Sustainable printing: 10 steps that will cut costs, reduce waste and increase productivity

Sustainable printing balances business’ operational needs against their environmental footprint. In this guide, I’ll show you how to implement sustainable printing practices within your business.

The print industry has been conscientiously pursuing green printing techniques and there has been a real push in recent years to look at more sustainable printing techniques. While there is a drive for digital innovation, it’s a fact that for many businesses it’s not possible to just stop printing and go completely paperless.


As an environmental manager at Ricoh, I’m often asked how companies and large organisations can introduce more sustainable printing practices. I meet people from many different sectors and everyone is very aware of the need to embed sustainability into their company’s vision.

The key to sustainable printing is integration into the larger business strategy

When sustainability is integrated into your company’s mission statement or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) plan, this allows all stakeholders (management teams, employees, board of directors, even suppliers and customers) to be better aligned with broader corporate goals – both environmentally and economically.

Implementing sustainable programmes takes teamwork and experience. Our guide gives you 10 initial steps you can take, based on environmental best practice in document processes and printing, which will contribute to a larger corporate sustainability strategy.

And it can do more than just conserve energy: it can help control costs, increase productivity and reduce material waste.

Your 10-step guide to sustainable printing

1. Think e-documents over paper

Electronic document workflows reduce the amount of hard copy output. Use scan-to-email technology to distribute documents electronically, and store scanned documents in an electronic repository. If you do need to print, switch to use recycled paper.

2. Analyse and optimise the number of printers you need

By assessing usage patterns and where devices are placed in the office, you could minimise redundant or under-utilised copiers, fax machines and printers. Introduce more energy efficient multifunctional printers (MFPs) that copy, fax, print and scan wherever possible and limit the use of single function devices.

3. Asset management, recycle and responsible disposal

With good asset management processes in place, you can easily keep track and identify equipment that needs upgrading. Always look for environmentally-friendly ways to dispose of printers, fax machines and MFPs, including recycling toner cartridges and toner bottles.

4. Encourage sustainable habits

Employee behaviour is perhaps the single most important factor in successful environmental sustainability practices. A training and education programme will familiarise your employees with procedures to improve processes, eliminate waste and ultimately achieve performance targets.

5. Redirect printing to the most cost effective device

Rule-based printing automatically redirects print jobs to the most suitable output device to optimise energy consumption, ensure use of resource-saving features and control access to colour output. Maybe it means employees have to walk a few extra steps to collect their printing, but perhaps that not a bad thing either.

6. Minimise power consumption

Purchase or lease devices that exceed ‘Energy Star’ and other industry ratings. Most modern printers and MFDs have energy saving modes and ‘Quick Startup’ technology, which means they are put to sleep when they’re not being used. When set up correctly, this helps to reduce the amount of energy used and reduces costs.

7. Reduce paper usage

Turn on the paper-saving features in the hardware/software of your device – the user manual often explains what’s available but in most cases you can choose duplex/double-sided printing, combining print, lock printing and scanning. When you encourage electronic sharing of documents and document previewing, this can prevent unnecessary reprints.

8. Print on-demand

Use digital print technology to print corporate and marketing materials on-demand – where and when they are needed – instead of printing large volumes to then find something has changed and it’s redundant.

9. Re-set settings and save

High-speed duplex printing, toner saving modes, ‘print selected text’, even default toner selection settings can have a surprising impact on your paper, toner cartridges, and carbon footprint.

10. Measure, manage, optimise

Environmental initiatives, such as carbon offsets, cannot be implemented without accurate measurement and reporting. When it comes to print, the environmental programme must be designed for document processes that not only address reduction of overall energy consumption, hard copy output and CO2 footprint, but also include future recommendations.

Integrated real-time data reporting and monitoring tools that provide enterprise-wide visibility on sustainability performance are critical for documenting success and reinforcing achievements with stakeholders.

Sustainable printing is good for business and for society. Click here for more information on Ricoh UK’s business sustainability services

James Deacon

Head of Corporate Responsibility

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