Greening the Office

Considering the pace at which the environment is changing and the mounting scientific evidence showing the actions of human beings to be a contributing factor, the phrase“Think globally, act locally” quite possibly has never carried as much weight as it does today. People around the globe are realizing an obligation to contribute to the betterment of their surrounding environment.

Institutions of higher education have a big role to play in this area, and many are doing a great deal. For example, work to raise awareness and develop environmental processes and programs is well underway from groups such as the Campus Consortium for Environmental Excellence ( and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE,

Are you still thinking that colleges and universities can’t make a big impact? Think again. Higher education is a $300+ billion industry. Campuses consume energy and resources, and use equipment and supplies just like millions of other businesses in the U.S. AASHE reports there are more than 16 million students enrolled at more than 4,000 institutions across the country. When a group of this size makes similar decisions around process and technology individually, it can have a tremendous and swift impact collectively.

While much progress has been made, there is still a lot that can be done by campuses across the country to conserve energy and reduce waste, while also improving efficiency and productivity.

Steps to Take Around the Office

According to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, a typical department or office generates about 1.5 lbs. of wastepaper per person each day. The majority of this wastepaper is from single-side copying and printing. By simply selecting to print on both sides of a sheet of paper whenever printing, faculty and staff will conserve storage space and reduce handling costs. But they will also eliminate up to 50 percent of their paper waste.

Another way to cut down on paper usage and increase productivity is to introduce workflow technologies through multifunction copier/printer devices. While capabilities vary by manufacturer, most sophisticated multifunction products (MFPs) come with workflow capabilities such as scan-to-network or scan-to-e-mail. These features allow a person who wants to make a copy-to-scan place their document directly into an e-mail instead. As a result, paper usage is cut and energy consumption reduced. These features also boost worker productivity and streamline business processes.

Buying environmentally friendly office equipment is also a good practice, but this requires some homework. It’s important to take a look at individual manufacturers and their particular environmental practices for recycling and remanufacturing equipment at the end of its life.

It’s also important to make it easy for employees to be environmentally conscious. Placing recycling bins close to photocopiers and printers and in a department’s high-traffic areas encourages participation by making it easier for faculty and staff to recycle.

After documents are scanned, request that people keep a digital copy for their files. Old hard copies that are no longer needed may be emptied out of filing cabinets and drawers, shredded if necessary, and recycled. By simply changing the way you manage documents, faculty, staff, and administrators can help the environment and use fewer energy resources. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates it takes 10 times more energy to manufacture a piece of paper than to create a print or copy.

Shopping for Equipment and Supplies

When paper is needed, choosing recycled paper over never-before-used paper saves trees, energy, and landfill space. Recycled paper creates less pollution and it cuts down on the use of toxic chemicals, according to The Recycled Paper Coalition.

But it’s not just about the paper. It’s about the devices that spit out the paper, too. Colleges and universities can do a lot for the environment by simply managing these so-called peripheral devices more efficiently and proactively. Documents are created, copied, printed, scanned, and faxed on a daily basis. Many administration and faculty offices have a variety of individual machines to handle these tasks, and each one uses electricity. A copier, two printers, and a fax machine can consume 1400 kWh of energy in a year. Replacing such a collection of stand-alone office products with a single, multifunction system that performs all of the same jobs uses only 700 kWh annually. By consolidating these products, you’re not only saving energy, you’re opening up valuable floor space, and most likely saving money on lease and service agreements. In fact, energy savings can double if the multifunction system replaces products that are not ENERGY STAR qualified.

“Despite the fact that the University of Calgary is an educational institution, we operate like a business and face many of the same issues that large offices do,” said Harold Esche, CIO, University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. ”As such, we're always examining new ways to save money and improve productivity, while protecting the environment at the same time.”

The Ugly Truth About Trash

The next time you start to toss that empty toner cartridge in the trash, stop and think. Most cartridges are thrown away after one use, even though they can be refilled. The Cartridge World North America group estimates that 300 million toner cartridges end up in landfills each year. This is anticipated to increase at a rate of 12 percent each year. By that calculation, by 2015 the U.S. should be looking at 991,177,578 cartridges in landfills. With the average toner cartridge weighting 3.5 to 4.5 lbs. that works out to about 1,734,561 to 2,230,450 tons of waste.

