If you have a home office or small business, you might not think there is a lot you can do to “go green.” Actually, though, every decision you make, every action you take has an impact on our planet. Little things add up. If you print at home, rather than using digital printing, you can be ecologically sound, if you apply some basic principles.
Begin by buying a printer that is environmentally friendly. According to the United States Department of Energy, “Generally, the faster and higher-quality the printer, the more energy it uses. Laser printers use more energy than ink jet printers.” So, ink jet is the way to go, if possible. If you feel you need a laser printer, buy one that is slower, to conserve energy. Look for the Energy Star label to know that you are buying the most energy-efficient printer.
Recycling printer cartridges is an excellent way to avoid waste. Inkguides.com says that “by recycling cartridges, we conserve natural resources and energy by reducing the need for virgin materials. Up to 97 percent of the materials that make up a printer cartridge can be recycled or reused.”
However, throwing printer cartridges into the recycle box is not a good idea. They must be recycled properly, and there are companies that will pick up used cartridges and dispose of them properly. One company, Funding Factory, actually collects cartridges as part of a way for organizations and schools to do fundraising. The company’s website says it “has stopped 21 million pounds of e-waste from being landfilled.”
When you retire your printer, consider recycling it. According to Ewaste.com, a company that recycles printers, many harmful substances, such as cadmium, mercury, and lead, are in electronic equipment. The company advocates “environmentally sound processing methods for maximizing value and recovery while minimizing and/or eliminating disposal in landfills.”
Not surprisingly, paper is the biggest source of waste in a home office. The first thing you can do is be aware of this and make a careful decision before printing a document. Can you keep it on your computer electronically and use it that way? Is it absolutely necessary to print it out? Of course, some documents do have to be printed.
The type of paper you use also can help you have a greener home office. Heidi Tolliver-Walker, writing for The Inspired Economist, says that cheaper paper is usually imported from another country. China, especially, is unable to produce enough pulp, and so they import wood and scrap paper from other countries, including the US, which has a cost in dollars and energy spent. Purchasing recycled paper and printing on both sides of the paper is the ideal solution. While it may cost more, consider the trees you will save.
Turning off your printer when you aren’t using it saves a great deal of energy. Even when the printer isn’t on, energy is being used. Use a power strip to make it easy to turn off all of your electronic devices at once.
By implementing these small, and mostly painless, procedures, your home office or small business can participate in the green revolution. You can even include this information in any advertising you do, as many people prefer to deal with “green” companies, so it’s a win-win solution.