Let’s Go Green: 3 Ways for printers to lower their Carbon Footprint

by FESPA | 21/05/2021
Let’s Go Green: 3 Ways for printers to lower their Carbon Footprint

With the economy slowly restarting again, many printers are discovering that their customers are now enforcing their environmental policies on their suppliers. On a limited budget, what can printers do to minimize their carbon footprint? Sonja Angerer shares 3 suggestions.

COVID-19 seems to be easing now that vaccines are being distributed worldwide, several printers are looking forward to getting back to “business as usual”. However, this is unlikely to happen as another crisis is occurring. Climate change is forcing many industries to change the way they run their businesses and the printing industry is one of them. After 18 months many printers have experienced less business, meaning it’s unlikely there is much budget to purchase new machines and software. Thankfully, there are ways to reduce a company´s carbon footprint with limited funds. In this article, I will share 3 budget-friendly options to reduce your carbon footprint:

  • Switching to green(er) IT (Information Technology)
  • Streamlining employee´s mobility
  • A greener cafeteria

IT and its long-overlooked carbon footprint

In the recent years, many printers have switched to more sustainable sources of energy. Several printers have bought more energy-efficient machinery and have changed from conventional lightbulbs to LEDs. Computers and IT are, after printing and finishing, the next biggest consumers of energy in most printing plants. This even more valid, when full service and/or web-based application are part of the mix.

A Desktop PC with a modern multi-core processor from Intel with a dedicated graphics card consumes about 135 watts per hour on average. In reality when the PC needs to stretch its computing power to the limit, the energy consumed is even higher. And, just to put things into perspective, this means that a Desktop PC´s annual power consumption is 270 kWh (10 hrs/day, 200 business days).

Checking the energy savings settings on existing computers is a good (and free) start, replacing older computers with modern laptops next time round, is an even better option. Laptops, on average, need about half the power of a Desktop PC with the same computing power. Of course, Notebooks are better for remote working, too.

However, server and network connections do require a lot of power too. Vendors like AWS, Google or Microsoft have attempted to make their data centres more energy efficient, but a small Friesian supplier is going to great lengths to offer 100% carbon-neural hosting and co-location. Windcloud uses electrical power harvested from near-by wind turbines. With the inevitable waste heat from their servers, they also maintain an algae farm. With more data centres going into a similar direction, cloud computing will become an even more attractive option for printers. After all, the average smaller one-site server has a power consumption of about 400 Watts per hour and is running 24/7, 365 days a year in most locations.

Caption: Encouraging employee car pooling can help to reduce fuel consumption, hence reducing a printer’s carbon footprint. Image credit: Google Maps

Streamlining employee´s mobility

In 2016, the average German employee´s travel was about 17 km (round-trip), which equates to approximately 3.400 kilometres per year with 200 business days, or slightly less than from Berlin to Teheran (by air). About 68% of commuters use their own car to get to and from work. For a printer with 20 employees, this means about 46.000 car kilometres per year for commuting alone, adding to the facility´s carbon footprint.

Within the last year, it’s likely that these numbers have changed significantly especially as several businesses now operate from home. It is likely that public transport won’t recover anytime soon from its massive decrease of customers during COVID. While many employees started cycling and even walking for commuting, this not a long-term solution for longer commutes, bad weather and an aging work force in general.

However, printers can minimize their commuting impact on the environment by:
  • encouraging car pooling
  • subsidized public transport subscriptions
  • offering shower facilities for riders and hikers
There are more, often overlooked ways to minimize commuting impact:
  • Choosing a facility that is located with public transport options in mind. A plant in the outskirts of a small town with no bus stop or rail station nearby may be cheap to rent but forces employees and customers to travel by car!
  • Offering remote work when possible
  • Minimizing part-time work with very little hours and condense them into one full-time job.
  • Aligning shifts and working hours of employees, and if possible, with public transport options.

The benefit is a few of these ideas cost little money.

Caption: A cafeteria with healthy food can help curb the carbon footprint. Image credit: S. Angerer

A Greener Cafeteria Helps to Curb Environmental Impact

During lunch time, many small businesses resemble a beehive, with cars leaving in all directions to visit a restaurant or collect food for takeaway. This contributes to a facility´s carbon footprint, but most managers ignore this because there seems to be no other options.
But there are often other options. A printer could partner with neighbouring businesses to invite Food Trucks or encourage mobile vendors that offer snacks and meals. Why not turn the tea kitchen or break room into a full-blown canteen? Not only does it save traveling time that employees could better use for rest, but also cuts unnecessary car use.

Bigger printers may be offering canteens already, where their employees can choose between several dishes for lunch. Usually there isn’t a wide selection of food available. Offering local-sourced options and lowering fat, sugar and meat will lower the carbon footprint and make employees happier and healthier at minimum additional cost.

Think Out of the Box to Minimize Carbon Footprint

Minimizing their environmental impact will be one of the biggest tasks all businesses will have to tackle, and printers are no exception. Optimizing workflows, investing in energy-efficient print and finishing machinery and sourcing greener energy are important parts of the process. But there are many more options like greener IT, commuting and offering catering that are just as important, and makes a big difference without costing a fortune. Time to get creative!

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