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Cutting out paper – hide the printers


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Continuing the month’s worth of ideas to support a New Year Resolution to cut paper use in education…

Make printing more difficult

When I first started work, printers were only just making an appearance and they were noisy, slow and produced very low quality print. I remember the day that I used the first laser print was magical – so quiet, so fast and so very professional. In those days the printers were plugged into the back of the network server, and a whole office of full of staff used to print to a single printer.

Then inkjets arrived, and prices of printers started to plummet (but not the price of ink, of course) and what happened then was a huge wave of printers arriving in offices. Suddenly everybody needed their own printer. It didn’t take long for the cost of that to hit – and the realisation that buying a printer cost peanuts, but buying the ink was a massive ongoing cost. (And that’s also about the same time that everybody talked about ‘the paperless office’).

Although many institutions in education have now switched back to central networked printers (or MFDs – multi-function-devices), if you haven’t yet made printing less convenient for your users, then take action to do it. If you switch printing to a central printer, with a smart card to start the printing process (sometimes called follow-me printing), you’ll cut down on the amount of paper you are using – even if it’s only reducing the number of times people print a document, and then forget to collect it from the printer.

And if people have to leave their desk to get a printout, they will think twice about printing.

This may seem like a facile statement, but it’s very true. One school I worked with discovered they had 104 printers – and only 102 staff. People in the same office were unwilling to share a single printer because they didn’t want to have to move to collect their printout. And some staff had both a laser and an inkjet printer.

At Twynham School they’ve tackled the printing process itself – putting in departmental quotas and building ‘stop and think’ warnings into the machines for large print runs.

How much paper does centralised follow-me printing save?

Typically, articles which talk about centralising printers quote 10-15% savings – a figure which I agree with based on first-hand experience. Although it won’t be the same for everybody, it should help you to work out how much paper you can save. And, if you manage to switch staff and students away from printing on inkjets, you’ll save a more significant amount in ink – because it can cost up to 6x as much to print on an inkjet as on a central laser printer. So you’ll save more money, not just paper.

And with centralised printing, you can easily produce reports for departments or individuals, raising awareness of printer use. Which will also help reduce printing.

Read more ideas to help cut out paper

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