Towards carbon-neutral printing – Unigrafia offsetting carbon emissions!

15.5.2019 Essi Horkka

As of May the University of Helsinki has introduced an ink cartridge replacement service for multi-purpose devices and network printers. There will be no more tinkering with cartridges and waste ink tanks as Unigrafia will be taking care of the ordering and the replacement. This will include predictive anticipatory maintenance which will decrease the need for maintenance calls and malfunctions and increase user satisfaction. And that’s not all. All CO2 emissions caused by the paper waste from the university devices will from now on be 100 percent compensated.

“All this began with client feedback. We were repeatedly contacted concerning the valuable working time that was taken up by the switching of ink cartridges. Another thing bothering people was having extra cartridges lying around taking up space. So, we decided to offer an ink replacement service,” says Jorma Ahlqvist, the person responsible for the development project.

The service is based on an anticipatory learning system and real-time monitoring of devices which are on at all times and connected to a network. The software installed in the multi-purpose printer can assess, based on use, when a cartridge is running out and needs to be replaced. The maintenance staff monitors the situation and carries out the replacement when needed.

“When the repair person comes to replace the ink cartridge, they also inspect the printer to make sure it works in all other aspects, too. Due to real-time data and anticipatory maintenance we are able to decrease malfunctions as well,” Ahlqvist assesses.

Before the introduction of this service, the device was able to put in an order for a new cartridge on its own. The users were also ordering ink just to be on the safe side or because the cartridges that had been ordered previously were nowhere to be found. The new service will take care of the matter by setting up short-term storages around campus areas. Empty cartridges will also be gathered in those storages to keep them from taking up space elsewhere. The empty ones will be sent to Kuusankoski for recycling.

University of Helsinki’s carbon-neutral approach

Unigrafia recognises the environmental impact of printing and it has been taken into account in the company strategy, too. The aim is to use innovative technology to minimise the detrimental environmental effects caused by printing. For this reason, along with the replacement service, we will offset the carbon footprint produced by every multi-purpose printer.

The number of monthly prints produced by the University of Helsinki printers is around 1.3 million. Calculations suggest that one planted tree absorbs the carbon emissions caused by 8333 printed pages. In a year the stack of paper produced by the university is so high that around 2000 trees are needed to absorb the emissions.

“We will receive a certificate based on the monthly automatic monitoring of the equipment. It informs us about the amount of paper that has been used and based on that we pay compensation to an organisation. It then plants the required number of mangrove trees in Madagascar”, tells Ahlqvist enthusiastically about the new approach.

Why, of all places, Madagascar?

Madagascar has one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world. Over 80 percent of the country’s mangroves have been felled even though almost all species indigenous to Madagascar depend on the trees. Environmental damage, erosion and floods have also impacted the living conditions and livelihoods of the local population. Planting trees not only enhances carbon sequestration and reduces erosion, it also provides work for locals.

“There were also other options but what confirmed our decision was finding out that, according to scientists, the impact of carbon absorption in tropical regions is five times greater compared to slow-growing coniferous trees in the north”, says Ahlqvist.

Offsetting carbon emissions does not increase the printing prices as Unigrafia pays for the planting of the trees out of its own pockets. Even though printing in the University of Helsinki is from now on carbon-neutral, by reducing unnecessary printing you will reduce your carbon footprint – and make the world a better place!