DIY: 8 Tips for Greening Your Print Jobs

by Bill Chameides | February 6th, 2009
posted by Erica Rowell (Editor)

Permalink | 1 comment

Reducing our printouts can help the environment and save cash. And there are lots of steps we can take to save paper and waste.

Did you know there are supposedly “green” fonts that claim to reduce ink use? I’m not sure I’m ready to switch (as I’m partial to Comic Sans MS). But I thought the topic makes for a good jumping-off point. How can we rack up environmental (and cost) savings on computer printouts? Let us count the ways.

As dean of the Nicholas School, I see a lot of ink and paper – policy memos, peer-reviewed papers, student papers, proposals for masters projects, sticky notes from my significant other. The list goes on. A little less ink and paper would be nice. One way to do that would be to tell everyone to stop sending me stuff. A more practical solution is to print smarter and greener.

First, here’s my take on one of the so-called “green” fonts. Ecofont, its creator claims, reduces ink usage by up to 20 percent through a san serif-like font with open circles. Personally I was not crazy about Ecofont and it gets an overall thumbs down from me. For starters, it’s a larger font, meaning it uses more paper and ink to begin with. The font is a bit fuzzy at normal text sizes, and the style has limited aesthetic appeal – let’s face it, font style is a personal choice. But the main reason I won’t be using Ecofont is that there are easier ways to reduce ink usage than giving up your favorite font. With that said, the Ecofont folks should get an “A” for calling attention to all the paper and ink we waste in our digital (but not quite paperless) world.

Ecofont’s idea of a greener font got me thinking about different ways to green my printing routine. Here are some measures I’ve taken.

Printer and Computer Settings

1.    Tweak printer settings. Simply changing your printer settings saves ink without having to download a new product and load it onto your machine: try draft or fast mode options, available on most printers. Printing in grayscale of 80 percent or less will also save ink.
2.    Choose narrow fonts.
3.    Shrink page margins. This one measure can go a long way. If every American changed their default margins to .75 inches (or less), U.S. paper use could be reduced by 4.75 percent (according to a study [pdf] by Penn State’s Green Destiny Council, which showed that Penn State alone could save more than $120,000/year through such a move). For schools looking to tighten the belt in these economic times, that is sure one easy change to make.

Software Programs

4.    Printing interface programs. Anyone who’s ever printed a web page knows how frustrating it can be to get the unexpected: unwanted pages, cutoff margins, and blank pages. Enter printing interfaces. These applications give you more command and control over what you print, even allowing you to automate certain choices. One package from GreenPrint Technologies automatically scans your print job, identifies wasteful pages therein, and removes them.

The software, which was developed with web printing in mind, also lets you decide what to print on a page. You can de-select unwanted banners, extra maps and other items that may serve the web site well, but aren’t what you want. In fact, the program even “reminds” you that there are other non-printing options: when your print job is ready, the software offers up the chance to save as a PDF.

Choosing and Using Paper Wisely

5.    Print double-sided. Most office laser printers have this option; home office printers usually have this option, as well, though sometimes it means printing all the odd-numbered pages first, then re-feeding those and printing the even-numbered pages. Sometimes misfed pages can create a headache on final drafts, but if you’re just reading, this isn’t much of a problem.
6.    Print multiple pages per sheet of paper. Again, if you have to print rough drafts out, use your printer’s options that allow paper-saving. Usually you can print 2 pages per sheet (book style) or 4 pages per sheet (grid style).
7.    Collect and print on saved single-sided sheets of paper. Despite our best efforts, most of us get on mailing lists we have not chosen to receive mail from, and the paper piles up. Before tossing into the trash, save any sheets of paper that have at least one blank side, and use those to print out rough drafts.
8.    Buy recycled paper. All office product stores now offer paper with varying degrees of postconsumer recycled content. I recommend 100 percent postconsumer recycled paper because it is the most environmentally friendly (one ton of this saves the equivalent of 24 trees compared to just 7 from a ton of 30 percent postconsumer paper). Plus, chances are, you cannot tell the difference between it and virgin paper.

Other Paper-Saving Steps?

Maybe some of you have already given these measures a whirl? Or maybe you have other tips for greening the office. If so, let us know what works for you. And, if you haven’t tried these options, then to mangle the words of John Lennon, give these a chance.

Statistically Speaking:

Smart Printing Choices Add Up Quick

In 2003, Americans used approximately 5.4 million tons of office paper. By tweaking just the margin settings in our documents from default settings to 0.75 inches on all sides, annually we’d save 256,500 tons of paper or…:

  • Trees: 6,156,000
  • Energy: 9,840,368 million BTUs …or enough energy to provide power to 108,136 homes
  • Greenhouse gas emissions: 1,459,535,366 pounds … or the equivalent of CO2 emissions from 132,528 cars
  • Solid waste: 584,396,539 pounds… or the equivalent of 20,871 fully loaded garbage trucks
  • Wastewater: 4.8 billion gallons… or enough liquid to fill 7,408 Olympic-sized swimming pools

Paper Resources

EDF’s Paper calculator –
“Set Your Printer for Green-ficiency” –
Environmental Paper Network’s “What’s in Your Paper”-

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1 Comment

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  1. matt
    Mar 6, 2009

    The good thing about printing green is that it goes hand in hand with also saving money, the latter often being a bigger incentive for most people compared to living green. For those really interested in the subject I can recommend you to read the following two articles:

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