Printing and copying uses energy as well as paper; reducing it can significantly reduce your organisation’s footprint


Reducing office paper use is more complicated than putting “think before you print” messages at the bottom of emails, but with most data now stored and exchanged digitally the majority of documents never need to exist in hard copy.

Printers and copiers consume energy, ink and paper – but we should also consider the resources used to make them and the energy used to build and transport them. This hidden impact makes reducing paper documents one of the most effective things an organisation can do to reduce its environmental impact.

Manufacturing recycled paper is as energy- and water-intensive as virgin paper, although it doesn’t use trees. However, properly managed softwood forests for the paper and pulp industry provide a valuable carbon sink and can be readily replenished as they are relatively fast-growing. The Forest Stewardship Council certifies paper from well-managed forests.

For most organisations going entirely paper-free isn’t an option – it’s more a question of using paper only where it’s really needed.


In most cases, reducing paper consumption requires a combination of behaviour change and technology. Just removing devices is rarely effective. Here are a few tips:

  • Begin with a good document management system, so staff have confidence that they’ll be able to locate the documents they need online.
  • Examine workflows to identify places where hard copy is still needed and determine what hardware is required to support those processes.
  • Choose multifunctional devices rather than separate printers and copiers; this reduces the number of devices, saving both materials and energy.
  • Consider implementing access control systems on devices; these can track and manage usage, which helps reinforce behaviour change.
  • PIN codes or swipe cards avoid documents being sent to print and then forgotten; avoiding both security risks and waste

Try these tips

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