Thursday, August 18, 2005

printer manufacturers and the disposable printer - environmental responsibility

Here in Canada we have a government program linked to the Kyoto agreement that challenges each Canadian to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by one tonne. (link) I fully support this initiative, and have another idea for an environmental cause, one that I feel would not only reduce consumption and waste. One of the most wasteful office or home office products is the color printer (I should know, I sell them at my job) Not only do you have the paper (which is less avoidable in a printer) but you also have the ink cartridges, which last for at most a few hundred pages. The manufacturer inks cost more than a generic ink, and often with the pricing structure of printers and consumables, it is more economical to buy a new printer than a full set of replacement inks. This begs the question why manufacturers do this, since they know that the printer will likely be thrown out, or passed on to some unlucky secondary buyer who didn't do their research. There is also an immense amount of plastic in an inkjet printer, which consumes petroleum, only to be thrown out. Colour laser printers are beginning to adopt a similar pricing model. (link) As a salesperson in an electronics store, I'd say the great majority of customers justify buying colour printers for their children in school, and the remaining purchasers use them for printing digital photography at home. A wonderful initiative for an environmental group (which I will forward as a suggestion to a few) would be approaching school boards and asking them to adopt a policy for all assignments to be handed in black and white only with a reasoned explanation behind such a policy. With widespread adoption, this would decrease the market for inkjet printers, as more consumers would wisely choose a monotone laser printer, with more economical costs per page, and a much longer duty cycle and lifespan. A second approach to this campaign would be an educational component regarding the true costs of printing colour photos at home, and how they far outweigh the costs of a professional developing lab. If it was plainly evident that it's cheaper, more environmentally friendly, and it won't make a difference to your kids' marks if you print in laser black and white, most rational consumers would choose the better option. This type of consumer education would encourage companies to sell products that aren't priced to encourage waste, or at least reduce the market to those who truely feel they need and are willing to pay for the convenience of colour printing at home. Too much of our focus is on making corporations change their actions for environmental causes, when we as consumers are often the engine behind the suspect production. It is time for consumer groups to push consumer education, because we are competing against advertising with much deeper pockets.

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