What's greener, an inkjet or laser printer?[rssbreak]
Hear that tapping? That's the sound of busy keys clicking as students and office workers everywhere drag their sluggish and (after this summer) waterlogged butts back to their desks. As the migration nears its peak, expect frenzied email-checking, status-updating and, yes, skyrocketing levels of paper printing.
The average 9-to-5er generates almost a kilo of paper waste a day, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (That's anywhere from 225 to 315 kilos or 10,000 sheets a year). The average student isn't much better, burning through 145 kilos of paper per annum. All in all, we're each chopping down a 100-foot Douglas fir for our personal paper and wood use.
But trees aren't the only ones suffering for our reckless printing habits. Wouldn't you know it, printers themselves leave their own ecological footprint. Honestly, though, most people base their printer choices on price.
The classic division goes something like this: if you're a cash-strapped student, you get a cheap-ass inkjet. If you've got a bit bigger budget and a need for speed/volume, you go for a laser printer.
Of course, some IT geeks will tell you that, despite higher upfront costs, that laser printer will cost you less per black-and-white page than an inkjet (not so for colour). That's because a black-and-white laser cartridge will get you up to 5,000 pages, while many inkjet cartridges deliver only a few hundred pages before you have to shell out another $70.
Now, you're probably thinking, "Gee, the laser sounds like the greener option." Especially since laser cartridges are nearly as refillable as inkjet, though fewer home users know to add more when the toner runs dry (maybe since few printer manufacturers advertise this fact).
The problem is, laser printers swallow a hell of a lot of power to print that paper. In fact, Techlogg.com tested a couple of models and found that the Lexmark E230 laser, for instance, might only pull 5.9 watts while waiting for a job, but that wattage jumps to 700 with each page printed. That's in sharp contrast to a Canon S800 inkjet, which sips a mere 13 to 19 watts when in motion.
The conclusion of that very small study? "Inkjet printers use up to 90 per cent less power than laser printers while printing, but things are pretty much even in standby mode."
The facts really stack up against laser printers when you consider the Australian report that came out against them in 2007. Researchers at Queensland University of Technology tested the emissions given off by 62 laser printers. A startling 17 had high emissions of ultrafine lung-penetrating particles equal to taking a haul off a cigarette. (Really, the findings won't be all that surprising to anyone who's ever spent time sucking in the head-spinning miasma that hangs over office copy rooms. Secretaries everywhere should be filing for danger pay!)
Naturally, printer makers were up in arms, and Hewlett-Packard first said: "While we recognize ultrafine, fine and coarse particles are emitted from printing systems, these levels are consistently below recognized occupational exposure limits."
Then, nine months ago, a German study partly funded by printer manufacturers concluded that the emissions from laser printers are about as harmful as those given off by toasters. Funny, that.
Experts like those at the Aerias Air Quality Sciences Resource Center still say laser printers are associated with other air cloggers, too: volatile organic compounds like styrene, xylenes, ethylbenzene and hydrocarbons as well as lung-irritating ozone and even formaldehyde.
If you need the monster capacity of a laser printer, at least be sure to hunt down an Energy Star-certified model. Printers sporting this logo can consume up to 60 per cent less power since they automatically go into "sleep" mode when they're not in use. HP makes an Energy Star-approved "green deskjet" printer (the Deskjet D2545) made of 83 per cent recycled plastic.
Better still, if you've got a home system, be sure to turn the thing off and even unplug the damn thing when you're not using it to avoid standby power-leaching.
Also, do a little digging to see if the model you're considering can be refilled instead of just replaced. And find out if the manufacturer has a recycling program in place to make sure old cartridges don't end up in the dump.
Lastly, pick green print shops like Eva's Initiatives Phoenix Print Shop (a project for at-risk youth), (phoenixprintshop.ca) for big jobs; use print preview religiously to assess what you're doing before you waste a tree; double-side as much as possible; and, you know, avoid printing. Period.
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