by Sherry Lachine, PrintFleet

In the managed print services (MPS) industry, as in many industries, green, at times, is seen as a way to make gold. Many claims about green products or practices may be misleading to customers, making people believe that the company and product(s) are entirely sustainable, safe or environmentally friendly. The term “greenwashing” was coined back in the 1980s regarding the hotel industry’s practice of placing placards in each room promoting the reuse of towels to “save the environment.” In fact, at that time, little or no effort was made to reduce energy waste on the part of many hoteliers; the focus was more on increased profit.

Are there any reasons besides gold for choosing green practices? Yes, of course. Many of us will have slightly different reasons: to save the environment by not overusing resources, to create or maintain a healthy world with healthy inhabitants, or to allow the earth to continue to sustain life for future generations. These are all important and noble reasons to go green but, while easy to decide upon, are not so easy to implement.

Once you’ve reasoned to yourself that it is a good idea and decide to go “green,” how do you go about it properly? It can be done, but it is very difficult to do it completely. An attempt to go absolutely green would require that everything about your product or service has a green focus, including materials selection, processes, your building and how it’s heated/cooled, and so on.

So how do you choose the actions in daily living, in corporate structures or in MPS to help guide you in being green the right way, and how do you ensure that you have made educated choices? It helps to look to organizations that have put thought and effort into the task of doing green properly. For example, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a certification program that “encourages and accelerates global adoption of sustainable green building and development practices through the creation and implementation of universally understood and accepted tools and performance criteria.” Buildings can be certified as green based on the number of performance criteria used in their design and construction. These criteria are grouped into manageable pieces and subgrouped into meaningful areas: sustainable site development, water efficiency, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. Points are awarded based on the number of criteria satisfied, giving you a rating of certified, silver, gold or platinum.

What is interesting about this system is that green is defined from the very beginning. In choosing to create a green building, the project manager selects the criteria that are most meaningful to the client or the project; if energy is the focus, then a significant number of the criteria can be chosen from the Energy Efficiency category. Or, if your project is concerned about healthy living aspects, then a higher number of criteria from the Indoor Environmental Quality and Materials Selection categories can be chosen. Green can be defined differently for different projects.

Another program called Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), as part of the Green Electronics Council, also uses grouped criteria in order to obtain an achievement level: bronze, silver and gold. Their criteria are grouped by materials selection, design for end of life, energy conservation, packaging, etc.

It is time to apply the same methodology of green classifications to the MPS space as both LEED and EPEAT have done elsewhere. Managed print services is complex, with ever-evolving concepts and parts; it started with monitoring devices (including supplies and service) and is quickly moving toward managing and correcting user behavior to prevent excessive device output as either a cost-savings and/or green measure. For electronics certified through EPEAT, a life-cycle approach is taken that encompasses how a device is made, from what materials, how it is used and how it is disposed of. With Green MPS, the life cycle not only touches on the devices, but the supplies, service and device output. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) uses a chain-of-custody certification that appeals to the green skeptic, ensuring that green practices are adhered to from start to finish as lumber travels from forest to shelf. Imagine tracking a cartridge from creation to use, through the recycling process and so on until the end of its life. Impossible? Shouldn’t be.

The two figures present a suggestion that may help with understanding the scope of criteria that exists in Green MPS. Take a look.

Figure 1

Green MPS General Criteria
Device OutputSupplies & PowerServiceDevice Life Cycle

Figure 2

Green MPS Criteria Details
Criteria CategoryCriteria #Description
Device Output
 1Paper (has an FSC chain-of-custody certificate or is recycled)
 2Toner (amount used is lower than a defined average)
 3User (behavior is managed to lessen output)
Supplies & Power
Toner Cartridge4Materials used — cartridge (low volatile organic compounds, or VCCs’ low toxicity)
 5Materials used — toner (low VOCs, low toxicity)
 6Delivery method (local vs. long-distance)
 7Recycling used
 8Packaging materials used (recycled or post consumer)
Other Supplies9Use of green supplies (e.g., fuser, waste toner box/bottle, drum kits, etc.)
Power Consumption10Kwh calulations are low
 11Power-save operations exist
Technician12Travel method and distances are low-emisions, short-distance
 13First-call effectiveness is high
Device14Uptime is high
 15The number of parts used per device in service calls is low
Device Life Cycle
 16Materials used in device production cartridge (low VCCs, low toxicity)
 17Optimization employed (the right device for the right use)
 18Transportation method to location (local vs. long-distance)
 19Energy Star of Eco rating exists
 20End-of-life consideratons are taken

From Figure 2, there are potentially 20 criteria upon which we can measure green in an MPS solution. Hypothetically, if a company were able to state that they have successfully achieved 20 of the 20 criteria, then that company could be awarded a Platinum Green MPS status. Or, if a company was able to achieve half — say, 10 of the 20 — we could award a Bronze Green MPS status, but hopefully you get the idea. Perhaps with this attempt at clearly identifying the green criteria to adhere to in the industry, we can remove any MPS greenwashing stains that exist.

It is important to note that most of this criteria can already be tracked for progress using clever reports from many MPS solutions that already exist: power utilization reports, toner usage reports, reports for meter counts that track the number of pages printed and carbon footprint reports. Additionally, there are software packages available that modify/control user behavior to reduce output as well as software that turns paper into electronic documents for storage. It must be mentioned that all of these solutions require accurate and reliable information from the device to create these reports and manage the user output, or else it’s garbage in, garbage out.

Perhaps this is just a way we, in the MPS and printing industries, can attempt to go green and save some gold in the process. The attempt requires that we understand the scope of green in MPS, decide upon which criteria to focus company initiatives on, and report on the green criteria to track efficacy and progress along a continuous improvement cycle. Though this may be a way to do it properly, it is not a way to be completely green, so perhaps we’ll call it green-ish; it is printing, after all.