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What Are the Different Types of Environmentally-Friendly Printers?

Lumara Lee
Lumara Lee

The “green” movement that began in the 1960s was officially recognized when the first annual Earth Day was observed in 1970. At that time, the computer industry was in its infancy, and the technology for environmentally-friendly printers didn’t develop for several decades afterward. Now, several companies have made eco-friendly printing available with various innovations. These refinements include duplex printing, the use of recyclable materials, soy ink, and printers with faster startup times. Environmentally-friendly printers made of biodegradable plastic are also available.

Many environmentally-friendly printers have been designed with a power-saving feature, sometimes called sleep mode. This automatically causes them to power down into a standby state when they haven’t been used for 10 minutes. Some environmentally-friendly printers carry the Energy Star rating. Energy Star is a program promoted by the United States government that lets consumers know which products use less energy to run and are the most environmentally friendly.

An ink cartridge.
An ink cartridge.

Inkjet printers are popular since they are less expensive to buy than laser printers and can print virtually any color. Since replacing the ink cartridges can become expensive, this is an area that companies have targeted for environmentally-friendly improvements. Many printers utilize two cartridges: one for black ink and the other to provide the various colors. When one color gets low, the software may indicate that the cartridge needs to be replaced, which has resulted in untold numbers of cartridges that are still half full of ink being consigned to the landfill. Some companies have addressed this wasteful practice by designing environmentally-friendly printers that utilize a different cartridge for each color, so that when one gets low, only that one needs to be replaced.

An environmentally friendly laser printer.
An environmentally friendly laser printer.

One enterprising company has even designed an eco-friendly printer that doesn’t require electricity or ink. It runs on human power and used coffee grounds. To operate this printer, used coffee grounds are poured into an ink cartridge, and then a person manipulates the cartridge to transfer the “ink” from the coffee grounds to the paper.

Computer printers use a lot of paper, so environmentally-friendly printers have been designed with duplex printing capability. This allows the paper to be reused. One design uses ultraviolet light to erase the ink on heat-sensitive paper. Another utilizes a thermal process with another type of paper made of plastic that can be reused many times. Both this printer and the plastic paper are expensive, but improvements in the future may make this green technology more affordable.

Discussion Comments


I knew a few people who had figured out how to refill their printer cartridges from the leftover ones others would throw out.

They would just go to the skip of an office and find the old cartridges that were thrown out when one of the inks had run out and use that. I'm not sure how they did it, although I guess there are probably online tutorials.

They were doing it more because ink is expensive, than for the environment, but really, a lot of these environmental features would help save you money as well. The power saver option, for example would probably cut down on your electric bill, especially in a company with a lot of printers.


A printer that runs off human power and coffee grounds sounds awesome actually. I wonder if it will actually print off complex images from a computer, as it doesn't sound like pigment from coffee could be all that vivid.

I would also wonder about how color fast the images would be. Even some of the best inks tend to come off on your fingers if you hold them the wrong way.

But, then I guess it sounds like it's more of a publicity stunt than a product they are expecting to become very popular.

It would be cool if it was just as easy to work and made the same kind of product as a real printer though.

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    • An ink cartridge.
      An ink cartridge.
    • An environmentally friendly laser printer.
      An environmentally friendly laser printer.
    • Multifunction printer.
      Multifunction printer.