Why Print On-Demand is Sustainable and Environmentally-Friendly

Some business documents will never stop being printed, such as training workbooks, project proposals, and marketing materials. However, printing doesn’t have to conflict with your organization’s green initiatives. With the proper research, you can find printing services that use print on-demand technology and sustainable processes to produce documents without negatively impacting the environment. Read on to learn more!

What is sustainable printing for documents?

woman printing eco friendly

Also known as eco friendly or green printing, sustainable printing is the principle of making sure that every part of your printing process is as environmentally friendly as possible. While printing requires certain resources – such as lumber for paper, energy for powering facilities, and fuel for transportation – sustainable printers find ways to mitigate their impact on the environment. For example, at Mimeo, our motto is to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.

One way we reduce printing’s environmental impact is to use print on-demand technology.

What is print on-demand?

  • Print on-demand uses digital printers to produce documents at a moment’s notice.
  • Print on-demand technology does not require manual set-up. So, you can print as few as 1 copy of your document without creating any waste.
  • Switching to print on-demand is your first step in sustainable printing. As opposed to traditional printing, on-demand requires no test jobs and no minimum quantities. This means less paper waste.

Questions to Ask Your Document Printing Company

If sustainable printing is your goal, then it is important to ask your print vendor as many questions as possible. This way, you can determine how they think about environmental impact. Below are essential questions to ask.

About the Printing Process

Do they offer on-demand print? Is it a good fit for your project?
On-demand print (or digital printing) is a great solution when you are concerned about reducing waste. However, if you are printing ten thousand copies of a magazine, then off-set printing will still be the best solution. Be open with your printer about your project so they can match it with the best option for you.

Do they offer recycled paper stocks?
Using recycled paper stocks is an easy way to reduce your documents’ impact on the environment. Ask about whether they have any recycled paper stocks and, if so, what variety. For example, do they offer multiple weights (which translates to thickness of the paper)? Do they offer recycled paper for both color and black and white printing? Do they offer recycled stock for materials other than paper, such as tabs or binding materials?

digital print management

How toxic are the materials they use?
Environmental impact is not just about how much paper you use. Toners and protective coatings can contain toxic materials. Be sure to ask about the sustainability of materials other than paper.


If they work with print partners, what kind of sustainability measures do their partners follow?
If you are based in the US but need to deliver print materials to Saudi Arabia, your printer probably uses a partner to get the job done. Be sure to ask about the printers’ global network and their sustainability policies.

About the Shipping Process

global sustainable shipping

Once your documents are printed, they have to get to your destination(s) somehow, and that method can have a big impact on your environmental footprint. 

How direct is their shipping process?
The first question is whether or not they handle shipping. Some local printers only deliver to your office, leaving you to complete any further shipping, an inefficient process that increases your eco-impact. The most sustainable shipping will be as direct as possible.

Do their shipping partners have any sustainability policies?
If your printer ships your documents across the country or world, the next question is which shipping partners do they use and what are those partners’ sustainability policies. For example, Mimeo’s North American shipping partner is FedEx, and we work closely with them to participate in their sustainability program. In fact, across our business, we prioritize partners who are Green Seal or SFI (Sustainable Forest Initiative) certified to make sure our environmental impact is as small as possible.

About the Waste Process

No matter what kind of printing you choose, there will be waste. For example, if you print a spiral-bound document with a full-bleed cover, there will be wasted trim paper. Toner cartridges and other machine supplies also end up in the waste pile. That is why it is important to ask your printer how they handle waste.

sustainable printing recycle paper

Do they recycle waste paper?
Ask your printer how they handle waste paper. Some machines are designed to limit the amount of waste paper produced. For extra paper that doesn’t make it into your document, ask whether it is put directly into the trash or recycled.

Do they recycle toner cartridges?
Be sure to ask how they handle toner cartridges. Are they able to be reused multiple times? Once at the end of their lifecycle, do they go back to the manufacturer for recycling? All of these processes can help reduce your print environmental footprint.

Do they recycle machines?
Many print machines are designed to be returned to the manufacturer for recycling. For example, all of Mimeo’s color presses can be disassembled for remanufacturing. Be sure to ask how your printer handles their equipment to factor into your sustainability calculations.

Environmentally-friendly printing is crucial to being a responsible world citizen in the twenty-first century. The good news is that it is possible to find printers who produce documents in a sustainable way. With the right questions, you can select the best partner for your goals. Learn more about Mimeo’s commitment to sustainability here.

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