5 Ways Printing Is Becoming More Sustainable
CRN takes a look at five ways printing is becoming more sustainable, from improved toner technology and business changes to forest restoration programs and printer fleet right-sizing.
While sustainability has long been a focus of the printer industry, the push to create more environmentally friendly products has intensified in recent years.
“More and more people are driving their buying decisions based on sustainability and sustainable practices,” said Sue Richards, the global head of home print hardware and quality at Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP Inc.
Printing is a materials-intensive process due to its continuous use of paper, plastic and ink or toner. This has driven printer vendors to find different ways to reduce the environmental impact of such a high consumption of materials, including recycling programs, which have been a cornerstone of the industry’s sustainability efforts.
The industry is also looking at how to reduce energy consumption, whether that’s through improved technologies or right-sizing an organization’s printer fleet.
As part of CRN’s 2023 Printer Week, we take a look at five ways printing is becoming more sustainable, from improved toner technology and business changes to forest restoration programs and printer fleet right-sizing.
Improving Toner Technology For Laser Printers
One area where the industry is pushing for greater sustainability is the toner technology used in laser printers.
In March, HP Inc. announced a new toner technology called TerraJet, which the company said offers the “most sustainable and the highest performance office printing HP has ever achieved.” The latest HP Color LaserJet printers use Terrajet.
Compared to previous toner technologies, TerraJet uses up to 27 percent less energy and up to 78 percent less plastic in packaging, according to HP. At the same time, it offers as much as 20 percent more printable colors, the company said.
“It really gives our enterprise customers an option to really lean in to help contribute towards sustainable printing and sustainable practices in their enterprise,” said Richards, the global head of home print hardware and quality at HP.
Transitioning Customers To Inkjet Printers
Rather than trying to make laser printers more sustainable, Epson has decided to exit the laser printer business by 2026 and point customers towards inkjet printers, which the company said use less energy and require fewer resources to produce and ship.
Epson announced its decision to stop selling laser printers last November and said the move stemmed from “laser technology’s limited ability to make significant steps towards improved sustainability due to its requirement for heat during the print process, and therefore increased energy use.”
In addition to using less energy, inkjet printers also use high-yield ink cartridges, which reduces material usage and shipping, according to the company.
Forest Conservation And Restoration Programs
Some printer companies are trying to offset the paper used by printers with large investments in forest conservation restoration programs.
This includes an $80 million pledge made by HP Inc. last year to support the World Wildlife Fund’s forest conservation efforts.
The company said the pledge “will address 17 million metric tons of paper used in both consumer and commercial HP printers over 10 years,” equivalent to “sustainably managing, restoring and protecting nearly 1 million acres of forest.”
“We want people to not be afraid to print but recognize that we are working with our partners to make sure that we’re doing forest restoration for the amount we consume,” said Richards, HP’s global head of home print hardware.
Other vendors that have invested in forest conservation and restoration programs include Epson, Xerox, Lexmark and Ricoh.
Right-Sizing Printer Fleets
Helping organizations right-size their printer fleets is one way the industry is reducing the environmental impact of printing.
Printer vendors are making this happen by assessing an existing printer fleet and then making recommendations on how the customer can print more efficiently by updating devices and using fewer devices, among other things.
This assessment is usually offered as part of a managed print services offering, which may be provided by a vendor or a channel partner.
“The assessment tool that we have can help with [sustainability] and can show some of the savings of going to some of the more recent devices in terms of the way they operate in terms of power-save mode, because in the past when [printers] were not being used, they still consumed a lot of power,” said Shelly Radler, a senior product marketing manager at Brother International.
“A lot of the more recent [printer] will go into a deep sleep when you’re not using them,” she added.
Improving Durability And Longevity Of Printers
The improving durability and longevity of printers can translate into a positive environmental impact because their extended lifespan reduces the need to manufacture and transport more devices.
“The most sustainable thing you can do is have printers that last a long time when they’re in an environment and not have to build new devices, not have to pull raw materials out of the earth to replace a device every three or four years, so designing products that last seven to 10 years is step one in that aspect,” said Chris White, executive director of global product strategy and product management at Lexmark.
This sentiment was also held by Scott Dabice, vice president of pricing and strategic markets at Ricoh USA.
“With each of our new models that come out, we continually see a longer use of lifetime parts,” he said. “We have parts that used to have to be replaced every one or two years.” Now they last six or seven years, he added.