Green Printing Myths – Busted! Why not make green by printing sustainably?

6 05 2009

For the past few years, corporations have been touting the launch of each new sustainability program – from employee engagement initiatives to renewable energy powered operations. And so, 2009 is an interesting year for Green Printer to check in on the results of these shop floor and boardroom decisions.

In a very interesting article, Anca Novacovici of Eco-Coach speaks about how corporations like 3M and Grossman Marketing group reaped in tangible – but unexpected revenue surges, savings and client kudos – by choosing the greener path.

Going green can…fatten the top line. Grossman Marketing Group, a US$30-million (sales) maker of marketing, decided to spend up to US$4,000 every year to ease the strain on the nation’s energy grid by purchasing renewable-energy “credits” from two California wind farms. Adding 5% to its energy bill didn’t save Grossman money at the time, but it did attract eco-friendly customers like Google and Green Mountain Coffee. Envelope sales — which represent 45% of Grossman’s top line — grew 20% in 2007, which is a pretty good return on a $4,000 investment!”

The biggest one? “Since 3M instituted water and energy efficiencies, they have saved over one billion dollars,” Novacovici claims.

And the other unexpected revenue-eating expense a business can face? Printing. According to the Gartner Group, as much as 1-3 percent of corporate revenues are spent on printing costs. Viewed from another angle, the average employee prints 12,000 pages annually. This can cost a business as much as $1,000 a person in toner.

Results from a CitiGroup Environmental Defense Study estimated that the average employee uses 10 000 sheets of paper per year and the actual cost of printing is 13 to 31 times the purchase price of paper used, or somewhere between $0.06 and $0.13 per page. At the low end of that range, the average employee’s printing costs the company $600 per year and at the higher end $1, 300. A significant portion of this cost goes to pages employees never even intended to print. In fact, a study conducted by Lexmark found that an average of 17% of everything was considered waste – pages that user didn’t want.

Consider, also, how our choices in the office contribute or take away from a higher quality of life.  After all, what good are our lifestyles or even our vacations if we cannot enjoy forests, clean water and fresh, mountain air?

Daunted already? Start small. University of Western Australia‘s Environmental Services FAQ page claims that “every 100 reams of recycled office paper that is printed double-sided saves two trees, more than a tonne of greenhouse gas and almost a cubic metre of landfill space compared to 100 reams of paper that is not recycled or printed double-sided.”

Dispelling green printing myths
We debunked green printing myths in the past.  Still, the initial investment to begin printing in a more sustainably way can be daunting.  To newcomers, words like “chlorine process free” and “vegetable inks” sounds like gourmet organic fare (read: a hit to the corporate account) next to regular, old virgin paper. So, we investigated. What exactly is it that makes the cost difference between sustainable and traditional printing processes, paper and inks?

Paul Kuck of  writes a great article and says that “vegetable-based inks are often competitively priced with petroleum-based; carbon-neutral printing is no more expensive than traditional methods; and many recycled, TCF, and ECF papers are in fact less expensive than virgin.”

If, particularly as a non-profit or emerging business, the initial investment to green your marketing and design is still more expensive than you previously expected, then Kuck has this very useful advice: (indent the following)

1. Consolidate

Instead of holding four mail campaigns a year, try sending out three eco-friendly ones. The positive publicity generated by going green may in fact improve response rates, and you’ll be more likely to make the most of what you do send out. Or, offset costs with creativity: “Design multifunctional projects — for example, self-mailer/program combos — to economize when using more expensive paper,” suggests Dynamic Graphics’ in its Printing Green article. “Also, combining projects whenever possible is wise; one idea is to print business cards and postcards from the same recycled paper.”

2. Bypass the Middle Man

Sourcing and managing a print project is not as complicated as it might sound, and will help you avoid high markups from graphic designers. Ask your designer to send you print-ready files, and then work with the printer on delivering and proofing them. Explain that you are a nonprofit and are trying to save money: many printers will be happy to help you through the process. Alternatively, some designers may even be willing to forego the markup when they know they’re supporting a good cause.

3. Share the Glory

Another way to offset costs is to ask a vendor to chip in. Some printers will reduce their price if they can put their logo on the piece, and many will do so unobtrusively. Likewise, you could ask one of your funders to help cover the costs in exchange for a small promotion on the piece.

4. Keep It Exclusive

Re-nourish Founder and University of Illinois Design Professor Eric Benson notes that some printers will offer discounts if you bring all (or most) of your business to them. “Choosing a printer to print your literature exclusively can result in a contract that can reduce costs the more work you send them,” he said.

Been there, done that?
For entrepreneurs and business owners who yawn at the sign of another “print on both sides” sound byte, here are several original tips we found from Neil Tilley.

1. Try scanning and reconsider what really needs to be seen on paper. Divide documents it into two parts: is it to be stored or moved around the organisation?
2. Consider electronic faxing. “If you are still using analogue (phone line) fax machines, you’re printing more than you need to. Electronic faxing, offered as a feature in most print/copy multifunction devices not only reduces paper, but also cuts your phone transmission costs and the amount of electricity used by a standalone fax machine.”
3. Why not e-forms? “Get rid of pre-printed stationery (such as invoices and letterhead) and replace with electronic forms. One advantage is that you can quickly make updates without having to bin outdated documents.”

Another reason to reconsider paper usage in the office? More office space for things that really matter – like a beautiful and spacious entrance area for clients.

David R. Wetzel says that “[paper] filing systems take up a sizeable percent of the floor space in an office. With less paper being used and stored, a business is able to move to a smaller office. Filing fewer papers also reduces cost of long term storage of documents.”

Want to know how much greenhouse gas, trees and wastewater you can save by using affordable, eco-friendly paper products? Find out and keep track of your organization’s environmental savings today by adding Green Printer’s Eco-Calculator widget code to your blog or website.



2 responses to “Green Printing Myths – Busted! Why not make green by printing sustainably?”

28 10 2009
Kim.D (08:39:14) :

The advice for greening up marketing is excellent and achievable. Every little bit helps and taking any small action to green up your business can have a positive effect on the environment.

6 01 2010
Valueshop (08:51:20) :

nice sharing!

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