Eco-Friendly Printing Features That Help Your Small Business

Here's how to select a printer that cuts down on waste and resources.

Switching to more sustainable processes and technology can yield big gains for small businesses. Not only does it help the environment, but it can also net significant cost savings. Customers are also more willing to buy products and services from companies that show they’re committed to the environment, according to consumer goods company Unilever.

A good first step to becoming a “greener” business is making it a point to engage in eco-friendly printing. Here’s how you’ll know if a printer can get you on track to more sustainable business practices.

1. Ink Tank Printer Options

Around three quarts of oil are needed to make one new laser ink cartridge, according to energy news provider Energy Central. However, some printer options don’t use ink cartridges at all. Epson’s EcoTank and Canon’s MegaTank, for instance, have refillable ink reservoirs. If you choose a printer that uses cartridges, look for a manufacturer that makes recycling them as easy as possible. Some services allow you to recycle cartridges for money back.

2. Speed

Being environmentally conscious doesn’t have to slow your business down. One feature that many eco-friendly printers have is the energy-saving “sleep” or “power off” mode; getting the printer back up and running out of this mode is key to keep your business operating efficiently. Search for a printer that has quick-to-heat internal rollers — located in a printer’s fuser unit — which transfer the ink to the paper. Be sure, however, to look at the printer’s maintenance ink usage, which is the ink it uses when powering back up. Steer clear of those that use an excessive amount — for instance, if ink is still wet on the page after printing or you get frequent notifications about low ink levels.

3. Duplexing Feature 

A printer that has a duplexing (double-sided printing) capability can save your business money on paper use. Look for a printer with automatic duplexing, as manual duplexing requires you to turn the paper over and feed it back into the printer. Switch the printer’s default setting to auto duplexing, if feasible, so that you and your employees don’t have to remember to set it to duplex mode for individual print jobs.

4. Eco-Friendly Certifications

Printers that feature certifications such as the Energy Star label can attest to a product’s milder environmental impact. Along with Energy Star, look for international certifications such as EPEAT, Blue Angel, Nordic Swan and Ecomark. These certifications are awarded to devices that meet a variety of environmentally focused criteria, such as lower energy usage less waste in manufacturing the product.

5. Multiple Functions 

A printer that not only copies and prints but also faxes, scans, binds and staples documents conserves energy and raw materials, compared to having separate devices. Choosing a multi-function printer also cuts down on e-waste at the end of its useful life, since there are fewer devices to discard. The United Nations University’s Global E-waste Monitor found that 50 million tons of e-waste are generated worldwide each year. Choosing a multi-function printer minimizes your contribution to that toll.

6. Robust Reporting Capabilities

Regular reports from your printer allow you to get a clear picture of its energy consumption and find ways to cut down on excessive printing, ink use and other potential waste. For example, some printers monitor ink use so that the manufacturer can automatically send you refills before you run out. Research printer options that offer a reporting feature to help you keep a close eye on its eco-friendliness as well as your business’s printing habits.

Boost your eco-friendly status even further by donating or recycling old printers and other office technology. Check if your printer’s manufacturer has a recycling program, or use a third-party recycling service to help you in your efforts.