Adhering to be environmental-friendly is not only a corporate social responsibility, it also contributes to the company's bottom line. As organizations try to attain these twin objectives, printer manufacturers are jumping in to offer their range of "green" products.
According to printer manufacturers, the path to going green and printing cheap starts at the product design stage. For instance, these hardware makers say they observe a conscious effort to produce printers that require fewer resources, namely, electricity, supplies and media.
Lim Kok Hin, Canon Singapore's senior director and general manager of domestic business imaging solutions and business solutions division, said multifunction devices (MFD), for example, are designed to allow businesses to consume less energy.
"With the rising cost of energy, this quickly translates into tremendous savings for companies," Lim told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail.
Save power: Check if the printer is Energy Star-qualified. Automatically set printers to power down after office hours and on weekends to save electricity.
Carbon footprint: Understand the organization's printing carbon footprint with tools such as the HP Carbon Footprint Calculator, in order to develop an actionable roadmap to reduce the carbon footprint.
Software helps: Print management software enables actions such as remotely setting printers over the network to sleep and wake modes. These tools also let organizations install, configure, troubleshoot and manage all their networked imaging and printing devices. Such management tools keep track of who is printing what on which device, to reduce the cost of office output.
Save paper: Default printers to print in duplex, draft mode and, if possible, multiple pages on a sheet to maximize paper and toner use. Two pages to a sheet of paper is reasonable for most documents, and four to a sheet is good for presentation slides, allowing savings of up to 75 percent of paper.
Set the default paper size to "A4" so more lines can be printed. Decrease the default print margins to allow for more text on a page. For documents, use Microsoft Word's "shrink to fit" option that tries to squeeze text onto a single page. Preview printouts before hitting "Print".
Reuse, recycle: Locate two reuse/recycle paper trays at printer locations that are convenient to users. Allocate one tray for discarded non-confidential single-sided prints for reuse in draft prints, and the other for unwanted double-sided prints to be sent to paper recyclers.
PC faxing: Send documents directly from your PC to a fax machine to reduce paper.
Kasai Yasuhiro, Epson's director of regional product management division, said its printing products were designed with "stringent energy and resource consumption targets, in relation to performance".
Older models are also replaced with new designs that make better use of resource. The vendor's Stylus C110 business inkjet printer, for example, consumes 60 percent less energy than its predecessor Epson Stylus 87+, Kasai told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail
Its business laser printers, from standby or sleep mode, can complete printing the first page in 8 seconds. This minimizes the time the machine needs to be powered for print jobs, thus, reducing energy consumption, he said. "This is especially important as most print jobs are typically short runs comprising two to five pages," he said.
Ivy Liang, Asia-Pacific and Japan vice president of marketing at HP's imaging and printing group, said the company's "Instant-on Technology" is embedded in most of its LaserJet printers, enabling the machines to print the first page in 7.5 seconds from sleep mode.
According to Canon's Lim, companies tend to focus on larger business processes in their bid to achieve cost savings, leaving office printing costs unmanaged. Most are unaware how much their organizations are spending on their printing needs, he said.
"Unmanaged print costs comprise 1 percent to 3 percent of a company's revenue," he noted, citing numbers from a February 2008 Gartner report. "Most organizations can experience significant cost savings with proper management of print processes."
Duplex printing saves cost
Double-sided, or duplex printing is an effective component of a properly managed print policy, Lim said. Referring to the Gartner study, he said organizations can potentially reduce annual paper costs by at least 30 percent across their output by printing on both sides as part of the standard work process.
Kasai noted that before an organization can enjoy such cost savings, all printers deployed in a company must support duplex capability and there must be a policy enforcing the use of duplex printing. "In some companies, this policy is forcibly imposed by IT administrators who set their printers to print duplex by default," he said.
For HP, duplex printing helped the IT vendor cut its paper use by 25 percent during a pilot test, Liang said. The company is further tweaking its printing infrastructure to achieve the best cost savings, and expects to reduce its paper consumption by 800 tons annually when it has completed this initiative, she added.
However, Graeme Philipson, research director at Connected Research, noted that while duplex printing may have its place in some circumstances, it may often be inappropriate in others. He added that it may even add to printing costs and the organization's carbon footprint.
In an e-mail interview, Philipson said studies have shown paper consumption represents only about 10 percent of total print costs. "That means duplex printing is addressing only 10 percent of the problem," he said.
He added that printers that support duplex printing also cost more, which may negate the cost advantage over the lifespan of the printer. Since their mechanisms are more complex, they are more likely to fail and need added maintenance that could be more expensive, said Philipson.
Reuse and recycle
Another avenue to save costs is through recycling, a practice that major printer vendors are advocating through their green programs.
Epson, for example, runs collection and recycling programs in 25 markets including Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Canon also has in place a global recycling program for used toner cartridges. In Singapore, for example, the company has four recycling locations for customers to drop off their used cartridges. Alternatively, businesses can arrange for used toner cartridges to be collected from their offices, provided they have at least 10 cartridges.