Fewer Printers, Greener Campus

Six Medical School departments are participating in a pilot program to reduce energy consumption and green house gas emissions attributed to the use of desktop printers. Launched in March, the program has already found a 1:1 ratio between employees and printers in at least two school departments. Since the industry standard calls for one printer for every 10 employees, these early results point to a significant opportunity for increasing efficiency and lowering energy costs across the school. 

The program is called PETS (Printer Enterprise Technology Solutions) and is being performed by Xerox, which was awarded a university-wide contract in December as the preferred supplier of copy and printing machines for the five-campus system. “If you walk around the buildings on campus, you’ll see a lot of desktop printers on all day, using a lot of electricity even though they’re just sitting idle,” said Jeff DiCiaccio, senior director of purchasing at UMMS. “That’s expensive printing since many of the older printers do not go into ‘sleep mode.’ ” 

A more sustainable scenario is for employees to turn off their desktop printers and use multi-function devices positioned in common areas. These stand-alone units, which typically include copier, printer, scanner, and fax machine all in one, offer greater functionality, save costs and produce less waste, DiCiaccio said. “The typical desktop inkjet printer costs $1.00 per page to print, while the cost is about .005 cents per page for multi-function machines,” he said, adding that inkjet printers also generate more trash because their ink cartridges do not last as long as the toner cartridges in multi-function devices. Older desktop printers also use more paper, since they cannot print on both sides of a sheet of paper. 

DiCiaccio said early indications from the PETS study show that, by adopting the optimal printer recommendations, some departments could reduce their energy use related to printing and copying by 70 percent, green house gas emissions by 83 percent and solid waste by 81 percent. 

The PETS assessment entails a complete inventory of every printer, photocopier and fax machine in each department. Technicians record the makes and model numbers of each device and, when possible, print out a configuration sheet that summarizes the number of copies or pages the machine prints per month. Using their extensive database, Xerox can then determine the cost per copy for every machine. 

The six UMMS departments participating in the project on a pilot basis are Financial Services, Facilities, Information Systems, Human Resources, Neurobiology and Gene Function and Expression. “If it goes well, we hope to reach out to other areas,” said DiCiaccio. 

The project is being spearheaded by Resource Max, an employee group that works to optimize operations on campus. DiCiaccio, who is on the Resource Max steering committee, said the group will help educate Medical School departments about the environmental and cost benefits to participating in the printer assessment program.