Save a tree: practice mindful printing at Fermilab

Mark Kaletka

Mark Kaletka, deputy head of the Core Computing Division, wrote this column.

The laboratory uses an estimated 15 to 20 thousand reams of paper each year for printing, copying and faxing. Factor in the cost for ink or toner, as well as maintenance and repair of equipment, and you find that the price of putting an image on a piece of paper adds up pretty quickly. This is not even to mention the environmental costs of harvesting and processing trees into paper and recycling our waste paper. (You are careful to put waste paper in the recycling bin and not the trash bin, right?) For both budgetary and environmental reasons, it makes a lot of sense for us to think about our printing and copying habits and to reduce our use where we can.

The first thing to think about is whether you need to make a printed copy at all and, if so, why. The overwhelming majority of documents begin as an electronic document of some kind and really don’t need to be put on paper. For instance, I recently needed some information from someone at the lab. He printed the information on paper and then scanned the paper to make a PDF to email to me. He could have just saved it directly as a PDF and skipped the physical copy, saving his valuable time as well as a piece of paper that went straight into the recycling bin! Perhaps out of habit, many meetings still include paper agendas and copies of documents even though the same information has already been distributed electronically to attendees in advance. With the many ways we now have of sharing electronic documents, the need to share paper documents should diminish.

When we do need to print, we should make smart choices to reduce costs. A color page costs about six times as much to print as a black and white page. Duplex, or two-sided, mode reduces paper usage. Printing in “draft” mode reduces toner and ink costs. Over the next few months, the Core Computing Division will roll out new services that, along with other changes, will provide much better data to organizations about their printing habits and how to help reduce costs.