Reducing Toner Usage

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4 replies [Last post]'s picture
AASHE Member
Joined: Jun 16 2009

Recently, I've been exploring creative ways to cut toner usage on the University of Oklahoma campus.

EcoFont software seemed like a really good idea until I started really researching it with OU IT. Ecofont conserves toner by taking normal fonts and punching holes in the middle of letters, as well as by not printing certain graphics based on the user’s preferences. ( EcoFont purports to save roughly 15% of toner when compared to regular printing.

However there are problems with this software, in that the savings may not be as transparent as the company claims, and it is ultimately a product that you have to pay for ( (criticisms), OU IT came up with a simple, brilliant solution to this problem. Instead of buying a piece of software, IT simply changed the default color of text in documents/email in the OU computer lab software. Instead of a true black, it’s now 85% black. Instant 15% toner savings, zero cost! Of course there are limitations, and actual measurement of savings is tricky, but the principle seems sound.

The computer labs here now print in an extremely dark gray instead of a “true black”, or you can think of it as a kind of pastel black. But the point is that the end user is unaffected, which means that in lean terms, that extra 15% of toner was waste: extra materials that actually exceed the customer’s needs.

I want to post this here as a potential best practice for others to emulate. Please reply with either anything wrong with this approach that you can think of, or ways to make it even better.'s picture
Joined: Dec 16 2008

Bravo! That sounds like a great simple and free solution that many can benefit from. Thank you for sharing that idea. I'm going to try it on my home office printer!

AASHE Member
Joined: Mar 12 2009

That sounds like a brilliantly simple solution. Do you know what kind of software it works with? Eg, is it the end client (Microsoft Office, etc), or print server management software?

This sounds like it could be very useful in our public and library computer labs, with some potential applications for managed desktop environments.

Thanks for the idea!

Gillian's picture
AASHE Member
Joined: Jun 16 2009

This is an adjustment that would happen in the end user software. So you actually have to go into Word or Outlook and change the default settings for new documents. If you do that, then any document created at that station will have those characteristics unless someone actually goes in and overrides it. It's not going to change the characteristics of any existing documents, just new ones.

I'm sure that there are other things that you can do on the printer end as well, but this just looks at how black Word thinks the letters ought to be.

peter_1's picture
Joined: Jun 3 2010

This is an interesting approach, but has to be set separately for each application program that lets you set the black level -- and won't work with a document that someone creates on their own notebook computer and then wants to print on campus. Some printers have a toner-saver mode, but that would be a problem for each printer. And software like GreenPrint helps reduce paper waste for all documents and users -- but I don't think it does anything to saver toner.

The biggest waste on campuses here seems to come from students, faculty, & staff printing multiple drafts -- sometimes without even looking at the earlier printout. Another big problem is sending something to print and then hitting Print again because it didn't print immediately.

Individual print accounts seem to be very effective, with a per-page cost for every page over a basic, reasonable limit. At one campus nearby, a tiny percentage of users accounted for a most of the waste!

I think you'll probably will save more toner by reducing unnecessary printing -- and you'll save paper and printer wear at the same time!


Peter Crownfield
Campus Sustainability Initiative
Alliance for Sustainable Communities-Lehigh Valley
Bethlehem, PA  18015