BLI Unearths a Softer Side to Eco-Friendly Printing

By Lisa Reider, BLI Senior Product Editor, Scanners and Environmental

Whether through buying ENERGY STAR-qualified electronics or more fuel-efficient vehicles, the effects of climate change have many people changing their day-to-day activities. And the trend continues to spread despite economic constraints. But in addition to checking for eco-labels and reading BLI Environmental Test Reports to identify the most energy-efficient printers and MFPs, users can also change their printing habits for the better by using eco-friendly printing solutions.

While for years we’ve reported on the many environmentally friendly features available with document imaging devices, such as toner-save mode, blank-page removal, auto color mode and N-up printing and copying, there are also several solutions available that help to optimize printing habits to reduce waste and save money—some of them for free. Eco-friendly print solutions offer various tools dedicated to three basic functions: Web printing, document printing and usage monitoring. Some solutions may do all three, while others might focus on a single task. We took a look at offerings from vendors such as Lexmark, Samsung, HP and Canon, as well as some third-party offerings. Below is a breakdown of some of the more prominent eco-friendly print solutions available.

Canon Ecology Information Plug-in (for Canon imageWARE Enterprise Management Console)

Designed mainly for larger organizations, Canon Ecology Information Plug-in takes device monitoring one step further and tracks the power consumption and paper use—and associated CO2 emissions—across a fleet to help simulate savings estimates. The power consumption is based on Canon’s rated energy consumption for each model and real-time usage. Users can graphically display energy data down to a device or user level and by the hour, date, month or year. Pricing for the Eco Plug-in is based on the number of devices in a fleet: $1,500 for customers with one to 500 devices, $5,000 for 501 to 5,000 devices and $9,500 for more than 5,000 devices.

HP EcoSMART Fleet (an extension of Web Jetadmin)

This solution allows network administrators and department managers to monitor, manage and control the impact of their document imaging operations. With the help of Web Jetadmin, which already monitors device output, and HP’s proprietary energy calculator tool, which helps to estimate energy costs and CO2 emissions based on usage, users can calculate the CO2 impact of their HP device fleets. By entering their actual electric utility rates, users can also see the hard-dollar costs of the power used. HP EcoSMART Fleet then goes a step further, allowing administrators to create graphical “what if?” scenarios to see how adjusting printer settings (having devices cycle into sleep mode more quickly, for example) or influencing end-user printing habits (say, increasing the percentage of pages printed in dupex mode)would impact the organization’s carbon footprint—and its bottom line. Monitoring/reporting for 1 to 500 devices is $1,500; 501 to 5,000 devices is $5,000; and 5,000+ devices is $9,500.

HP Smart Print

A free solution downloadable from HP’s website, HP Smart Print optimizes print output to help conserve paper and consumable consumption. The solution can change color fonts to black-and-white, delete photos and automatically or manually crop Web pages to remove unnecessary content such as banner ads. Plus, the utility displays estimates for the paper and electricity used, as well as estimated CO2 emission data.

Samsung Easy Eco Driver

Winner of a BLI “Outstanding Achievement” award in innovation, the Easy Eco Driver allows users to remove or alter various page elements to help reduce toner usage. Users can convert images to line art; remove lines, images or blocks of text; and modify fonts prior to printing a document via the print driver. And only the printed document is affected by the changes. This feature comes in handy when printing static image files such as PDFs that would normally require users to upload them into an image processing application to change basic elements on the page. The driver also includes a Results Simulator that provides estimated CO2 emission, energy and paper reductions when using its environmentally friendly print features. The Easy Eco Driver is a standard feature of the latest generation print driver, which was first add in late 2011.

Adobe LeanPrint

Adobe LeanPrint provides a host of tools to help curb consumable waste, including a draft mode, black-white output mode, optimized Web printing, performance tracking and more. The program can estimate user savings over days, months or years via the My Savings calculator. Print trends can also be analyzed by user or group. DOC, XLS and PDF layouts can be automatically reformatted to reduce toner and paper consumption. Color-coded charts can be automatically converted to unique black-and-white patterns to reduce color toner consumption. Plus, its print preview feature shows the level of toner savings achieved. With a list price of $99, Adobe LeanPrint works with Microsoft Office programs and virtually any printer, according to the company.

