Save the Planet One Penny at a Time

Everyone wants to save the environment, but isn’t it extra nice when we can save money at the same time? Let’s take a look at one school district that did just that.

North Kansas City Schools in Kansas City, Mo., serves more than 19,600 students across 32 educational sites. As one can imagine, serving that many students means printing a lot of paper. “Prior to choosing a new printing solution, we really had no system in place,” says Richard Gentry, director of Purchasing for the district. “What we had was about 2,000 laser and inkjet printers scattered around the district, plus 120 copiers.”

Nationally recognized as a leader in education technology, the district wanted to update its printing strategy when its existing contract expired. The school’s purchasing and planning departments wanted to eliminate inefficient inkjet printers and laser printers and replace aging copiers with shared multifunctional products (MFPs). “We were looking for a solution that featured new technology with multifunctional devices, allowing users to print, make copies and scan to email,” says Gentry. “We also needed the devices located in the offices to have fax abilities as well.”

In addition, the school superintendent requested the district start monitoring and tracking print usage across schools to identify ways to reduce waste and optimize printing practices. “The second piece of the puzzle was to save money and hold people accountable for what they printed,” says Gentry. As the IT department, in conjunction with the purchasing and administration departments, developed the request for proposal, they identified a number of key criteria for the project. The department wanted efficient products that would be cost effective, reliable, integrate with the school’s existing network and sturdy enough to withstand regular use by teachers.

Green light

After much research, the district team chose Konica Minolta. “We took 1,800 printers out of service and increased the number of copiers we had. We also added 165 devices for shared printing,” says Gentry. With the new machines, teachers can now print, copy or scan from any bizhub MFP, allowing them to spend more time in the classroom. The MFPs also allow users to scan to email. Made with steel components, the devices are able to withstand constant use by staff and teachers.

To improve tracking of teacher and staff printing habits, the district integrated Nuance Equitrac Express directly into the devices. “Equitrac helps manage printing, tracking by individual user, so we can see what they print, what they copy and where,” says Gentry. “This allowed us to track locations of heavy use and make sure we had the right equipment placed there.” The district was able to seamlessly transition to Equitrac with no system downtime and provided training for all staff. “There was some training involved and also some adjustment to printer locations being moved. Some users had to get used to not having printers in their offices or on their desks. Now, they may have walk down the hall to a shared printer. We used this as an opportunity to change our mindset from printing everything to asking ‘Do I really need to have a printed copy of this, or would a digital one work just as well?’ Having to walk down the hall to get the print makes people think twice about the necessity of printing a hard copy. ”

Using Equitrac on the school’s new Microsoft server environment, the district established default printing standards, such as automatic duplex printing. All materials printed to the MFPs are automatically duplexed unless otherwise specified. Follow-You Printing capabilities allow teachers to retrieve documents from any MFP using their building key cards. “Before a teacher’s request to print something would go to one device,” says Gentry. “With the Follow-You Printing function, the print job sits on a server. The teacher can go to any device and use their ID badge as a key card to retrieve their print job. There are no longer scenarios where possibly sensitive papers are left lying on a printer, and if someone accidently sends a job twice, they can delete the second request before it is printed, saving wasted paper.”

The devices also offer advanced security features to protect student confidentiality and ensure that each school is FERPA-compliant. “The new copiers and multifunctional devices have their own hard drives — everything is saved to it as it is printed,” says Gentry. “Konica Minolta’s security technology is approved by the Department of Defense. The print information is scrubbed from the hard drive after each job, so the information is impossible to access later. Student information and employment records are protected this way.”

Go green, save green

The program’s success allowed North Kansas City High School to extend printing capabilities to all of its 6,000 high school students from their school-issued MacBook Air laptops located throughout four high schools. The MFPs have a significantly lower cost per impression, and the team estimates it saves between $100,000 and $150,000 annually by moving to networked MFPs located throughout the schools versus individual desktop printers. “Our contract began in July 2010,” says Gentry. “The first year we reduced paper usage by 700 cases of paper and next year we dropped another 200 cases. The printing system was fully implemented this year, and we are expecting to decrease paper use by another 500 cases, for a total decrease of 1,200 cases of paper per year. That equals about $30,000 per year in paper savings.” Besides less paper missing the recycling bins and going straight to the trash, there is less waste from decommissioned inkjet printers (think of all the ink cartridges going to the landfill or waiting around to be recycled). The district also freed up 120,000 to 130,000 resources hours of manpower that can be directed to other green district initiatives.

“We are very pleased with the solution,” says Gentry. “Education is a field that will always have a need to print on paper, but we are definitely looking for new ways to move to a digital environment. Our team is taking more of an ownership role, and we see a vision of doing things more efficiently. In the future, we are looking for more secure ways to have the students turn in their work digitally, so we can look forward to even more paper savings down the road.” An emphasis on a digital environment through green printing technology and changing printing habits means an emphasis on a healthy environment, inside the school building and out. 

Danielle Przyborowski is an Ohio-based writer with experience in education, architecture and technology topics.