How to Print Like You Don’t Hate the Planet

As a writer who likes trees and hates waste, I’ve tried to cut back on the amount of printing I do.

My first line of defence is similar to the advice Mr. Miyagi gives to the Karate Kid: “Best way to avoid punch, no be there.” The best way to save paper is to not use any in the first place. Some writers print each subsequent draft, but I’ve trained myself to edit (especially early drafts) off my screen. Some writers print research-related pages they find on the web because they’re afraid those sites might disappear; if there’s something I really want to keep and couldn’t do without, I make a local copy, and I know it will be a lot easier to find (and search through) than if I’d printed it. (The best way to do this, when a site has a printer-friendly version of a page, is to use something like PDFCreator to “print” a PDF copy to your hard drive).

But there are times when I do need to print—when I’d like to submit a manuscript to an editor, for example, or when I’d like a different “angle” on a draft (especially near-final drafts). The second line of defence in the war to save trees is to print on both sides of a sheet. Fancy printers will do this for you automatically (if they have a duplex-printing option), but all printers I’ve come across offer it as a manual option at a minimum (it will print all the odd pages, then you turn them over, return the stack to the paper feeder, and the even pages will print on their reverse sides). If this is your first time trying double-sided printing with your printer, a good technique to make sure you feed the paper in the correct way is to lightly mark the top and front of the top-loaded paper with a pencil, before sending the print job, and notice where your mark ends up when the odd pages have printed.

So far so good, but there’s a third line of defence: almost all printers have the option to print multiple pages to a sheet. When combined with double-siding, this feature allows you to easily print four pages on a single sheet. And although two pages per sheet is perfectly readable for most documents, I often print four pages per sheet, especially when I can control the font. Boosting the font size an increment or two might increase the final page count by a few pages, but by splitting a sheet into quarters and double-siding, I can print eight pages per piece of paper; that means I can print a three-hundred page manuscript with less than forty sheets of paper. (If, like me, you like having paper backups of your work, this is a fine way to store archival copies, and you can even bump down the font to just-readable levels. Think of it as your own personal microfiche library). (Although printing multiple pages per sheet has been around for a long time, it isn’t a well-publicized feature, and I only started using it when an internet search for “save paper while printing” brought me to this site:

By trying to reduce the amount of printing you do, and by using these techniques to minimize the amount of paper you use when you do print, you’ll be doing good by the environment, saving yourself money and trips to the paper-store, and even reducing the amount of storage space you need for your work.

As a final note, I would like to declare that no paper was used in the writing, editing, or publishing of this article.

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