The phrase “paperless office” once was considered a reasonable goal. Now it’s a joke. Instead of decreasing the amount of paper that businesses handle, computer technology has simply made it easier to create more paper trails than ever before. We in IT must set a good example and help our users get over their addiction to printing everything that comes across their screens.

Save a tree, save a toner cartridge
Why should IT people care about how many pages their users print? I can think of three reasons:

  1. The paper costs money.
  2. The toner (or ink) costs money.
  3. Maintaining the printers costs money.

You know the kind of printer abuse I’m talking about. You can walk into any business on any given day and find a pile of e-mail messages lying beside the printer. I’m talking about messages that consist of one lousy line of text! I’m talking about pages that were printed but never picked up.

Why, oh why in the world does ANYBODY need to print an e-mail message? Is it so hard to copy and paste important messages into a document, and then refer to the document onscreen?

Color me blue in the face
Don’t even get me started on color printers. If you’re printing documents that are going to be read by a customer or a potential customer, you can justify printing a document in color. But the truth is, our end users routinely waste color printer resources printing charts and graphs that are for internal use only. Worse, many users take advantage of company resources to print color pictures of the nephews and nieces.

Teach responsible behavior
What can we do to reduce the amount of paper our users waste? We have to educate our users and announce a printer policy with these three rules:

  1. You shall not print anything unless you absolutely have to have a hard copy for a permanent file.
  2. You shall not print any personal items on company printers.
  3. You shall promptly pick up any documents you have sent to the printer.

I realize that wasted paper and printer resources aren’t the most exciting problems we face in IT. The challenge is akin to getting people to recycle soda cans. Even though there’s a recycle bin for soda cans in the cafeteria, there are lazy people who still toss them in the garbage.

Even after you implement your no-waste policy, you’ll still have users who will abuse their printer privileges. But in order to help those users addicted to having paper in hand, you have to start the revolution somewhere.
Each Tuesday, Jeff Davis tells it like he sees it from the trenches of the IT battle. And you can get his report from the frontlines delivered straight to your e-mail front door. Subscribe to Jeff’s View from Ground Zero TechMail, and you’ll get a bonus of Jeff’s picks for the best Web stuff—exclusively for our TechMail subscribers. To respond to this article, please post a comment below or send Jeff a note.
Be environmentally correct
Am I the only one who’s bothered by the reams of paper that are wasted on frivolous print jobs? To comment on this article or to add your two cents, please post a comment below or send us a note.