Sep 24, 2013

Ditching the Personal Printer - A True Story

Why are home printer ink cartridges so dang expensive? They never last long, they always run out at the moment you need them the most, and they are made out of a ridiculous amount of plastic. And the refilling options seem to have an unacceptable failure rate. Does anyone else feel like perhaps we are being scammed here?

This infographic gives some shocking stats on ink cartridge costs and wastes. But while these numbers are of concern (especially in green-gazelley households such as yours and mine), the negative impacts we aren't talking about might be even more important.

It wasn't until the end of my last long-term office job that a friend of mine tipped me off to the health hazards of printers. Some studies show that desktop inkjet printers that you often get free with your computer, and that everyone has in there home or office or both could be really bad for your health (laser printers appear to be safer for now). It turns out that the offices of old, with their separate copy room housing ink-using equipment, might have been much better for us than the conveniently-located personal printer of today. Once I heard that, it was so obvious. But it had really never crossed my mind before.

I was once someone who couldn't imagine not having my own printer. For a while I even had a large format printer able to print 11x17. As one who dabbles in both graphic design and photography, I loved being able to see my work on paper. As one who is falls in the age group who is computer savvy, but still prefers to read from actual paper, I enjoyed the ability to rest my eyes from too much screen time while still reading something from the web. Environmentally friendly? Heck no.

But when we moved in January, I took the leap. I ditched our home printer. I had nearly finished school, we had just downsized our living space, and I didn't want to buy any more ink.

It turns out that life without a printer is pretty great. I still have things to print on occasion - resumes, doctors office documents, proof of car insurance. I go to either the local university or copy center to print by the page. The public library also offers printing. Often, forms a doctor asks you to fill out and bring to your appointment (for example) can be printed by the office and filled out there if you just let them know you don't have a printer. 

But believe it or not, there is much less necessary printing in my life than I would have thought. I have gotten used to reading digitally more often now, and much of my filing is now done on my computer (paperless) as well. Eliminating my home printer has reduced my use (and therefore expense) of paper, electricity, ink, ink cartridges and packaging, time trying to print something I really didn't need or those lengthy nozzle cleaning checks, and the new, better, gotta-have-it technology in printers that can convince us to replace an existing hunk of plastic made in China with a brand new one. Are you feeling me here? 

There are many of us who pretty much need a home printer - if you or a child is in school and needs to print regularly (like more than once a week), if you have a home based business and you have to print a lot, etc. In that case, perhaps there is a closet or porch where you can locate your printer to maintain good air quality in the areas of your house you tend to breathe in more often. But if it is necessary for you to print once a week or less, you might consider getting that beast out of your house. You'll save money, natural resources, time, and quite possibly your lungs. 

Have you chucked your printer, or are you considering it? How are you managing, or what are you worried might make it hard to live printerless?

Note: Links to other articles are provided to peak your interest in the topic. I am not guaranteeing their accuracy. You should always do your own research and fact-checking on anything you read on the internet.


  1. Just last night the husband and I were talking about our need for a printer, how weird! And how lucky. Nobody knows that printers are bad for your health! People in cities can go to a kinkos to have their stuff printed but we live in the sticks and my husband is a musician who loves to print off music and I love to print off spells, and recipes. but you know what? we have lived without one for a year..maybe it would be a great goal to consciously make a choice to go for another year without a printer! T~

    1. Great goal, cousin! If you find you really need one, perhaps you could locate it farther away from your living space, or share with a neighbor?

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