Six ways to reduce the environmental impact of your print infrastructure

Tackling climate change and the environmental impact is vital and something that everyone can play their part in helping to achieve. Thankfully, there is already a keen awareness of these requirements - according to Quocirca’s Future of Work Spotlight on Sustainability 2025 report (based on the views of 1,021 office workers and 521 IT decision makers), 71% say environmental issues and sustainability will be important or extremely important to their business by 2025.

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Your organisation’s print infrastructure and print supplier are an important consideration when it comes to your environmental impact - two thirds (66%) of the Quocirca study’s responders agree; saying that it is extremely or very important for a print supplier to be a leader in sustainability. To properly understand the current and potential impact it is vital that you conduct a thorough review of your print infrastructure, which is a good way of investigating and making lots of small changes which add up to bigger positive environmental sustainability benefits.

Potential ways to reduce the environmental impact from your print

There are many ways of reducing the environmental impact of your print infrastructure, but here are six practical and effective ways of contributing to this.

1. Reduce the power and consumables consumption of your print devices

Ensuring your print devices operate at maximum efficiency is something that all organisations should aim for.
The easiest way to save power is to use energy saving settings on your print device, although this may well involve some fine-tuning.
  • This may include changing the ‘Low Power Mode’ from 15 to two minutes, so that the display automatically turns off sooner.
  • You can also change the ‘Sleep Mode’ from 20 down to 2 minutes.
  • If you use the ‘Eco Print’ function, the control panel isn’t automatically activated when a print job comes in and the device is in ‘Sleep Mode’, whereby only the necessary device components are supplied with power to minimise unnecessary power consumption.
There are also behavioural tips to help print less in general.
  • For example, you and your team should only print what is strictly necessary/important or where a printed hard copy is the only option. The Follow-Me Printing function can help you here, as you first have to authenticate yourself at the device before printing and can then think about whether it is really necessary or whether further changes need to be made to the document first.
  • Using Duplex, N-up, and monochrome settings wherever possible will also help to save on paper and toner, and you should ensure that all your printers automatically shut down (or switch to standby) during extended periods of non-use (for example weekends or public holidays).   
A significant bonus is that lower power consumption also has the positive side effect of saving your organisation on energy costs as well as helping you achieve your sustainability targets.
Further tips on reducing power and consumables consumption can be found here.

2. Determine the energy and resource consumption of your printer fleet with an audit tool

To reduce the impact of your print infrastructure you need the right insights into its components and usage, so by using environmental audit tools to examine your existing printer fleet you can obtain environmental data and make improvements where necessary.
  • Konica Minolta offers several tools that can help with this. With the bizWORKPLACE Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) assessment tool for example, you can examine the energy consumption of each printer and look to replace them with lower energy consumption alternatives if required, or look at the options to use further power save settings. You will also get an accurate overview of the consumption of consumables (such as paper and ink/toner) so you can explore ways of reducing usage wherever possible. This could include the introduction of a rules-based printing solution to ensure that resource-saving print settings are applied by default (such as double-sided, black & white, and low-resolution printing for appropriate printing jobs).
  • Both the Konica Minolta Dispatcher Paragon and YSoft’s SafeQ print solutions offer an in-depth analysis of an organisation’s print, scan and fax usage as part of reporting and dashboards. The resulting Green Report inform organisations on resources saved on paper printing such as water, timber and CO₂ emissions.

3. Digitise your paper-intensive processes

Thanks to digitisation, there are numerous opportunities for you to digitise your paper-intensive processes and thus save on paper and toner resources. Quocirca’s MPS and Digitisation Report shows that 61% of surveyed IT decision makers have accelerated their efforts to digitise paper-based processes. 46% of these say they expect their print volumes will drop by 2025.  
The digitising of paper documents and paper-intensive processes, such as invoicing, and using scanning and capture technologies not only reduces the need for print and the associated consumables, but it also increases your operational efficiency, reduces storage costs, and enables rapid access to timely and relevant information. 
  • Konica Minolta’s Dispatcher Phoenix for example, helps organisations digitise their processes such as invoice or delivery note processing and creates predefined workflows for the different process steps.
  • Intelligent Information Management solutions such as M-Files enables the digitisation and automation of even more extensive processes – such as digital personnel files, digital invoice management, digital contract management and many more.

4. Buy refurbished devices

Even at the beginning of your print purchasing process you can make significant steps towards reducing the environmental impact by buying refurbished multifunctional printers (MFPs). This has a number of sustainability advantages – chiefly it saves on the energy and resources required to manufacture a new device.
  • A refurbished Konica Minolta bizhub device for example, offers savings of at least 70% in GHG (Greenhouse Gas) emissions (depending on the device) compared with the production and distribution of a new device1.
As well as saving on the fresh resources required in manufacture, refurbished MFPs also save on the components from used devices having to be recycled or safely disposed of, saving on potentially hazardous waste. Refurbished devices also obviously offer a significantly lower price than new machines for the same performance, saving your organisation money.

5. Ensure your print consumables and devices are properly recycled

Many paper and cardboard materials used for printing can be recycled successfully. However, you need to ensure that full care and consideration is taken when discarding printed documents that may contain confidential or sensitive information.
However, some other consumables are a different story. Many print consumables are classified as electronic waste and therefore must be disposed of carefully to stay compliant with regulations. Very often recyclers can’t handle specialised types of waste, and therefore items such as used toner bottles and cartridges are incinerated due to the challenge of recycling.
Recycling or safe disposal are the best ways to lower the risks from waste products. This is why Konica Minolta offers its Clean Planet Program.
  • It ensures the reliable and environmentally-sound disposal of toner cartridges and bottles, photoconductor drums, and other used consumables.
  • It ensures that regulations for waste material recycling are met
  • Thanks to the latest recycling technology and dedicated processes tailored to consumables, Konica Minolta avoids landfill and to a large extent incineration and ensures that 87% of waste is turned into secondary raw materials.
  • The tiny remaining proportion that can’t be recycled is used for energy recovery.

6. Use recycled paper

You can further reduce your environmental impact by printing using recycled paper. Compared to producing non-recycled paper, it saves roughly 73% of the energy, 80% of the water, and 40% CO2 emissions.
This is achievable for many organisations - Konica Minolta for example almost exclusively uses recycled paper for its own office printers at its European Headquarters in Germany. Alternatively, if fully recycled paper is not easy to find in your country you can also look for environmentally friendly alternatives such as EU Ecolabel Paper and FSC certified paper.

1Based upon the "Greenhouse Gas Protocol Product Life Cycle Accounting and Reporting Standard" (GHG Protocol), carried out by ClimatePartner
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