Most organizations are aware that printing isn’t the most environmentally friendly part of their operations, but few are aware of the large-scale impact print has on the environment.

With contributions to deforestation, plastic waste, and pollution, print is often a large part of efforts to reduce carbon emissions and to improve the environmental friendliness of an office. At the same time, an estimated 95% of offices still use print as a standard part of doing business, whether to store, transfer, secure, or share information.

If you’re using print, chances are, you can reduce its impact on the environment. However, doing so means understanding where impact is coming from and choosing a solution that will help you reduce it.

Paper Consumption

The average office employee uses an estimated 10,000 sheets of printer paper per year. In fact, despite massive rises in paper replacements and digital technology, paper consumption has increased by 400%, or 126% in the last 20 years.

As a result, the paper industry accounts for 40% of the world’s industrial logging, or about 4% of the world’s total energy usage. This naturally contributes a great deal to manufacturing waste, deforestation, with the U.S. alone using some 68 million trees per year for paper.

While not all of this paper product is for printing, an estimated 26,000+ tons of printing paper and products are produced in the U.S. each year.

How much does that consumption affect the environment?

  • The average office employee will use more than a full tree of paper (about 9,000 A4 sheets) per year.
  • 1 Sheet of A4 paper requires about half a liter of water to manufacture
  • Paper production requires about 49 watts per A4 sheet.
  • Paper production results in near equal solid-waste production

This allows you to directly calculate your impact based on how much sheet paper you purchase and use each year. It’s also enough to tell you that the impact of paper usage is significant in terms of trees, energy usage, and waste production, and water usage.

Toner & Ink Consumption

Toner & Ink are typically sold in refillable plastic cartridges, which are manufactured and shipped out at a relatively high cost. This cost makes most organizations more aware of impact than that of paper, but toner and ink still contribute massively to environmental problems.

For example, a study by Preton suggests that manufacturing one laser cartridge requires a gallon of oil, while an inkjet cartridge requires about 2.5 ounces. With over 1.3 billion ink cartridges manufactured each year, this amount is considerable. At the same time, ink and toner cartridges include toxic volatile organic compounds.

Cartridges also create a massive carbon footprint. A new mono toner cartridge results in 4.8kg C02 production. A refilled/remanufactured emits an estimated 2.4kg.

At the same time, 70-80% of cartridges are used once and disposed of, contributing to hazardous waste in landfills. When burned, toner and ink cartridges are hazardous to humans, causing potential lung and skin issues in waste managers.

But, with contents primarily composed of plastics and resins, cartridges take a significant amount of time (between 600 and 8,000 years) to decompose in a landfill.

Finally, these cartridges go on to contribute to indoor pollution, resulting in reduced air quality for indoor workers.


Over 106 billion printers are sold annually. Most of these have an average 4-5-year lifespan, after which they are moved to landfills as hazardous waste. Most organizations also own a printer for every 1-5 employees in the organization, contributing a massive volume of waste.

While waste is an important consideration, and one that you can reduce, printers also consume a great deal of energy. Yet only about 15% of it is actually used for printing. Instead, printers consume the most energy while on standby, often thanks to poor energy settings, inefficient printers, and lack of energy saving calibration.

Reducing Your Print Footprint with MPS

Printers are costly, contribute a great deal to waste, C02 production, and resource usage. However, you can optimize your print fleet and network to reduce these costs and reduce your carbon footprint. While it’s difficult to do on your own, simply switching to managed print services will ensure you have the structure and systems in place to optimize for decreased environmental impact and to continue doing so.

How does that work? An MPS will evaluate your needs, install energy-efficient hardware and software, and then consistently work to optimize your printer fleet to meet your needs while reducing costs and impact.

Optimizing Printers

Optimizing printer hardware, the number of printers per person, and printer suitability will dramatically reduce the number of printers on your network or how often they are in use. Your MPS provider will also integrate energy-saving programs and software to reduce total electricity cost, with auto-shut off when not in use, to cut total energy costs. At end-of-lifecycle, your MPS can recycle printers or printer parts where applicable.

Reduced Paper and Toner Usage

MPS vendors use a range of tactics to reduce total ink, toner, and paper costs. For example, they can implement programs to optimize print density, toner usage, resolution, and stop/start cycles to maximize toner usage. This is optimized based on the print quality actually needed by the office, so teams needing very high-quality print can still get it.

Similarly, MPS printer software will integrate paper-saving tactics such as reducing margins, educating employees about print, forcing double-sided print for most documents, and so on. Being able to track who is printing, where, and what they are printing also gives you more control over print and costs, so you can see what is waste and what you can cut back on.

Print Supplies

If an MPS vendor is handling your print supplies, you can ensure they are recycling or refilling cartridges, and recycling waste paper. This will reduce your costs in some instances (refilling cartridges is sometimes cheaper than buying new ones) but will greatly reduce your environmental impact (for example, using a refillable cartridge reduces CO2 usage by about half).

Print can have a huge impact on the environment. If your organization is concerned, there are steps you can take to reduce your total impact. Most of these steps will also help you to cut costs, so reducing the environmental impact of print is greatly beneficial to both your public image and your bottom line.

While your organization doesn’t likely have the resources to manage the in-depth needs assessment, long-term optimization programs, and training programs required to successfully reduce the impact of print, a managed print services provider will, and may also save you money over sourcing print hardware, software, and supplies yourself.