Monday, November 1, 2010

To Print or Not to Print

I guarantee that when you took a look at your green/not-so-green marketing habits, you found that you and your team use and discard too much paper.

How do I know?  Because, even in the digital age, paper alone makes up roughly 70% of office waste.  The average office worker uses a little less than 600 lbs. of paper a year – that’s the equivalent of 12 cases (that's 10 reams or 5,000 sheets) of 8-1/2" X 11"paper.   Considering the cheapest case of paper at Staples sells for $37.99, that’s an average cost of $456 per person per year.  Multiply that cost by the number of people on your team or in your organization, and you have your business case for a paper reduction initiative.

It’s been tried and tried again, but the “paperless office” doesn’t exist.  Why?  For the same reasons Change (with a capital “C”) is always difficult.  People are accustomed to and comfortable with paper.  
  1. It is both a habit and a preference.  
  2. To be able to hold information in your hands gives it tangibility and even gives the reader a greater sense of control.
  3. In the overall scope of things, paper is also perceived as cheap, portable, easy to store and, in the end, recyclable.
  4. In addition, many offices with which your organization may collaborate or interact – including many government, financial and regulatory entities – still require the exchange of paper in order to transact.
So, here in the real world, removing paper from the office is not an option. But reducing paper waste is not only possible, it’s earth-smart and budget-smart.  Try these ideas on for size, then take another look at the amount of paper your team is wasting.

  • THE NO-BRAINER RULE FOR THIS INITIATIVE:  Collaborate electronically; e-mail docs, spreadsheets, presentations, brochures, etc. as attachments – either as PDFs or original files – vs. hard copies or faxes.
  • Consciously try to print drafts of documents you’re working on less often.  Review and edit documents while they are still on the screen.  Always proof the final draft before printing. 
  • Minimize the number of e-mails you print out and encourage others to do likewise.  I’m not big on lengthy e-mail signatures, but when I read “Print Responsibly” or “Think Before You Print This e-Mail,” at the bottom of a note, it does make me think twice about whether I really need a hard copy.
  • Try disabling the test page function on the printer. Some print a test document every time the computer is turned on – that’s roughly 300 wasted pages per year.
  • Waste paper should be collected for recycling and reuse, so be sure to keep recycling bins near the printer and [ideally] at every desk for paper that is not reusable, but is recyclable.
  • Always have scrap paper (i.e., printed on one side) in the printer’s default paper tray.  When a final and approved doc is ready for printing, the user can simply change the print tray to the clean paper tray – usually from the print window of their software application and without leaving his or her desk.
  • Ideally, every desk should have a paper recycling “In Box” where single-sided, reusable paper can be collected for return to the printer and reuse.
  • Make double-sided prints or copies if the situation allows.  Obvious reason:  One page will be used instead of two.
  • Bookmark information and research sites, instead of printing the pages out. Save them in your browser so you can open them again when you need them. Besides, if you’re anything like most busy execs, you’ll only lose the printed pages any way.
These are just nine steps you can take.  They’re easy to communicate, work in the real world and make sense. 

What’s working in your organization?  I’d love to know what gets results for you, so drop me a line and keep up the good work!

Just thinking out loud …