It has become a routine part of any given week to hear from IT companies about "green" innovations - products or prototypes designed to have less of an effect on the environment.
Companies of all sizes and types are part of this trend and besides developing greener products, they also are more focused internally on operating with greater energy efficiency, cutting their own costs and reducing the "carbon footprint" they leave. What follows are just two examples, one from the large Xerox, and the other from the small Userful.
In the case of Xerox, the New York-based company announced a new type of paper that is more environmentally friendly. With Userful, the news was that the company figured out how much one of its products cuts in CO2 emissions, putting concrete figures on an environmental component to its software.
'Breakthrough' printing paper saves trees, costs less
Ask Bruce Katz how long it took Xerox to develop its new High Yield Business Paper, which uses less wood pulp, water and chemicals to manufacture, and he laughs and says "about 30 years".
The project manager for paper design and quality, "paper technologist" for short, Katz has been with Xerox for 27 years and throughout that time the company has talked periodically to newsprint makers about designing better newsprint, but none of them was ever interested in taking the idea beyond that step until October 2006.
Once his paper team got rolling with the idea, it was on the market fairly quickly, with the company taking orders for the new product now. The new paper is made using a mechanical pulping process, which is the method for making newsprint and offset-printing paper common for directories, catalogues and flyers.
It's not archival quality, isn't suitable for inkjets, and shouldn't be used for documents that are meant to be kept for a long time or that are official, such as contracts and the like, but it's fine for transactional jobs such as printing up invoices or for use in ordinary office black-and-white printing.
Xerox says that the paper is the first of its kind that works reliably in digital printers and copiers, partly because it doesn't curl.
The paper comes from a mill using hydroelectricity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75% compared to other mills. The paper also weighs less than paper made using traditional chemical processes, so it comes with about 10% more pages per pound, making it less costly to ship and mail, and less expensive in cost overall. Comparatively, it's about 5% less than the company's 4200 business paper, says Maggie Ochs, a marketing manager at Xerox.
Wood chips are ground in machines to loosen their fibres and make pulp, but wood chemicals stay in the fibre, so twice as much paper is produced per tree, according to Xerox.