Green IT: environmental facts about printing

by | Dec 21, 2017 | Cost Control, Cost Reduction, Green IT | 0 comments

We can read everything and its opposite on the Internet on Green-IT, and are often asked for trusted sources of information on the true environmental cost of printing.

Total cost of pollution can be split in paper, printer hardware and supplies (toner, maintenance, energy).
Here we are going to list and document the cost to environment when more printers are used than necessary.

Printer hardware:
The carbon footprint of a printer can be very significant, as its parts have routed around the world to be finally assembled in a factory then the resulting printer is shipped to a warehouse then to your office by truck.
When printer needs to be serviced, the technician comes by car/truck and that adds up to the carbon footprint.
Recycling has done many progress in the last decade, and most printers in industrialized countries are now recycled to reduce the post-life environmental impact, no more printer and copier in landfill waste!

Print and copy paper

Paper needs to be shipped to your premises, that’s done using trucks with a significant carbon impact.

To review the impact of production, we have to clear that not 100% of copy paper pulp directly comes from trees, much comes from recycled paper in Europe. Furthermore trees needs to be cut and processed to allow new trees to grow and capture CO².
The core reason for reducing usage of paper is that whether it is polluting: production of 1 ton of copy paper produces 2,278 lb of solid waste and 5,690 lb. of greenhouse gases (the equivalent of 6 months of car exhaust, and not the greenest car).

The paper industry is the 4th largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions among United States manufacturing industries, and contributes 9% of the manufacturing sector’s carbon emissions.

Paper accounts for 25% of landfill waste (and one third of municipal landfill waste).
Municipal landfills account for one third of human-related methane emissions (and methane is 23-times more potent a greenhouse gas than is carbon dioxide).

If the United States cut office paper use by just 10% it would prevent the emission of 1.6 million tons of greenhouse gases — the equivalent of taking 280,000 cars off the road.

China, India and the rest of Asia are the fastest growing per-capita users of paper, but they still rank far behind Eastern Europe and Latin America (about 100 pounds per person per year), Australia (about 300 pounds per person per year) and Western Europe (more than 400 pounds per person per year).

Some attempts are made to produce paper from non-tree fibers or minerals (tree-free paper), as of today this is kind of experimental and a drop in the ocean when considering the quantity of paper produced and used every day. A controlled usage of printers and copiers, enforcing black&white, toner saving and duplex printing, combined with a better collect and recycling of used paper seems the best way to reduce the total cost of ownership and carbon impact of printers.

How much are you printing?

The typical U.S. office worker uses about 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year.
Some industries like law firms, pharma R&D and heavy on the paper due tot he way they share information.

Printing uses lots of energy

Printers and copiers are among the most energy-intensive fixtures in the workplace. Less printers and copiers and printing fewer pages on them means using less energy, which helps the environment, as well as a business’s bottom line.

Direct cost of printing
Printing less can save thousands of trees and dollars. The average office employee uses 10,000 sheets (20 reams) of paper each year, or more than one tree.[2] [3]
[2] “10 Simple Things You Can Do To ‘Green’ Your Office” by,
[3] “Some Typical Calculations” on,
On the other hand it is very important to manage responsibly forests and renew the trees to capture more carbon through growing trees. So everything is a matter of balance when printing and managing forests.

Printing has a direct and measurable cost.
With the total cost of using and handling paper being anywhere from $26 to $62 per ream, businesses spend a great deal of money on printing. In short, printing less saves more.

Printing Facts:

  • Average cost of a wasted page $0.06(2)
  • Average employee prints 6 wasted pages per day, that’s 1,410 wasted pages per year!
  • The average U.S. office worker prints 10,000 pages per year
  • While 3 out of 4 office workers print from the Internet, 90% of people with a printer at home print Internet content
  • 56% of people ages 45-54 print pages from the Internet for their archives, and only 33% of people ages 18-34 do the same

Paper Facts:

  • 1 ton of paper = 400 reams = 200,000 sheets
  • 1 tree makes 16.67 reams of copy paper or 8,333 sheets
  • 1 ream (500 sheets) uses 6% of a tree (and those add up quickly)