Print Market Tackles Sustainability, Environmental Concerns

InfoPrint and Lexmark lead market initiatives aimed at going green.

Businesses must pay more attention to how they print and how printer hardware and consumables can impact the environment, regulatory compliance and effect their bottom line.

This is the message coming from separate announcements made this week by InfoPrint Solutions Company and Lexmark International.

InfoPrint Solutions Company, a joint venture between IBM and Ricoh, announced Dec 4 the launch of its sustainability strategy and a new team to support it, headed by Joe Czyszczewski, who has just been appointed the company's chief sustainability officer.

The purpose of the team is to align the business and green objectives of its production and general office customers, taking advantage of existing environmental accounting programs and concepts from Ricoh.

Sustainability, according to Czyszczewski, represents a change in focus from just economic impact or regulatory compliance to a combination of economic, environmental and social factors.

"Using a sustainability point of view will drive more innovation," he said. For example, Czyszczewski suggested, transpromos—transactions with promotions—can reduce junk mail by using less paper and be more useful to recipients, by having custom-targeted ads or other information.

Czyszczewski also cited a Gartner study that claimed eliminating banner pages (a front sheet with the user and job name, for example) can cut printing consumables by up to 20 percent. Furthermore, 30 percent could be saved on print costs by right-sizing the output fleet—matching printer and MFP (multifunction printing) device capacities and locations to user requirements. Another study, from the Australian Green House Office, showed that copying or printing an image uses 10 times more energy than manufacturing that sheet of paper—reducing paper consumption through duplex (using both sides of the paper), two-up and other techniques has a significant sustainability impact.

Given that, according to a Gartner report, most companies spend one to three percent of their revenue on print, and cutting print costs by up to a third or more can mean significant bottom line savings.

Sustainability also takes into account other initiatives, said Czyszczewski, such as supply chain and life cycle assessment. Businesses now need to consider what happens to returned cartridges, replaced parts and old machines and think about getting that chain-of-custody certification from the Forest Stewardship Council that shows a company is printing from paper logged from a well-managed forest.

"I've recently seen contracts that said, 'You need an environmental policy to do business with us,' and asking 'Do you intend to follow industry standards?'" said Czyszczewski. "We're starting to see some teeth put into this."

Lexmark has also made announcement this week, encouraging small and midsize businesses to do smarter printing. The printer vendor said printing more effectively can help SMBs by reducing environmental impact and saving money. Smarter printing would include printing duplex, which cuts paper use in half; using print preview to look for ways to reformat; and correcting errors to avoid printing pages unnecessarily.

Also SMBs should purchase recycled paper and make sure they dispose of toner cartridges and printers no longer in use in a responsible manner, Lexmark said.

The vendor's Cartridge Collection Program offers a free and environmentally responsible way to discard empty inkjet cartridges. Users just need to ask the vendor for a postage paid return bag. The vendor also gives participants one free ink cartridge for every five empty cartridges they return to Lexmark for recycling in a 12-month period. The printers themselves can also be returned to the vendor for recycling.

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