Sustainable Printing Best Practices

Universities consume a lot of paper, toner and electricity

Each year, VIU uses 8.15 million sheets of paper. In Canada, our per capita consumption of paper products is the second highest on the planet (97kg/person/year) and five times the world average! Using sustainable best practices for printing can make a positive impact in many ways: less waste, cost savings, conserving resources, to list a few.

Follow these tips to make smart choices when it come to printing.

Only print when absolutely necessary

(it's less frequent than you think). Before you hit print, consider if the information can be stored or shared electronically. Email is one option to send information, but with so many file-storage and sharing options now available, you can store, send and, in many cases, even collaborate on editing documents in a much more sustainable way.

Set computer defaults to print double-sided

Set up computer software for default two-sided printing including word processing, spreadsheets, electronic mail, and others.

Preview documents before printing

Proofread documents on screen before printing. Don't forget to use the speller/grammar function to detect errors.

Print only the pages you need

You just got back that 20-page report you wrote and there are changes to make on pages 2, 3, 4, 7, and 15. After making the changes, do you print out the whole document? If yes, consider instead printing only the pages you need. Most software programs provide this option under the print function. 

Format standard forms for paper reduction

Reduce and double-side standard forms. When possible, automate standard forms as electronic templates. Electronic forms are easier to use and eliminate the need for blank hard copy forms.

Use revision features in word processing software

Take advantage of onscreen editing features when making changes to draft documents, then send the new draft electronically.

Provide trays to collect and reuse one-sided paper

Encourage employees to save and reuse paper printed on only one side at their desks. Use the one-sided paper to make scratch pads. 

Send information electronically

Use email for forms, document transmission and faxes. Think carefully before printing electronic information. Organize and save it so it is easy to look up. This way you won't need to make hard copy files of important information. Make sure to back up your information on an external hard drive, flash drive, cloud or by other means.

Educate others on the benefits of paper reduction

Let others know that their paper reduction efforts not only save paper, but also electricity, toner, and storage space requirements. All these savings add to a leaner, more efficient work space that benefits everyone.

Promote a "Think Before You Print" attitude

Everyone should be encouraged to make sure they really need the copies they are making and not to make excess copies.

Electronically archive emails rather than printing and filing

Paper document management and archiving can be very labour intensive and thus expensive. Processing, storing and retrieving archived records can be significantly improved when moving to electronic environments. Staff that work either in an office or from remote locations can gain instant access to the documentation that they require. 

Print in black and white whenever possible

Color printing uses more toner and costs much more than black and white. Color should only be used for external presentations or communications.

Use production machines for large jobs

For documents requiring a large number of copies (greater than 100 pages), proof online digitally, or print only 1 paper print proof to the departmental printer. Once finalized, direct the output to Print Services. Printing large numbers of documents or large documents in the production facility costs less than printing within your department.

Minimize webpage printing

When you need information from the internet, save or print to a file. If you must print from the Internet, only print in black and white and use the following guidelines:

  • Do not print the background - If you are printing a webpage using Internet Explorer, select Tools > Internet Options, select the 'Advanced' tab and in the 'Printing' section, remove the checkbox in the 'print background colors and images' option.

  • Just select the area you want to print - If you do not want the whole document and need only a few paragraphs or a few pages, then just select those paragraphs or pages and print them. To print selected paragraphs, select the paragraphs and then select File->Print and in the 'Page Range' section, check the 'Selection' radio button.

Did you Know?

  • About half of the documents printed in a typical office are thrown away within 24 hours.
  • The global consumption of paper products has increased 3 times since the 1970s, with the greater use of printing and writing papers primarily driving increasing consumption.
  • In Canada, our per capita consumption of paper products is the second highest on the planet (97kg/person/year) and five times the world average!
  • Over 350 million printing supplies, such as ink and toner cartridges, are discarded into North American landfills each year.
  • A single ink or toner cartridge can take from 450 to 1,000 years to decompose.
  • Manufacturing a single new ink cartridge uses approximately one litre of oil.


Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (1997) State of the World’s Forests.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. FAOSTAT Database Collections. Retrieved July 23, 2006

United State Environmental Protection Agency. (1996) Design for the Environment Flexography Project. Pollution Prevention and Toxics.

United State Environmental Protection Agency. (1997) Design for the Environment: Flexography Project Case Study 1. Pollution Prevention and Toxics.


Article ID: 5822
Tue 5/30/23 4:03 PM
Tue 5/30/23 4:11 PM