People nowadays are becoming more aware of the impact that human activities have on the environment. More and more of our present-day environmental problems are being talked about, be it on television, the Internet, or other forms of media. Our waterways are becoming more polluted, air in major cities is getting dirtier, many of our landfills are now filled to capacity, and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is poisoning marine life—these are all examples of the pollution that we as people are causing.
As members of all life on Earth, we have the responsibility to clean up our act, beginning in our own homes. There are so many things we can do on an individual or family level to lessen our impact on the environment. These include reusing and repurposing old items instead of buying new ones, conserving water and energy, cutting down on our use of plastic bags and packaging materials, and separating our biodegradable and non-biodegradable garbage for easier recycling.
In this article, we’d like to focus on one common activity we engage in at home that is not often seen as having any particularly significant effect on the environment. This activity is printing.
Why printing needs to be more environment-friendly
It may seem pretty innocuous, but if you think about it, printing can actually contribute significantly to the amount of waste churned out by residential environments.
For instance, a lot of the paper used in printing is discarded indiscriminately by people, and emptied ink and toner cartridges also end up in landfills and add to the ever-increasing amount of e-waste that contaminate the environment. Frequently, these empty cartridges are also melted or incinerated, causing the release of potentially harmful substances like dioxins and hydrocarbons into the atmosphere.
It’s a good thing that there are simple things you can do at home that can make printing a more environment-friendly activity. Here are some of them:
Choose remanufactured ink and toner cartridges
What exactly are remanufactured ink and toner cartridges? Simply put, remanufactured printer cartridges are professionally recycled cartridges. Using the cartridge shells that are usually just thrown away or destroyed, companies that remanufacture cartridges take these otherwise useless shells to give them a new lease on life.
Remanufacturing is a thorough process that involves state-of-the-art cleaning, drying, ink/toner replenishment, and sealing—a systematic procedure that ensures that the final products are made to the same level of quality and performance as original equipment manufacturer (OEM) products.
On top of being one the best ways to reduce printer-related e-waste, choosing remanufactured printer cartridges can also help consumers save money, thanks to the significantly lower prices of these alternative products compared to OEM variants.
Print using economical typefaces
In 2014, Pittsburgh high school student Suvir Mirchandani became quite famous after his study about the Garamond typeface was published in the Journal for Emerging Investigators. In his paper, Mirchandani noted that U.S. federal and state agencies could save some $394 million a year if they printed using only Garamond.
There’s a good reason why using serif typefaces like Garamond and Times New Roman, as well as sans-serif typefaces like Century Gothic can help you save ink. Compared to other typefaces, those mentioned are designed with very thin letters and numerals, making them more economical in terms of ink usage. As you can imagine, less ink used means less waste cartridges and less ink byproducts released into the environment.
You can take things up a notch by printing using fonts that were created by innovative companies and designers specially for the purpose of helping people saving ink. Examples include Ecofont, which has letters and numbers with holes in them. Another font, Ryman Eco, is a typeface made up of fine lines. The tiny holes and fine lines are designed to give the printed text a solid look even though it is actually printed using less ink.
Print only when you need to
Now that electronic handheld devices are everywhere, it is much easier to do without printed copies of documents. From travel itineraries and school readings to interior design ideas and copies of articles you like, there are so many materials that can be conveniently saved in electronic devices nowadays.
If you need a copy of a non-essential document or something that you don’t have to submit as an official or formal document in paper form, do the environment a favor by going digital instead.
Use both sides of each paper
In case you really need to print a document that you’re just going to keep for your own use, consider printing it out on used or scratch paper. Most people tend to keep pieces of paper with only one of the sides printed on. Instead of throwing them away, why not reuse them?
Use sustainable paper products
If you’re not accustomed to reading labels, consider doing so. Knowing whether the paper products you are using are sustainably sourced or manufactured is another great way to print in a more eco-friendly manner.
Choose paper products that are made from pre-consumer and post-consumer recycled fibers, or look for those that use pulp from pulpwood plantations that practice responsible forestry.
Use vegetable oil-based ink and toner products
Traditionally, printer ink is made using petroleum-based oil, but there are now companies that manufacture ink made from vegetable sources like soy. These non-edible inks are typically biodegradable, which is good for the environment since they decompose more easily compared to conventional inks, and they are also quicker to remove from the paper during the recycling process. Furthermore, emissions of substances like volatile organic compounds are also minimized or completely eliminated.
Living a sustainable lifestyle is challenging, but it can be a very rewarding experience as well. Making small changes in simple activities like printing can make a big difference in the long run if you make it a habit to be more conscious about your environmental footprint. We encourage you to inspire your friends and family—especially the children to pitch in and to do their part in making your home and community more eco-friendly!