Going Green: If you have to use a printer, do it the environmentally friendly way

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I love this month’s feature package, Going Green. It’s perfect for my tree hugging lifestyle and it gets everyone else at CG on board. There seems to be a misconception that being eco-friendly is hard or that it won’t make a difference. I hear the latter argument all the time and I relate it to girls and their dieting woes. Before you go and start calling me a chauvinistic pig just hear me out. Now I’m not saying this applies to all women, but I hear it all the time from my female friends. They’ll start rambling off about how they’ve been working out and eating right for the last 3 weeks, but they haven’t lost any weight. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Anyway, I know you know what I’m talking about so I’ll just stop there. The point is that this whole green movement isn’t going to make a difference over night. It’s going to take a long time before we see the results we want to see. Learn to have some patience.

Anyway, to fulfill my green duties for the day we’re going to chat about how to print in an eco-friendly manner. That encompasses using recycled paper and/or using alternative inks. It’s pretty easy, actually. Using recycled paper seems like a no-brainer so I won’t delve into that one too much. A lot of the waste comes from ink cartridges so I’m going to focus on that for now.

For starters, if you are going to print something try and condense what you need down to the lowest number of pages possible. I’m guilty of printing off random e-mails and what not that include a single URL on the last page. It’s a waste and I feel bad about it, but I throw it into the scrap paper box or use it for doodling at my desk. Or print on both sides of the page. So, yeah, use recycled paper and figure out how many pages are going to be printed and find a way to reduce that number if possible. Here’s another simple solution or shortcut if you’re printing directions, for example. I actually do this all the time. Just text or e-mail yourself. That’s it. Easy, right?

Using recycled paper reduces the use of toxic chemicals, uses less energy and produces fewer emissions than normal paper. Alternative paper products are available as well that are made from a variety of materials such as soybeans, wheat, cotton, or hemp. But there’s a downside to all this and it comes down to money. Time jumps into the equation as well since you’ll more than likely have to import the paper. 100 percent-recycled paper is cheap these days and can be found just about anywhere. You’re better off going down that route.


I haven’t owned a printer since college and even then I rarely used it. Ink cartridges are crazy expensive and don’t seem to last very long. And then when you’re done with it, you throw it out and who knows what’s still in there. Anything petroleum-based is bad news bears and switching to soy ink is a great alternative. You can recycle your ink cartridges and or try refilling cartridges yourself, which can be painstaking at times and you get, maybe, an average of four refills. But you spend about half the amount. Another option is to take your cartridges into one of the recycling/refilling shops, but you’re not saving much money there.

soy ink

There are many benefits to using soy-based ink. For one thing it’s non-toxic and it’s priced comparably to normal ink. For more info on soy ink check out a Q&A here.

This is a fairly genuine overview of the easy and simple ways to reduce waste when printing. If you have other suggestions then please feel free to include them in comments. The more the merrier.