Printing Tips to Go Green and Save Green

By Lauren Simonds | Posted July 14, 2008

Here's a convenient truth that just about any small business owner can get behind: saving the environment can save you money. Reducing waste also reduces your operating costs particularly when it comes to printing, a task that can consume paper, plastic and your budget at an alarming rate.

Fortunately, many printer manufacturers have responded with ways to get the job done while minimizing the environmental impact and without compromising quality. Today's case-in-point: Lexmark. The company's touting its Small Office Pro Series line of printers by pointing out the various ways they make it easy to save money and stay green.

However, according to Sonya Waitman, Lexmark's market and channel manager, the following tips can help any small business owner, regardless of the brand of printer they choose. (Naturally they'd prefer you buy Lexmark but well, no kidding). As you run your business or as you prepare to purchase your next printer, you might want to keep these quick tips in mind:

Saving Paper

Aside from not pushing "Print" at all, duplex ‑ or double-sided printing ‑ is the easiest way to save paper. It's especially good from reviewing draft documents, manuals and internal documents. "Look for the duplex capability if you're in the market for a new printer," said Waitman. "It's an easy way to do the right thing."

A feature called N-Up is another great paper-saver. It lets you print multiple pages on one sheet of paper. Waitman called this a "content-dependent tool," meaning it's great when, for example, you want a sense of the layout for each page in a PowerPoint without printing the individual pages. Since N-Up shrinks the pages to fit on one sheet, it's not a tool you'd use if you needed to read the content on the page.

If you print material from the Internet, then you know about all those extra sheets of paper you get with nothing more than a thumbnail image or a URL printed on them. Waitman said that the Lexmark Web Toolbar (it's a free download, and it works with any brand printer) puts a stop to that by shrinking the Web page so that it fits on one sheet of paper.

"The tool bar also lets you print a page in black-and-white only, which saves on color ink," said Waitman. "You can also choose not to print any photos on the Web page – another ink-saver," she said.

The Individual Printer

When shopping for a new printer, you might want to consider an all-in-one device. "A consolidated device that handles printing, scanning, copying and or faxing uses less energy than having four dedicated machines," said Waitman. She also suggested taking advantage of wireless capability. "A wireless printer lets more people print from fewer machines," she said.

Lexmark contends that the longer you keep a printer, the better it is for the environment. Most printer manufacturers, said Waitman, offer a standard one-year warranty while the Small Office Pro Series comes with a five-year warranty.

"We want you to keep the product and make it last," said Waitman. "Once the warranty expires, you can still get support, it just might take cost a bit more and take a little more effort," she said. She also noted that Lexmark offers customers lifetime phone support.

Ink Cartridges

A standard practice in the printer world includes shipping half-capacity starter cartridges with new printers. However, the Pro series ships with high-yield cartridges – or twice the ink as standard Lexmark cartridges.

"The ink cartridge price point is very important to people who don't print a lot," said Waitman. "We offer a whole range of ink pricing to suit the customers' priorities – from cost-per-page to higher yield.

Given the number of ink cartridges manufactured and thrown out in this country, it's important to look at whether a company offers recycling options (most do). It's yet another way that small business owners can save money while reducing the load on landfills.

According to Waitman, Lexmark provides a free cartridge recycling program and a rewards program. "You can ship your empty cartridges back for free," she said. "In addition, when you buy five cartridges, you get the sixth one free. Then, when you recycle five cartridges, you get another free cartridge." Even better, you don't have to buy or turn in the cartridges all at once, you can do so over time and still get the freebies.

What does Lexmark do with all those spent cartridges? Waitman said they recycle them with a company that turns them into a product called eLumber.

"We recently took part in a Habitat for Humanity project where we built a retaining wall out of eLumber that had been made from Lexmark cartridges," she said.

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!


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