Three Steps to the Paperless Office

by Dan Costa

1. Think Before You Ink. The change has to start here. We all have to change how we look at paper. Before you print out anything, ask yourself if it is absolutely necessary. If you have a digital copy of that e-mail, why do you need a printed version? The green blog tried to build an eco-meme by asking people to add this line to their e-mail signatures: "Eco-Tip: Printing e-mails is usually a waste." treeSure, it is a little preachy, but sometimes we need preachers to show us the way. I have complained in the past that people send too much e-mail, but printing them out is downright sinful. 

2. Preview Your Documents. The average employee prints six totally useless pages per day. All you have to do is walk over to the network printer in your office to see examples of them. I did just that and found a tray filled with blank pages, misplaced spreadsheet fields, and random HTML fields from printed Web pages. The average employee prints 1,410 of these wasted pages per year. And this problem is easy to fix: Just preview it first. The easiest way to do this is to use the print preview feature in whatever software you are using to print.

GreenPrint is a software package that automates the process. You can download a free version of GreenPrint from; an ad-free version is available for $35. GreenPrint Technologies claims that the average user of the package will save about $90 a year in paper and ink costs. This is a great feature that should become the default in both personal and office printers. Can you imagine the savings if this is rolled out across an enterprise or small business? That is money-saving Green IT.

3. Print to PDF. It took a while, but PDF truly is a universal portable document format. And just attaching a Word doc to an e-mail is pretty universal too (although I have it on very good authority that there are still those among us stuck using Word 2002 and unable to natively read the latest Office formats). Send digital files whenever you can.

There are more ways to cut back, of course, including printing on both sides of pages, electronic invoicing, and using multifunction devices to scan rather than copy, but those three steps alone could put a huge dent in paper waste.

These changes won't take place overnight, but we have to look at those stacks of unused, underused, or never reused paper as the inexcusable waste that they are. Even here at PC Magazine, we have our challenges. When I wanted to see the first draft of the PC Magazine CleanTech Approved logo, one of my staffers printed out a color copy for me showing the 2 by 2 inch logo in the middle of a bright white page. All I needed was a JPEG. The logo was bright green—and yet so not.


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