GreenPrint

There are four solutions under the GreenPrint umbrella: GreenPrint Analytics, GreenPrint Advisor and GreenPrint preView+ work in conjunction with each other and are best suited for enterprise-level businesses, while GreenPrint Home is designed for individual home and small office users. GreenPrint Analytics offers robust print tracking features for both networked and non-networked printers. Reports detailing total print volumes per user or group can be generated to identify cost savings and manage print operations. The utility can also identify the highest volume users, as well as the types of jobs being printed most/least per user/department/group. GreenPrint Advisor takes the data a step further and identifies lower-cost printers via color-coding: green for the lowest-cost printers, yellow for mid-range printers and red for high-cost printers. Color coding is based on cost-per-page data calculated through GreenPrint Analytics. GreenPrint preView+ helps users to eliminate unnecessary pages, images and text, and enable duplexing or black-and-white printing. The user interface provides estimated print costs for each job, as well as cost savings for eliminating pages. GreenPrint Home offers basic page alteration tools that help to target and delete wasteful page elements and unwanted pages. And based on the number of pages saved, a cost and tree savings estimate is provided. GreenPrint Home has a list price of $19 per user license.

EcoFont

EcoFont is a font solution that automatically places small holes within each character prior to printing, helping to reduce consumable consumption by up to 50%, according to the company. The solution works when printing from Microsoft Word or Outlook. In addition, users can choose to print a document without the images the original contains, or print all color text in a document using black ink or toner, helping to further conserve consumable use. The program works with five font types by default: Arial, Calibri, Times New Roman, Trebuchet MS and Verdana. (The company will work with the customer if additional fonts are desired.) EcoFont offers a Home Edition for $24.95 for one lifetime license, Small Business Edition for $54.95 for three lifetime licenses and Enterprise edition for $16.90 per user for three years (based on a range of 30 to 100 workstations), which includes support for one additional Ecofont-variant of choice. Updates are included.

FinePrint

FinePrint acts almost like a PDF editing tool in that users can cut, crop and reorganize image or blocks of text on a page to help to reduce consumable and paper waste. Users can delete unwanted pages and images; crop and reorganize text and images; edit text; convert output to grayscale mode; and print multiple pages on a single sheet (N-up printing). The company offers a server-based edition for $60 and a workstation edition for $49.95 per license.

PretonSaver

Advertised as toner and ink-saver software, PretonSaver automatically alters pages by deleting graphics and images from specific documents. According to the company, the software uses “pixel optimizer” technology that uses advanced algorithms to identify and delete pixels that are not necessary to maintain a high print quality, which helps to reduce toner and ink use. Reports detailing usage and print costs can be generated based on user and printer. The solution also uses existing print drivers to map all printers, users and applications on the network. It works with both inkjet and laser printers both on and off the network. In addition to the Premium version, which is intended for organizations with 25 to 500 users, the company also provides an Enterprise-level version that provides administrative tools such as print restrictions and an audit trail. A free downloadable Home version is also available.

PrintEco Software

This is another tool that can automatically consolidate and reformat pages to help reduce paper and consumable use. The solution works with Microsoft Excel, Word, PowerPoint and Office programs, as well as Internet Explorer, FireFox and Chrome Web browsers. Via the add-on PrintEco Analytics, users can track page output and estimate general cost savings and associated carbon footprint data. The data can then be customized and exported to CSV format. The solution starts at $20 per user for two to 50 user licenses for the “Office” version. Single users can install the software free of charge. Enterprise-level pricing is also available.

Browser Add-Ons

There are also several Web browser add-ons available for download that claim to either create print-friendly versions of Web pages by eliminating banners and other superfluous data items, or allow users to pick and choose the data they wish to print from an Web page. Firefox allows users to easily search through a variety of print-related browser add-ons. However, searching for Internet Explorer add-ons is more difficult. Although the browser’s Web page provides add-on searching, the search results are very limited—broad internet searches for Internet Explorer print add-ons yielded better results.

This article was originally posted on Buyer's Laboratory.