In a world increasingly conscious of environmental impact, adopting sustainable practices in all aspects of our lives is crucial. Contrary to the notion that printing is inherently harmful, there are eco-friendly printing approaches that allow us to enjoy the benefits of hard copies while minimizing our carbon footprint.

What Is Sustainable Printing?

According to Anderson & Vreeland, a leader in flexographic printing, Sustainable printing “seeks to reduce material throughput, waste, and energy consumption through eco-friendly printing materials and sustainable printing methods to reduce the impact of printing on the environment.”

Eco-Friendly Printing Approaches

The good news is that the printing industry as a whole is starting to focus its attention on sustainability. Between producing high-efficiency machines, creating biodegradable print materials and discovering new, sustainable ink sources, leaders in the printing world are beginning to do their part to invest in environmental stewardship.

There are also things we can do as individuals to be environmentally conscious while printing. We can choose recycled paper and always print double-sided. When purchasing a printer, we can pick one that is high-efficiency and always replace cartridges with recycled toner versus new.

Why Hard Copies? Can’t We Go Digital?

While it’s true that traditional printing processes can contribute to deforestation, energy consumption, and waste, embracing sustainable printing practices can help mitigate these environmental concerns. This is important because hard copies aren’t going anywhere (at least for a while). To understand why, we recommend reading, "The Timeless Appeal of Paper: Why Hard Copies Are Here to Stay."

Ways You Can Reduce Your Environmental Impact When Printing

1. Choose Recycled Paper:

Opt for recycled or sustainably sourced paper to significantly reduce the ecological footprint of your printing. This choice helps conserve forests and minimizes the environmental impact associated with paper production. makes a strong case for using recycled paper, stating, “Recycled paper use saves resources and reduces the paper industry's impact on the planet. Using 100% recycled copy paper instead of 100% virgin fiber paper saves:

  • 100% of the trees
  • 31% of the energy
  • 53% of the water
  • Produces 39% less solid waste.”

2. Implement Duplex Printing:

Maximize paper usage efficiency by implementing duplex or double-sided printing. This simple adjustment not only reduces paper consumption but also lowers overall waste production. You can easily change your setting to duplex print by following these steps:

  1. Access Printer Properties:
    • Open the document you want to print and access the printer properties or settings from the print menu.
  2. Select Duplex/Double-Sided Printing:
    • Look for an option labeled "Duplex," "Double-Sided," or a similar term in the printer settings.
  3. Choose Binding Orientation:
    • Specify the binding orientation based on your preference. Options usually include "Long Edge" or "Short Edge," indicating how the pages will be bound together.
  4. Adjust Other Settings (if needed):
    • Optionally, adjust other print settings such as quality, color, or paper type according to your requirements.
  5. Print:
    • Click the "Print" button to initiate the duplex printing process.

3. Invest in Energy-Efficient Printers:

Upgrade to energy-efficient printers that consume less power during operation. Modern printers come equipped with energy-saving features, contributing to lower electricity consumption and reduced environmental impact.

If you need help choosing a printer, there are literally thousands on the market, call Midwest Laser Specialists, Inc. at 630-654-0002, and we can walk you through it. Often times, customers buy the wrong machine for their exact needs and are not happy with their purchase. By taking a few minutes to speak with one of our team members, you can have the right printer shipped (and setup) in 1-2 business days.

4. Utilize Soy-Based Inks:

Replace conventional inks with soy-based alternatives. Soy inks are derived from renewable resources, making them a more sustainable option compared to petroleum-based inks. They also facilitate easier recycling of printed materials.

Never heard of soy-based ink? It’s actually quite popular. Per the American Soybean Association’s website, “About one-third of America’s nearly 10,000 newspaper printers use it. And, more than 90% of the nation’s daily newspapers are printed with color soy ink. Soy inks also work well for label printing, as they allow a reduction in ink coverage by 85% compared to water-based inks.”

If you are interested in purchasing soy-based inks, but don’t know where to start, give Midwest Laser Specialists, Inc. a call at 630-654-0002 and we can help guide you in the right direction. While we don’t currently stock them in our warehouse, the more customers that ask for these alternatives, the more likely we’ll be able to offer them in the future.

5. Use Environmentally Friendly Materials:

Up until recently, the materials used in print equipment were not environmentally friendly, exuded chemical emissions and were difficult to dispose of. Luckily, these things are changing quickly in our industry. Evans Graphics, a printing house in the UK, explains further:

“One of the biggest changes in ensuring printing can become more sustainable is moving away from traditional print solutions and introducing more environmentally friendly materials into the mix. Thankfully an increasing number now stem from recycled or other sustainable materials that are 100% biodegradable or recyclable. These options also use little to no chemicals when processed.

Some companies have even begun to create entirely new materials to use for specific eco-products that they’ve introduced to the market. One packaging and paper materials supplier, Mondi, have switched their range of glassine-based release liners to certified base paper in a clear green initiative. They believe the transition will improve the traceability of their products and align with their pledge to maintain zero deforestation in their supply chain.

Another trade supplier, Perspex Distribution, have increased their offering of Perspex cast acrylic products and introduced several new recycled products made from renewable materials. They hope to make a new 100% recycled PVC foam available within a year.Over 90% of Perspex Distribution’s current product range meanwhile is 100% recyclable and can be used by wide-format printers.”

6. Recycle Printer Cartridges:

Dispose of printer cartridges responsibly by recycling them. Many manufacturers offer recycling programs, preventing cartridges from ending up in landfills and promoting a circular economy for printer consumables.

In fact, Midwest Laser Specialists, Inc., offers an in-house recycling program – not just on printer cartridges, but on printers as well. You can drop off old equipment at our Alsip, Il, headquarters, or ask us to remove it for you when we are servicing your machine. Of course this is a complimentary service as we are trying to do our part to protect the environment, too.

7. Mindful Print Management:

Implement print management systems to reduce unnecessary printing. This involves setting default settings to grayscale, using print preview to avoid errors, and only printing when absolutely necessary.

Mindful Choices Matter

Sustainable printing practices empower us to enjoy the convenience of hard copies while minimizing the environmental repercussions traditionally associated with printing. By making mindful choices, such as opting for recycled paper, duplex printing, and energy-efficient devices, we can contribute to a greener future without compromising the efficiency of our printing needs. Sustainable printing is not just an option; it's a responsible choice that aligns with our commitment to environmental stewardship.

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