But not all printers are alike when it comes to the amount of waste generated. Compared to traditional laser printers, Xerox’s solid-ink printers create 90 percent less consumable waste. After 100,000 prints, a solid-ink printer produces only five pounds of waste compared to a color laser printer, which can produce 157 pounds.

Small steps really do make a difference. Estimates by industry research firms Gartner and IDC indicate that more than 8.5 million printers have been shipped between 2002 and 2006. A single laser cartridge thrown into the landfill from just one of those printers can take up to 450 years to decompose. By incorporating procedures to reduce, reuse, and recycle, higher education institutions of any size can help improve the health of the environment one school at a time.

As vice president and general manager of the Solid Ink Products Business Unit at Xerox Corporation, Jim Rise is responsible for the development of all Xerox solid-ink products. As part of the original development team for solid ink, Rise’s U.S. patent for transfer printing enabled the development of many award-winning color printers. Jim was also instrumental in the creation of the program.


Recycling 101

Print and Toner Cartridges

Never throw a used print or toner cartridge away. These components can have multiple lives, or can be recycled. Many manufacturers provide customers with prepaid postage labels to return cartridges for reuse and recycling. If unsure whether a cartridge can be recycled, check the company Website or call the manufacturer.

Returned products are cleaned, inspected, and then remanufactured or recycled. Remanufactured cartridges, containing reused/recycled parts, are built and tested to the same performance specifications as new products.

PCs and Printers

Printers and computers can be recycled. Some pieces of electronic equipment must be returned to the manufacturer for recycling, while other machines can be recycled locally. For more information visit


Most of the paper used in college and university offices can be recycled, including colored paper, newspapers, magazines, manila folders, post-it notes and envelopes. Options for recycling paper, such as the Abitibi Paper Retriever ( campaign, exist nationwide.

Office Furniture

Many charities accept unwanted office furniture and recycle it for use by other schools, organizations, businesses, and charities.

Purchase Policy

Environmentally preferable purchasing (EPP), often referred to as“green purchasing,“ is the affirmative selection and acquisition of products and services that most effectively minimize negative environmental impacts over their life cycle of manufacturing, transportation, use and recycling or disposal. The best way to encourage people to close the recycling loop is to develop purchasing policies and guidelines that specify products with recycled materials and that are produced in an environmentally friendly manner.


Recycled Paper: The Best Choice

Reasons To Buy Recycled Paper Quality

    • Excellent performance

    • Meets the same technical specifications as virgin papers

    • Many are acid-free for archival longevity

    • Successfully runs on the most demanding copiers, office machines, and printing presses

    • Many recycled copy papers are guaranteed to work well in copiers


    • High to moderate brightness levels, with pleasing light reflection

    • Ranges from clean, bright whites to a wide palette of colors

    • Some recycled graphic papers have specks added back in to the paper to achieve custom design effects


    • Available in virtually every grade of paper

    • Most printers, paper distributors, and retail outlets have recycled paper on their shelves

    • Choices are even greater if you order recycled paper ahead of time


    • Many are the best buy or evenly priced with non-recycled, especially letterhead, matching envelopes, business cards, brochures, and many coated papers

    • When recycled papers cost more, price differentials are usually quite small

    • Buying in larger quantities and planning ahead further reduces or eliminates price premiums on recycled paper


    • Saves trees, energy, water, and landfill space compared to virgin paper

    • Protects forests, watersheds, and ecosystems

    • Produces less pollution than virgin paper production

    • Offers environmental savings many times over, since fibers can be recycled repeatedly

    • Needs less bleaching than virgin papers; reduces use of toxic chemicals

    • Concentrates inks, chemicals, and other potential hazards for responsible management, instead of releasing them as do landfilling and incineration

    • Incorporates full-cycle production costs, unlike virgin paper, which includes no responsibility for its eventual disposal costs

Source: Conservatree (