Update: Xerox tool calculates environmental impact of printers

Software suggests ways to reduce energy and paper consumption

Many businesses want to jump on the green IT bandwagon, but don't know where to start. But a new software calculator can suggest how offices can reduce the environmental impact of printers, copiers and other devices.

Xerox says its "Sustainability Calculator" uses proprietary algorithms and document assessment research to suggest ways to reduce energy and paper consumption from office devices regardless of manufacturer.

On Tuesday Xerox showed off a scaled-down, Web-based version of the calculator.

The calculator has input fields to describe a printer or other office device, noting the kind of cartridges used, if the device is color or mono, how fast it produces pages, how many of those pages are printed per month and whether the device uses the Energy Star power-saving guidelines.

A second set of fields asks how an office manager would like to see the machines perform. The calculator then shows bar graphs covering energy consumption, greenhouse gases and the solid waste produced, from empty ink cartridges through to retiring the machine.

The more advanced version of the calculator will offer suggestions based on usage patterns, Xerox said.

The calculator was in the works for a couple of years "as a response to customers who wanted a more tangible way of seeing what the impacts would be of some of the document management solutions that we were bringing to the marketplace," said Xerox CEO Anne Mulcahy. The company had internal assessment tools in place so that it could measure its own reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and lower its carbon footprint, but more and more customers were asking for tools that would show "hard metrics" for their businesses, she said.

"I find it very, very encouraging that it is becoming more of a required specification in RFPs (requests for proposals)," Mulcahy said, adding that potential customers are increasingly listing specifications related to sustainability and social consciousness. Because of that, Xerox has been compelled to find a way to measure how its products will help businesses meet environmental objectives.

Data cited by Xerox from one company using the calculator suggests an overabundance of office printers and copiers.

Defense manufacturer Northrop Grumman dropped the number of printers and copiers in one of its divisions to 1,100 from 2,000 after using the tool, Xerox said. Subsequently, energy consumption fell 27 percent, greenhouse gases by 26 percent and solid waste by 33 percent.

The objective for customers using the calculator is to continue measuring their environmental footprint over time, Mulcahy said. The first measure taken provides the baseline and then progress toward goals can be calculated in the future. "You don't stand still" after obtaining the first set of statistics, she said.

The Sustainability Calculator will be offered through Xerox Office Services, the company's consulting arm. The calculator is not intended to be a stand-alone offering, and because it is rolled into services offered to customers, it isn't priced separately from services contracts, Mulcahy said.

This story was updated on March 25, 2008

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