HP is implementing a new Eco Highlights labelling plan for its printers, claiming this will draw attention to the environmentally friendly credentials of the products and encourage consumers to 'go green'.

The labels will be introduced on four printers - the Deskjet D2545 colour inkjet and the LaserJet P4015x, P4515x and P4515xm black-and-white laser printers - and are intended to aid in comparison shopping for environmental benefits. But the Eco Highlights plan is solely an HP initiative. Bill DeLacy, general manager of HP's imaging and printing group for EMEA, acknowledged that the company is not working with any other printer manufacturers to introduce equivalent measures.

Klaus Hieronymi, a spokesperson for HP's environmental business management organisation, claimed that, while reducing the environmental impact of printers is important, the biggest cause of carbon-dioxide emissions in printing is in fact caused by paper manufacture.

Hieronymi said the simplest way to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from printing activities is to use less paper, and this is the motivation for HP's focus on enabling duplex printing by default in its printer management software and for setting the goal of having 80 percent of printing in its own offices done on both sides of the paper.

However, while HP heralds the labels as clear and simple to read, they are likely to produce as many questions as answers. For example, shouldn't printing on both sides of the paper cut paper consumption by 50 percent, rather than the 25 percent claimed by HP? That depends on the proportion of single-page documents that you print.

The device's Instant-On technology is said to yield up to 50 percent energy savings, but that, too, depends on other factors. In this case it's compared to products that use traditional fusing, but buyers will need to know whether their existing printers have a traditional fuser to figure out their savings.

Indeed, "It depends" is Hieronymi's stock answer to many questions, including whether it is more environmentally friendly to continue using an 11-year-old HP LaserJet 4 plus or to discard it, replacing it with a newer model.

What questions like that depend on is something HP plans to address with a carbon footprint calculator it will put online at the end of June. The calculator will take into account the new and old printers' electricity consumption, and also the source of the electricity: Norway's use of hydroelectric power means electricity consumed there generates only 100 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour, compared to 850g/kW/h in China, where coal-fired generators are more common, said Hieronymi.

As it reduces its printers' energy consumption, HP wants to increase the level of recycled materials they contain three-fold by 2011, with those materials coming primarily from old HP printers.

That's now becoming possible because HP has spent the past four or five years redesigning its printers 'for recyclability', as the Eco Highlights label of the P4515 puts it, using far fewer kinds of plastic. The new Deskjet D2545 is one of the first fruits of that work. Five-sixths of the plastic it contains is recycled.

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