You can go green and not give up printing with these tips

You want to go paperless, but there are times when you simply have to use the printer. Never fear. You can be considerate of the environment and still do some printing as you'll see with these office tips, courtesy of our UK sister site, AccountingWEB.co.uk.

1. Use both sides of the paper
Buying the right printer can make a significant difference in your paper consumption. Most of us will be able to print much of our printed output on both sides of the paper, so buying a printer with the ability to do this - known as duplex printing - can reduce paper consumption with almost no effort on the part of the user. It also means less to carry around or post. Furthermore, good paper-handling capabilities can make it easy to use the right quality of paper for each job, rather than printing drafts on the nicer paper just because it happens to be what's in the printer.

2. Fit more on the page
Many applications and printers now include the ability to scale pages in order to print multiple pages on a single physical sheet. If your eyesight is good enough this could halve the cost of printing out draft documentation. Printing your own letterhead information may reduce the amount of wastage incurred whenever the letterhead details change, and help offset the comparatively small cost of investing in a color rather than black and white printer.

3. Keep an eye on print jobs
It's also worth making sure that printers are conveniently situated so that users can get to them in time to find out that their 100 page draft document is printing out on letterhead rather than copy paper, before it's finished printing. Also, making sure that users are fully aware of which printers to use, how to use the different paper-handling capabilities and, in particular, how to cancel prints should all reduce printing wastage.

4. A $1,000 printer can be cheaper than a 4399 one
Many printer manufacturers effectively sell the printer as a loss leader in an effort to sell toner or ink. This can be terribly wasteful making it uneconomic to replace relatively trivial components and consigning large lumps of plastic to landfill with appalling regularity. As well as the environmental issues surrounding the dubious pricing strategies, it also means you have to be very careful when trying to decide which new printer to buy. An article on the Lexmark C53x range of printers concluded that the apparently most expensive model actually worked out cheaper by the time only 6,000 or so pages had been printed.

5. Consider alternative sources for consumables
This leads to the whole subject of printer consumables. For most printers there is a significant range of alternatives when it comes to toner and ink cartridges. Of course there are the manufacturer's own products, but you can also buy compatible cartridges, refilled cartridges, or kits to fill your own ink or laser cartridges. Not surprisingly, the printer manufacturers do their best to persuade you to use their cartridges on the grounds of printing quantity and quality, fewer problems, and preservation of equipment warranties. HP has a good FAQ section on the subject. There are certainly some situations where it may be worth trying cheaper alternatives. If you have a relatively old printer that is used mainly for drafts or internal documentation, you don't have that much to lose by giving cheap compatibles or refills a try.

6. Do the math
It does seem that most printer manufacturers have been forced to consider the environmental issues around their products and references to recycling schemes are prevalent on almost all of the main printer Web sites. For a long time, Kyocera Mita has emphasized the reduced cost of their printing technology and their site includes an interesting Cost Saving Calculator. You can enter a particular product from the main manufacturers and the calculator will compare the cost over a chosen period with the best-fit Kyocera equivalent. The information entered is quite sophisticated, including the ability to enter toner coverage amounts for different types of document and the percentage of color documents. No doubt other manufactures would have alternative views of the results.

7. Do you really need to print so much?
Of course, the best way to save money where printing is concerned is not to print at all, and if you do to make sure you print in the most cost effective way possible for that document. As regards avoiding printing altogether, then the move towards paperless solutions is obviously important, though for many people the main justifications for going paperless have little to do with printing costs but instead improved efficiency and quality of service through better access and retrieval and reduced filing and associated space costs. However, in many cases reduced printing is likely to be an eventual, beneficial extra. It's certainly worth getting to know how to use the various paperless technologies. Even something as simple as learning how to use Adobe Acrobat comments and annotations can make it more efficient to exchange thoughts and ideas via electronic rather than hard copy documentation. The typewriter tool in Acrobat is also worth exploring as this can allow users to fill in and submit basic forms online rather than having to print them out – even if those forms are not set up for online input.

Also on the subject of PDFs and similar electronic formats, if you can make your electronic end product better than paper, perhaps by including live links and animations, then you might well be able to replace paper versions of manuals, newsletters, and similar documents with their electronic equivalents. Even without PDFs and other electronic document formats, knowing how to use the right features in your standard office software can help avoid unnecessary prints. Using print preview and the various page and print set-up options can help reduce the number of physical prints it takes to review a document before producing the final version.

Further reading
Money saving printing tips
Keeping printing costs under control
Making color printing affordable
Why a £520 color laser printer is cheaper than a £199 one
Practical IT Tips: Printer companies get fat on chips
Case study: In-house printing cuts costs for Somerton & Co.

Visit The Organic Accountant for more tips on going green.

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