Despite years of predictions about the paperless office, printers continue spewing pages - and much of it lands in a garbage can or recycling box within hours, if not minutes.
Not only that, but those pages are printed using very expensive substances. The ink used in inkjet printers costs more per litre than champagne. Laser printers print more economically than inkjet (while costing more upfront) but the toner is still costly.
The average company spends about 5 per cent of its revenue on printing, says Gary Drysdale, vice-president of LaserJet enterprise solutions at Hewlett-Packard (Canada) Ltd. in Mississauga, Ont.
But eliminating all paper seems to be a far-off dream. So, printing more efficiently must be part of the answer.
Make it easier to use both sides
Printing on both sides of the paper can cut paper use nearly 50 per cent, says Mark McCullough, marketing manager at printer manufacturer Lexmark Canada, in Richmond Hill, Ont. Most printers used in offices can do it, he says, but many organizations still set their printers to print one side of the page by default. Solution: Make double-sided printing the default and let people opt out if they must.
Did you really mean to print that?
Another trick many businesses use on shared printers, Mr. McCullough says, is "print release," meaning the person printing a document must insert a card or enter a code before the document actually gets printed. This stops documents being printed and forgotten - the printer can be set to delete any job not released within a specified time - and it's also a good security feature, Mr. McCullough says.
Closely monitor printer use
Major printer makers also provide print-management services that help managers see how much employees are printing. These services help managers spot inefficiencies and also help them enforce policies, such as limiting colour printing to those employees whose jobs require it, Mr. Drysdale says.
Software can help
Among the worst causes of wasteful printing are websites packed with information - such as columns of links - that the person printing the page doesn't want. Websites also are notorious for looking different on paper than on the screen, often printing on only a small part of each sheet.
Using the 'Print' button supplied on some websites to format the material for printing is one way to reduce these problems, but this exists on a minority of sites. Choosing to print only the first couple of pages also helps.
Or, one can turn to software such as FinePrint, a $49.95 (U.S.) package from FinePrint Software LLC, in San Francisco. When you print a document, the software shows you a preview of what is about to come out of the printer. With a few clicks you can delete pages you don't want, and shrink pages to print them two or four to a sheet. There are also options to remove graphics and to replace colour with grayscale.
Reduce ink use
When it comes to saving toner or ink, printing in grayscale rather than colour is an effective trick. Printing in draft mode not only reduces ink or toner use but speeds up printing, too.
Many people also continue using ink cartridges after their printers warn that ink is low. The output often continues looking good for many pages after warnings appear.
Pick a smart font
Choosing the right font can also help. Letters with thicker lines use more ink. The Century Gothic font, for instance, uses less toner or ink than the Windows default, Arial. A study by Printer.com, a San Jose, Calif., printer comparison website, concluded that using Century Gothic instead of Arial - the most popular font - could save a business $80 (U.S.) a year.
A Dutch company called Ecofont has taken this idea a step further by punching holes in the letters. Reasoning that openings in letters would not alter the look of a font much, Ecofont designed a perforated version of the existing Vera font, which was used because it had a license that allowed others to design variations, says Tom Streumer, Ecofont sales and marketing manager in Utrecht.
As a next step, Ecofont has released a public beta-test version of software for businesses that can substitute punctured versions of five popular fonts - Arial, Calibri, Times New Roman, Trebuchet MS and Verdana - when printing from Microsoft Word. Support for other Microsoft Office software is next, followed next year by a consumer version of the software, Mr. Streumer says.