Paper Footprint

The negative environmental impact of paper production and consumption makes the reduction of paper use urgent. Reduced use of paper directly pays back into a favorable effect on the environment, but is also financially beneficial because of considerable cost savings. Print Management Software like SavaPage makes printing behavior visible within an organization and can enable or enforce a reduction of the number of prints per user. Additional measures like standard duplex printing and using selected papers provide additional savings.

Climate change and environmental degradation are global problems that are getting plenty of attention. Therefore, environmental awareness increasingly determine our actions everyday. Indeed, the sense of urgency to address the current environmental problems has never been greater. An example of a problem that everyone has to deal with every day is the use of paper. Because the production of paper is a very energy-intensive process, with numerous negative environmental effects, reducing paper use is a measure that provides direct financial benefit and a reduced impact on the environment.

Since the 19th century paper is made from wood. The modern production process roughly consists of the following steps:

  • Trees are felled.
  • The bark is removed from the timber.
  • The bark is burned to provide energy for the subsequent production process.
  • The logs are processed into chips.
  • The chips are steamed under high pressure to a pulp.
  • Additional chemicals are added to loosen and wash away unnecessary material leaving only a usable pulp.
  • The remaining pulp is bleached so white pulp remains.
  • If possible the pulp is directly processed to paper. But often, the pulp is pressed into bales instead, and transported and stored as an intermediate product.
  • At a later time, these bales are dissolved again into pulp and used for further processing.
  • Usually up to 25% extra fabric is added to the paper to make it better for writing, less transparent and whiter.

During the production of paper, the environment is affected in various ways.

  • Energy is needed for each step in the process. Chances are that this energy is not environmentally friendly produced.
  • Intermediates (logs, chips, pulp) are usually (long distance) transported by ship. This gives additional CO2 emissions.
  • The vast majority of the wood is cut in production forests and plantations in Scandinavia, West Europe and North America. These forests are more or less managed sustainable. However, the rest is cut in places where environmental friendly management is not guaranteed.
  • When burning bark, harmful greenhouse gases are emitted that contribute to global warming.
  • Pulp bleaching causes a flow of waste water containing bleach and dioxins, which can contaminate entire watersheds.

As a result of environmental campaigns that have encouraged consumers to recycle paper, in Europe about 70% of the paper is produced from recycled waste paper. That is certainly an improvement, but this alternative requires much energy and does not guarantee a clean manufacturing process. More reuse does also not necessarily mean proportionally more savings. It is a typical case of diminishing returns 1). Moreover, after 6 to 7 times of recycling the fiber is too small and is no longer usable 2). New fresh wood fibers remain needed. Reuse is therefore only part of the solution. Namely, in those cases where the use of paper is absolutely necessary. The biggest gains can be achieved from reduced use, where paper is not necessary.

Electronic distribution of documents has caused a shift from “print and distribute” to a model of “electronically distribute and print” where each individual makes his own prints.

While distribution costs are reduced by electronic distribution, the total costs are nonetheless higher due to the unfavorable cost-per-page for low-volume printers and the additional time required by users to manage their own printing.

A study conducted by Lawrence Berkeley Labs shows that a typical office worker uses approximately 10,000 sheets of paper per year. While the cost of the paper itself are approximately € 75, the cost for the entire printing process amounts up to €425 3). This total consists of the following direct costs:

  • storage (stock printing supplies)
  • staff (logistic operations)
  • archiving of documents (cabinets, office)
  • electricity needed for hardware (printers)
  • removal and re-use of waste
  • depreciation and maintenance of hardware (printers)
  • toner and ink

Moreover, there is an extra indirect environmental impact due to the production of electricity, toner and ink, etc.

So, in addition to paper production, the consumption of paper entails even more financial and environmental costs.

It is paradoxical that, despite all efforts to achieve a paperless office, the paper consumption is growing every year. Worldwide, paper consumption has increased by 20 percent in the last five years. The message is that the ideal of a paperless office is not real. Using paper remains useful in many areas 4). On the other hand in many areas an unnecessarily large amount of paper is used with wastage as a result. It is therefore important to encourage efficient use of paper.

Print Management is the process where efforts and activities of all organizational stakeholders are coordinated and handled to encourage efficient use of paper. In the pursuit of efficiency, the usefulness of paper is recognized, but at the same time waste reduction is the norm. By reducing the paper flow in the organization financial and environmental gain is achieved.

Because every organization is unique, the strategy to reduce costs also vary by organization. But whatever the strategy is, the targeted cost savings will have to be translated into policy with measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound targets. To check whether the objectives are indeed achieved deploying Print Management Software is indispensable. The same software can optionally also be used to enforce the savings targets.

SavaPage provides feedback on the financial costs and environmental effects of all print jobs executed on the network. It works as a silent guard behind the scenes or as explicit agent to keep printer costs within budget. Statistics on printer use are available to evaluate saving policy effectiveness.

SavaPage has features that allow users to further reduce their printing impact.

  • N-up printing. If legibility and representativeness permits, n-up printing (multiple pages on one sheet) is a way to more effectively utilize the available space on paper. This is a standard SavaPage option.
  • Print preview: The preview in SavaPage accurately reflects what will ultimately be printed. Moreover, one can correct the printed output by deleting pages in the preview, and suppress graphics and reduce color to gray-scale.
  • Print as PDF. A PDF document can directly be created from the print preview. If a printout is not required, PDF is a great alternative to file or distribute a document.

Gartner research shows that organizations can annually save 30% on paper costs as duplexing is set as standard option on all printers 5).

The use of selected paper is highly recommended, namely:

  • Thinner paper. Thinner paper weighs less and has less wood per sheet. It is cheaper 6) and saves trees. Most printers work well with 70gm-2 and 80gm-2 (grams per square meter).
  • FSC paper. FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) is an international organization that promotes responsible forest management. FSC sets global standards for forest management with an associated hallmark.
  • Recycled paper. The production of recycled paper is less harmful to the environment.

The Nonlinear Relationship between Paper Recycling and Primary Pulp Requirements. Niels J. Schenk, Henri C. Moll, José Potting. Journal of Industrial Ecology Volume 8, Issue 3, Pages 141 – 162. 2004 Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale University.
A conservative estimate of € 0.05 (excluding VAT) is used per sheet of paper as total printing cost.
New developments such as e-paper and e-book can perhaps eventually further reduce the need for paper.
Sharon McNee and Ken Wellerstein, “Cost Cutting Initiatives for Office Printing,” Gartner, Inc. (22 February 2008): G00155489.
WWF argues that paper weighing 60gm-2 costs 20% more than 50gm-2; 70gm-2 costs 15% more than 60gm-2; 80gm-2 costs 12% more than 70gm-2; 100gm-2 costs 20% more than 80gm-2.
  • note/paper-footprint.txt
  • Last modified: 2020/01/05 19:47
  • by rijk