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The following are a few key considerations for tapping technology to foster a “greener” environment

INA FASSBENDER/REUTERS

It goes without saying that technology plays a critical role in helping businesses of all sizes be successful in today's always-on, constantly evolving operating environment.

One area that is often overlooked, however, is how office technology can not only streamline operations and improve productivity, but can also help businesses be more sustainable in the process. The following are a few key considerations for tapping technology to foster a "greener" environment:

1. Consolidate your devices. Chances are, your office has at least one fax machine, one scanner, one copier and one printer. With the rapid development of technology, these functions can be combined into a single, compact multifunction printer. Rethinking your device management and reducing the amount of devices saves on licensing costs, support costs and energy consumption, all while freeing up office space in the process.

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2. Police personal printing. New printing technology innovations require users to authenticate themselves and confirm jobs prior to printing, eliminating wasted paper, ink and electricity. Examining your office's printing practices and putting in place strategies to reduce the amount of unnecessary print jobs is one of the simplest ways to foster sustainability.

3. Dispose responsibly. Most offices have processes in place for recycling excess paper. Some have also extended this practice to recycling soda cans, plastic containers and other waste generated by employees. But what about old computers, printers and other office machines that have since been replaced with newer models? Rather than relegating these machines to the trash heap, companies should take advantage of the free "end-of-life" recycling programs offered by many device manufacturers to lower their carbon footprint.

4. Connect with the cloud. The popularity of cloud computing means companies can move their data off-premise, reducing the amount of on-site servers and lowering their electricity bill in the process. The cloud not only helps companies be green, but overtime it can help processes run more smoothly and make it easier to respond more quickly to market changes.

5. Digitalize content. A chief sustainable benefit of today's technology innovations is the ability to digitize content. This means that companies can scan, process and file more content in a timely manner, saving paper and reducing the margin of error associated with misfiling information. Moreover, digitizing content can eliminate the amount of labor and costs that go into manual processes.

6. Customize your solution. In addition to the benefits of digitalizing entire processes, companies can also tailor printing solutions to meet their individual business needs. For example, incorporating solutions that electronically route custom documents to multiple departments, saving on energy, paper waste and labor.

7. Maximize mobility. Mobile has changed the way in which we conduct business. Employees can now work remotely, while in the comfort of their own home, and without ever having to get in the car. Companies that choose to take advantage of this new era of mobile computing will see the impact on their overall sustainability efforts.

8. Dive into the organization. Engineering a green environment is the responsibility of an entire organization. As such, companies should examine not just how technology can make IT practices more sustainable, but also how other departments can become greener. For example, is the business development team relying on hard copy mailers that could be replaced with digital alternatives?

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9. Improve continuously. Technology is constantly evolving to keep pace with the changing needs of today's businesses, and sustainability is no exception. Those companies that continue to evolve their infrastructure are better positioned for success than those that remain content to stay behind the times. Companies should routinely evaluate their infrastructure and implement new solutions or enhancements so that their sustainability efforts continue to improve.

10. Involve everyone. At the end of the day, even the best sustainable practices only work if companies are diligent about enforcing them. Make sure you educate your end-users to be responsible for their respective energy consumption -- for example, setting all devices to power-saving mode, turning off lights in the conference room when not in use, shutting down their desktops every night, etc.

Todd Hamblin is the president of Lexmark Canada, a leading developer, manufacturer and supplier of printing solutions for offices and homes in more than 150 countries

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