Saving Green by Printing Green

There is a lot more to printing green than a sleep mode and an Energy Star label.

Mention Green IT and the conversation turns bashfully to the lowly network printer. After all, printers are a big consumer of resources, such as electricity, toner/ink and paper - all of which cost money and leave users with a less than "green" feeling! Sure, plenty of printers offer a sleep mode or sport an energy star label, but there is a lot more to being green than just that.

Today, printer vendors are trying to redefine what it means to be green and most are applying technology to reduce waste and just be more environmentally friendly.

There are several elements the corporate technology buyer needs to look at to make sure everything is coming up green. For example, there is the whole issue of supplies - are the supplies for the printer in question as "green" as possible? One consumable to look at is toner.

Green Toner

Many vendors have re-engineered their toner to be more environmentally friendly. For example, Konica Minolta offers its polymerized toner, compared to conventional toner, polymerized toner offers improved image quality and reduced production costs, while being environmentally friendly due to its energy savings and emission-reducing effects.

Okidata takes a different approach; the company's "Wasteless Toner System" was designed to eliminate wasted toner. In other words, excess toner that would normally be stored in a waste bottle is recycled and reused in the printer, reducing waste and boosting efficiency. Kyrocera Mita follows a different design path with their "Ecosys" technology, which boasts environmental friendliness by offering a "cartridge-free" printing system. Conventional printers use an imaging cartridge that integrates a photoreceptor drum, developer and toner into a single, disposable unit. When the toner is depleted, the entire cartridge is disposed of and replaced with a new unit. In contrast, ECOSYS printers use a durable imaging system based on an amorphous silicon print drum (a-Si), a combination of ceramic and metal. The print drum is guaranteed for up to 500,000 pages. Kyocera Mita's toner features ceramic particles which polish and recondition the drum during normal printing, which eliminates the need for replacement of the drum and other cartridge components.

Leading printer vendor Hewlett-Packard seems to be putting all its eggs into the recycling basket. The company has ramped up its cartridge recycling program and now uses a new engineering process that maximizes the amount of post-consumer recycled plastics when manufacturing new cartridges.

Lexmark follows a similar approach, relying on recycling to make the biggest impact for the "greening" of consumables for its various printers.

Tree-Hugging Paper

Another consumable to consider is paper. While paper is considered a universal consumable that can be used across a wide spectrum of printers, there are some manufacturers who are touting the green-ness of their paper. For example, Xerox is offering an eco-friendly paper that cuts in half the amount of trees needed to manufacture the paper, resulting in higher yields and a reduction in the water and chemicals needed for production. The paper is also supposed to cost less for the consumer. Innovations like that make paper a real consideration for those looking to green up their printing.