There is no doubt that printing is not environmentally friendly. Regardless of what is printed text of photos printing involves using paper ink and printers all polluting the environment.
Sometimes printing is necessary and can not be avoided but in many other cases printing is just done out of ease laziness or because of people being used to working with paper instead of working with electronic screens and terminals.
Digital photos printing is a very good example of how habits can make people print stuff that they sometimes would never use or that they could use in better different digital era ways. Digital photos are computer files. They can be easily transferred and copied to multiple digital devices including digital cameras computers digital photo frames and more. Digital photos are taken for one main reason which is simply to be able to view them again or to show them in the future to other people. While looking at photo prints was common for many years during the film camera era it is essentially old technology.
Digital photos can be enjoyed by viewing them on the digital cameras itself or better on a larger computer or TV screen. Special devices like digital photo frames can also be used to view digital photos in new and exciting ways.
But photo printing is not the only printing consumers and business people do. Printing of documents is also very common. Many people print word documents or even emails in order to read review and write their comments. In those cases printing is done for one time use which is by any means very wasteful. It is better if such people would get used to using a computer for reading and reviewing documents. While it can take a bit to getting used to reviewing documents on a computer has many advantages.
If there is no other choice and printing must be done for example when in a need to print and sign a contract between two or more parties then there are ways to try and avoid the environmental impact of such printing. One easy way is to always print on both sides of the paper. More and more new printers support double side printing. If you are planning to buy a new printer make sure that it can print on both paper sides. Printing on both sides simply reduces paper use by about half.
Another way to save on the environmental impact is by printing black and white prints whenever color is not really needed. All printers today are color printers but a simple option on the print dialog allows any documents to be printed in black and white instead of color. Color printing is more wasteful as it requires three different ink sources.
And lastly the printer itself has an environmental impact as it takes energy and resources to build the printer. To help reducing that impact you can try to use your printer for as long as you can before opting to buy a new one. It is true that printers today are cheap mostly because the manufacturers make their profits from selling special ink cartridges and paper but cheap printers are still bad for the environment. When buying a new printer make sure you make a buying decision not purely based on price but that also takes into consideration the usefulness lifetime of the printer. And as any printer will break and end its service at one time or another it is best to use environmentally safe ways to dispose of printers. Do not just put an old printer in the garbage. Mail it or take it to a printer recycling center many available from the bigger printer makers.
Danette Mckay explains about this subject in more depth at photo printing