Energy Efficiency in Printing Operations
Energy efficiency is a very broad and reliable type of sustainability initiative. Meaning, both large and small changes, alike, can produce significant results for all three pillars in the triple bottom line– people, planet, profit. The key word is efficiency; getting the same amount of work done with less input. Let’s jump right into the why’s and how’s of energy efficiency in the printing industry.
Benefits of Reducing Your Energy Demand
It all boils down to reduction. The initial reduction in energy demand sparks a chain reaction of reductions in other significant areas. For instance, a reduction in Company A’s energy demand initiates:
- Reduction of Company A’s monthly utility bill. (profit)
- Reduction of Company A’s contribution of carbon dioxide emissions. (planet)
- Reduction of the amount of energy being demanded at “peak” hours, which eliminates the need for energy companies to build more power plants that are only used during those peak hour demand occasions. (profit)
- Reduction of pressure on energy suppliers will perpetuate a downward progression in energy prices. (profit)
- Reduction of the amount of fossil fuels extracted and carbon emissions created from the combustion process. (planet)
- Reduction in the amount of power plants and fuel extraction sites in turn reduces the amount of people who must live by these sites which prevents more people from contracting the common health issues due to being around environments with higher air pollution (mainly smog, particulate matter, dust, etc.). (people, planet)
- Larger reductions in carbon dioxide emissions reduces the effects of climate change. (people, planet)
Strategies to Reducing Demand
Now that we’ve discussed how reduction in energy demand leads to beneficial reductions throughout the supply chain, let’s talk about what action items you can take today to begin that initial reduction process.
- The first step is to perform an energy audit within your facility.
Don’t leave anything out– outdoor lighting, heaters, kitchen appliances, leaky faucets, low flow toilets (remember: heating and pumping water requires energy, too), energy vampires (devices that continue to suck energy even when they are turned off), and of course, the big machinery, too. You can hire an energy auditor, or keep the job internal by using EPA’s energy management guidelines.
- Once you’ve figured out how much energy you’re using, you can then identify what you can reduce.
Assess day-to-day job efficiency. Look at how many misprints are printed per job or how many times a jam occurs where you have to stop production. Reduced misprints and interruptions in production equates to less time running your equipment to finish the same job. Get rid of that extra baggage that is holding you down! Depending on how deep into your operations you want to go, there is a wide range of changes you can make that are all effective. Like I said in the beginning, energy efficiency is a broad and reliable way to improve sustainability.
- You’ve got a goal, you’ve got a plan, now what you need is execution.
Create an energy management program to set goals and determine implementation strategies. The bet strategy is to get everyone involved and invested into the project. Encourage everyone to contribute ideas of where waste can be cut and how to go about it. With a company-wide initiative, it’s important to get everyone on board– from the CEO to the summer intern.
Levels of Energy Efficiency Changes
Identifying where to make changes can be the tricky part to this process. You can begin with smaller scale changes that, depending on how you currently run your operation, could result in significant return on investment. Some advice would be to implement more strict procedures for turning off lights that are not being used, unplugging anything that is not being used– even the toaster in the kitchen! Get microscopic; you’d be surprised how fast the little things can add up. Do not use personal heaters– aside from oftentimes being a fire hazard, they are energy monsters. And, speaking of monsters, get rid of those energy vampires! Use Duke Energy’s Vampire Calculator to measure how much you are spending on these devices.
The next level would be to find what you can retrofit. This would include changing light bulbs to LED, installing motion sensors for light or even light sensors (lights that adjust based on the amount of sunlight coming in). You could also consider placing aerators on faucets, installing low flow or dual flush toilets, etc.
Larger retrofits that would help to reach your facility’s full potential of energy efficiency would be replacing inefficient appliances with ones that are Energy Star rated– which use on average 30% less energy than conventional. It may also be beneficial to reassess your air conditioners/ HVAC systems and make sure your building is properly insulated. Take a look at EPA’s tips for energy efficiency for small to medium manufacturers for more ideas! If you’re curious about what to do after you have mastered the art of energy efficiency, look at diversifying your energy sources to ensure cost stability when energy prices fluctuate.
While some of these bigger changes may be more challenging to implement, there are tons of resources out there to financially help businesses improve their energy use strategies. The US Department of Energy is a good place to start if you’re really serious about making some lasting changes in your company. EPA’s Energy Star has a partnership program specifically for the printing industry, called Printing Focus. Your state or local governments may also have programs to get involved with. Start your energy efficiency program today– it all begins with the flip of a switch.