirements.
  • Use mobile devices. Today more than ever, as mobile software applications have grown in popularity, employees can complete most all of their business tasks by using their mobile devices. They can review, read and work on documents and other business tasks while on the go, reducing the amount of forms they might have printed in the past.
Consumption of large amounts of paper within organizations can lead to redundancy, increased costs, increased time and decreased quality. By making a New Year's resolution to make at least some of these simple strategies, organizations can take steps to improve business processes and cost savings, while embracing "green IT," making themselves a more socially responsible and attractive employer and vendor.

Leslie L. Gordon is vice president of Application and Infrastructure Service Management in the Office of the CIO of IBM.

Topic: CXO

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  • RE: Nine ways IT can help organizations 'go green' and reduce paper consumption

    Other ways to save the environment is to use green PC or thin client. They can significantly save electricity usage. There are cheap thin clients sold on eBay and you can always use low cost software such as ThinServer to power the thin client

  • Paper really?

    I think most companies are already trying to cut
    down their paper use.

    How about VMWARE or other types of server
    virtulization? Or shutting down old unneeded
    systems in the data center.

    does your print server really need to run on
    hardware not a virtual instance? How about those
    license servers that don't require a hardware
    fob. How about that really old inefficient server that is running some type of software
    that is critical but there is no new version and
    it runs on NT? VM it your users will probably
    see a performance boost.
  • Check out this collaboration tool to reduce CO2 emissions

    To minimize the use of paper is definitely one
    way to lower the amount of CO2. Here's a good
    example on some guys has has gone all the way
    with a collaboration tool:

    They even plant a tree every month for every
    customer they have:
  • How much computing time equals one sheet of paper?

    Cutting paper use saves the rainforest, I guess, but boardroom equipment or a laptop each has a carbon footprint too. So write the meeting agenda on a whiteboard, e-mail people a photo of that. Or ask them to bring their Kindle.

    Anything you would put onto paper during a meeting, you probably would type into your computer afterwards, anyway.
    Robert Carnegie 2009
  • RE: Nine ways IT can help organizations 'go green' and reduce paper consumption

    It'ld be really nice if we could go even greener and run our servers and computers on water. Imagine that,"Laptop battery getting low!" oh well, better throw another cup of water over it! :P
  • RE: Nine ways IT can help organizations 'go green' and reduce paper consumption

    Depending upon you industry, (say design & construction) you may need to print and mark up. In our practice, we try and recycle almost all our printed paper, and use electronic markups as much as possible. We have started using collaborative tools (wiki, blog and intranet) and Virtualization of our license servers and PC clients. I hope to start using thin clients and change the way we structure our HW. Still some work lays ahead. Self education is the key.
  • A Smarter Approach to Printing

    Graham Lowes, marketing director, OKI Printing Solutions

    Reducing paper consumption is one of the most effective measures businesses can take in order to ?go green? and help reduce materials wastage. A recent report by leading economics consultancy, the centre for economics and business research (cebr) has found that firms and other organisations could save between ?900 million and ?2,100 million per year on printing costs.

    The report estimates that ?360 million of these savings could come from replacing expensive outsourced printing with printing in?house while between ?500 million and ?1,760 million could be generated by more efficient management of existing in?house printing tasks.

    In this context, businesses can achieve benefits by more closely managing paper usage. Of course, every business has an intrinsic need to produce printed output. For most organisations, the paperless office is a bit like ?utopia? - an ideal that is difficult to achieve. In our lifetime it is unlikely to become a reality because workers and working practices are used to having paper-based documents and will continue to want and need hard copies of reports and other essential business documents.

    So how can organisations eliminate unnecessary paper usage and by so doing reduce wastage and achieve associated environmental benefits? One of the most effective ways is by adopting a managed print strategy.

    Typically, this involves the print vendor and its reseller partner identifying the true existing print costs of the business, implementing the printing solutions to meet those costs, managing the entire fleet and tracking activity to keep the print operation optimised for maximum productivity at the least expense.

    As part of a typical managed print contract, the end user business will receive detailed budgetary report based on the actual print volumes associated with each device. This enables the organisation concerned to reduce wear and tear on individual printers and also allows it to identify areas of wastage or excessive usage.
    Educating Users

    Businesses can achieve additional savings by adopting smarter printing practices. Much of this involves a process of educating users to reduce paper wastage.

    Users can save on resources by following the ?think before your print? guideline and never printing emails simply to read them, for example. If they really need to print, they can do so in mono rather than colour. In addition, they can be trained to cut paper wastage even more by always using print preview and by using a web print utility to ensure each web page fits on one side of paper.

    From Outsourced to In-house

    Businesses can further reduce wastage and costs simply by reducing the number of expensive outsourced printing jobs they undertake and by using their office printers more effectively. In doing this, they need to change their mindset and understand that a large percentage of printing, previously the domain of expensive outsourced print shops, can now be done quickly and cost-effectively by staff using their own printer. Thanks to advances in print technology, organisations can now print a much broader range of documents in-house, including letterheads, notices, reports and labels.

    Over 20 per cent of all outsourced printed material is never used. Hundreds of business cards and reams of headed paper are discarded every year. Today, it is increasingly important from both a cost saving and environmental perspective to improve the ?utilisation ratio? when printing. Producing documents and brochures on-demand as and when required is a sure-fire way of cutting costs and improving productivity.

    Configure Printers Correctly

    It is also important to ensure that printers are correctly set up to minimise time and paper wastage. Using ?mono? when documents don?t need to be in colour, using ?duplex? for double sided printing and creating A5 booklets with multiple images on each sheet could save an average business unit or department thousands of pounds every year in ink, toners, paper and time, while at the same time, enabling them to deliver a better service.

    In a business environment where budgets remain tight and resources scarce, these kinds of techniques for efficient printing can bring ever-more attractive benefits ? not least in reducing paper wastage and mitigating the impact of printing on the environment. For more information about OKI and smarter print management, visit
    Graham Lowes
  • How to Reduce Paper Consumption

    I think most of the industries or companies has been already used the technologies. Every company wants to avoid the paper work because it will take so much time besides of soft copy. I think its important all have to avoid the paper use if want to live with oxygen otherwise it will become very harmful to all peoples. Overall use the latest and IT technologies for living with greenery.