Green Piece

Enviro-friendly implications are now a necessary part of any printing and imaging VAR's vocabulary

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Be it images of cracking ice shelves, reports of stranded polar bears or the very real experience of reviewing your company's electricity bill, the issue of energy conservation and environmental responsibility has reached a new level of consciousness in the business community. Printers and other imaging machines are one of the energy-zapping culprits, but leading vendors are stepping up to make their machines more efficient and environmentally friendly.

Most importantly, they want you to be print efficient with as few headaches as possible.

"You've got to make these things easy," admitted Dave Lobato, environmental program manager for the laser business at Hewlett-Packard Co., Santa Clara, Calif. Simple things like postage-paid return boxes for spent cartridges and easily readable, sub-identity tagging so partners know a particular product is greener than other products, he said, can make a big difference.

Lobato said HP has been a leader in the shift to more environmentally sensitive and power-efficient products. In 2007, the company recycled almost 250 million pounds of hardware and HP print cartridges, a 50 percent increase over the previous year.

"We're on track to reach 2 billion pounds by 2010," Lobato said. A closed-loop recycling system that enables the use of post-consumer recycled plastics in the production of new HP inkjet print cartridges is another way the company hopes to boost those figures. "The key issue for boosting it is getting those components back--if you throw it away, you break that closed loop."

"When there's so much traction with green concept, there's a high adoption rate," said John Hasey, general manager of the managed print services division of solution provider Sigmanet Inc., Ontario, Calif. "It's a very big part of our strategy."

As an HP reseller, Hasey said the company has a lot of great information and statistics on the sustainable aspects of its products, but that sometimes it's hard to find the right data.

"It's not publicized," Hasey said. "We're putting together an entire green campaign, because we don't think it's been evangelized enough."

The Green Printing Field

HP is certainly not the only vendor out there to acknowledge the increasing demand for energy-efficient products. Mario Rufino, Canon USA Inc.'s manager for environmental management and product safety, said Canon tries to promote energy efficiency through product design and recycling programs. Canon's airshell packaging material for toner cartridges, for instance, utilizes air cushioning that reduces product package sizes for improving shipping efficiency. All Pixma line printers are 100 percent energy compliant and energy-efficient features like sleep mode, auto power on/off and Quick Start reduce wasted energy.

Rufino said additional technologies are in the works or already integrated, like SURF (Surface Rapid Fixing) technology that makes an instant warm-up time possible. This results in a 75 percent reduction in energy consumption compared to conventional roller-fixing systems. "Environmental concerns are a primary reason for asking these questions to our customers," he said. "Until recently the channel was not interested in the green aspects of a product."

Rufino added that its important to strike a balance. "You've got to stay on the line on a positive environmental effect. ... It sounds warm and fuzzy, [but] the answers may be very complex." He said making recycling and energy reduction easy and cost-efficient, as well as balancing the negative impact of transportation are all important issues.

Amy Reed, environmental marketing communications specialist at Ricoh Americas Corp., West Caldwell, N.J., said the company is turning to the Web and brochures to educate channel partners about the environmental features on their products.

"In the past two years, partners have become more detailed in the type of information they want," she explained. "It used to be enough that [we] were energy efficient. Now they want to know what the carbon footprint is and how we stack up to our competitors."

Ron Potesky, Ricoh's VP of channel marketing, agreed that reducing paper consumption and developing multifunction products are a few ways to better reduce energy consumption.

"We spend about 11 percent of revenue in R&D--environmentally friendly manufacturing is at the top of the list in our focus on new technology," he said. "We make sure our products are competitively priced, because we know the environment is one part of the purchasing decision."

Recycling plays just as big a part in Ricoh's printer line as it does at Canon, Lake Success, N.Y., and HP. "For many of our products, we have very active used-equipment sales," Potesky said. "Through our resellers we will refurbish and resell those products, sometimes locally or sometimes in markets around the world where cost is a bigger issue."

Again, ease of use is paramount when introducing customers and partners to products with energy-saving features. "We're getting a lot of RFPs through the channel requesting special attributes of the products," he said. "We've found that if it's easy, it gets used--make it part of the initial setup."

All vendors agreed there were still many ways to further reduce the environmental impact of printing products and vowed energy initiatives would continue to develop this year. At HP's Americas Partner Conference in late February, the company announced HP Green Expressway.

"Our partners have been saying, 'If I'm a customer, I don't know how big my carbon footprint is, I'm not really sure about my complete energy and supplies cost,' " Lobato said. "These tools allow them to do an assessment, so channel partners can go in and figure out what they're spending and offer them products where they can reduce those costs."

"We cover all of Southern California, and we've had meetings with a number of power companies down here and we've talked to them specifically about additional rebates and incentives we can get," Hasey said.

Offering value-added services makes reducing power consumption easier for his customers.

"We can program the printers to power up at a certain time or power down at certain time and everything in between," Hasey added. "That's something we can provide as a service to help them reduce their carbon footprint."

Next: HP's Green Party

At the 2008 HP Americas Partner Conference in Las Vegas, the company made a show of dedication to partner education about the benefits of selling green technology. During the conference, HP announced the launch of the Green Expressway on the HP Partner Portal. From this site, HP partners can access information specific to HP's energy efficiency programs, the latest environmental news, product information and industry research.

Mindy LeCheminant, Green Expressway project manager, said the overall goal of Green Expressway is to help provide partners with additional opportunities to win new business while helping their customers purchase and implement environmentally sound technology solutions.

"We have been hearing from partners that they need more access to information about HP's environmentally sound products and practices," she said. "We think the Green Expressway is a great step in providing our partners with the tools they need to address this growing opportunity."

HP partners like Hasey said Green Expressway can help consolidate the specifics they need.

"We're putting together an entire green campaign," he said. "So anytime we can get better information to our customers, that's better for us."

--Nathan Eddy

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