4 Tips for Eco-Friendly Printing

Here are some steps you can take to ease any pangs of guilt when you hit "print" on a document.

Eco-friendly printing

Anyone who wants to be eco-conscious likely hesitates before hitting the "print" button, even if they want a hard copy of a document. Printing can feel like a waste of paper, for starters, as well as an unnecessary use of other resources. 

But printing doesn't have to be unfriendly to the environment. Try these expert tips to be kind to Mother Nature while saving on printing costs.

Tip #1: Choose an efficient printer

Look for printers with the ENERGY STAR¨ label, just as you would when shopping for an appliance, advises Emily Parks, an organization and productivity consultant with Organize for Success, in Raleigh, NC. Printers earn the label by meeting stringent energy efficiency requirements. Also compare the per-page print cost specifications to determine which model will allow you to use the fewest number of ink or toner cartridges — saving you money and reducing waste.

Purchasing one centralized printer is better than buying individual printers, Parks says, because printer heads are used more frequently, and ink/toner cartridges won't dry out. Choose a printer with individual cartridges for each color. "That way, if you use one color more frequently, you're not throwing out unused ink in other colors when you change the cartridge," she says.

Tip #2: Keep a watch on printer settings

Choosing the correct font and proper print mode can significantly reduce ink and toner use, too. Good font choices include Calibri and Cambria, two typefaces with thinner characters that require less ink or toner to produce.

Parks suggests setting your printer to "draft" mode for inter-office use, reserving higher-quality printing options for documents distributed outside the company. Choose "black ink only" to save on colored ink when you don't need a full-color copy. Make double-sided your default setting, and don't print pages you don't need. "Always click on print preview and check for that dangling last page with only a couple of lines," she adds.

Tip #3: Buy paper wisely

Look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) seal on the package to ensure you're making an eco-conscious paper choice. Choose paper with high recycled content or that's sourced from more sustainable material, like sugarcane-based paper.

"FSC looks at a company's forestry practices to make sure that soil and water, wildlife eco-systems and the people who make the forest their home are all protected," says Paige Goff, vice president of sustainability and business communications with Domtar Paper in Fort Mill, SC, an FSC-certified paper company.

Tip #4: Remember to reuse and recycle

When ink or toner runs out, recycle the units or, if you're handy, buy the supplies and refill cartridges yourself, suggests computer consultant Jim Haupt, owner of Help Dot Now in Telford, PA.

Repurpose used printer paper for a number of functions around the office. Paper printed on only one side can be flipped over and used in the printer again, or do like Haupt does. "We cut up scrap paper and use it at our desks to jot down notes or reminders," he explains. A recycling bin is kept near everyone's desk to deposit anything that can't be reused.

To print or not to print? It's not always an easy choice. But when you need that hard copy, follow these guidelines to ensure that your decision is eco-conscious and cost effective as well.