Green printing: In first month, it saves paper, trees, money

green printing[Photo above: Staff members Helen Alexander and Diane Blohowiak, along with Profs. Kevin Fermanich and John Stoll, are firmly behind a new “green” initiative to cut everyday printing waste at UW-Green Bay.]

A software application called GreenPrint is on track to achieve green savings at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

About 800 employee workstations had GreenPrint installed in late February. The program not only encourages faculty, staff and student workers to make more conscious decisions before hitting the “print” key, it also filters out extra, unneeded pages before they reach the printer.

So far, the program has documented campuswide savings of 20,000 pages not printed. Using a cost factor of six cents per sheet, that’s about $1,200 in savings in less than a month.

GreenPrint targets the waste pages that too often result when employees print out web pages, e-mail, spread sheets and other documents. On e-mails, typical culprits are lengthy address headers or multiple replies. On web printouts, it can be banners, footnote info, or image-intensive pages that consume extra reams of paper and costly toner.

“It (GreenPrint) is easy to use, but it’s also a little in-your-face,” says Diane Blohowiak, coordinator of user support for the University’s Computing and Information Technology division. “I think that, for some people, it’s a shock when this application tells them how much printing really costs.”

The software has a “Print Preview” highlighting opportunities to delete unnecessary pages, images, or text. Pages with less than five lines of text are automatically deselected. Duplex (double-sided) printing is selected by default if the printer supports it. Inclusion of a PDF writer with the software encourages e-communication instead of printing.

The most attention-getting feature, however, involves money.

Each time a user presses “print,” he or she sees how many pages have been saved and what that projects to in dollars and cents. Statistics on total pages, trees and greenhouse gasses saved are also displayed

At the University level, Blohowiak and project manager Helen Alexander of CIT are for the first time easily able to track printer usage. The first month of GreenPrint implementation, which included one “slow week” with spring break, showed:

• 155,171 total pages printed
• 19, 975 pages “saved” (an 11.4 percent reduction)
• $1,196.33 in estimated print cost savings
• The equivalent of 2.2 trees saved and 14,300 pounds of carbon dioxide saved


GreenPrint isn’t one size fits all, Blohowiak acknowledges, and a few users out of the 800 have asked to have it un-installed. It is also easily bypassed. Some tasks, such as printing envelopes, would prove cumbersome, otherwise.

On balance, however, the effort is succeeding, and CIT is encouraging new users to stick with it. Upgrades to the software, along with a Mac version for the 10 percent of employees using that platform, are expected soon from the commercial developer.

“If we all do our part,” Blohowiak says, “we’ll be able to save significantly on printing across campus.”

“When we piloted this,” recalls Alexander, “people who thought, ‘I’m not going to save that much,’ who thought they were already pretty ‘green’ in how much they print, found out there was still a lot of room for improvement.”

UW-Green Bay started testing the application with about 100 early adopters last August. With a five-minute, on-screen tutorial to walk users through the basics, the project was off and running. Results from that experiment convinced officials they would recoup the initial licensing costs in less than a year.

Students using general-access computer labs and printers across campus won’t experience GreenPrint. There was less need to buy software for those workstations, Blohowiak notes, because students in those labs already have a powerful incentive for conservation: The University’s public-access printers operate on a pay-as-you-go, per-sheet basis.

UW-Green Bay joins the city of Portland, Ore., in becoming one of the first major clients to contract with GreenPrint, a relatively new Portland firm specializing in print management, measurement software and sustainability.

The idea for investigating such an application came in early 2010, at about the same time UW-Green Bay was generating widespread publicity for its push for green, cost-saving typefonts. CIT switched campus computers to Century Gothic as the default typeface, replacing the more commonly used but ink-intensive Arial.

The Technology Council, a faculty-staff tech advisory group, investigated and endorsed the GreenPrint experiment. Additional early support came from the UW-Green Bay Sustainability Committee along with the Environmental Management and Business Institute. Green-minded academic units — Natural and Applied Sciences, Public and Environmental Affairs — along with offices in the Student Services division, signed on for the pilot.

“As a campus, we are looking at everything we can do,” Blohowiak says. “In the real world, it has to be simple, easy to use, or people won’t use it on a consistent basis. Their time has value, too. Here, we’re showing that the overall benefit is very real.”

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