Office appliances and the road to net-zero

In this guest post, Boris Manev, head of sustainability and government affairs at Epson Europe, sets out the role that energy-efficient peripherals can have on helping enterprises achieve their net-zero goals.

What do places such as Alaska and Italy have in common this summer? While in completely opposite parts of the world, they have both seen extreme and deadly events brought about by climate change. Alaska has been suffering from weeks of dry weather and wildfires, while Italy has seen extreme drought and the collapse of a large glacier which crushed ten people.

These events are not isolated but indicative of a wide and accelerating trend. The need to address climate change with far-reaching actions by individuals and businesses across every industry and activity is becoming urgent.

In fact, the latest analysis from the International Energy Agency (IEA) says failure to meet its net zero decarbonisation scenario risks a 100% increase in the frequency of extreme heatwaves and a 40% increase in ecological droughts. Without action, devastating climate change scenarios such as displacement of human communities and animal extinction will be likely.

While the contribution of every individual or organisation may feel insignificant compared to the scale of the climate crisis, incremental changes in behaviour and energy use can make a big difference.

Let’s explore how changing the technology you use, stronger international cooperation and change in behaviour can reverse the current trend and limit global warming beneath the key threshold of 1.5 ˚C.

Tackling appliance emissions

As the world becomes technologically more advanced and populations in developing regions continue to grow, appliance ownership will continue to increase. Therefore, improving the energy efficiency of appliances – and reducing the energy required to produce and run appliances – is crucial to reaching net zero emissions by 2050.

The use of appliances accounts for a very significant share of any building’s carbon footprint. In fact, the electricity consumed by appliances for uses including cooking, cleaning, lighting, information technology and entertainment represents roughly 15% of global electricity demand.

Selecting energy-efficient office appliances and consuming less energy are important actions for businesses and individuals seeking to reduce carbon emissions that drive climate change.

For example, research by Dr Tim Forman of the University of Cambridge, summarised in the Epson “Lower the heat” report, analysed the environmental footprint of different printing technologies, comparing inkjet and laser printer carbon emissions over a typical four-year period. The findings show significantly lower carbon emissions associated with inkjet printers compared to laser printers.

In fact, a worldwide switch to inkjet from laser printing technology by 2025 could reduce energy emissions to 52% of current levels. This reduction is equivalent to taking about 280,000 cars off the road for a year.

Call for international cooperation

To keep the world on track for a net-zero carbon future, the energy consumed globally by appliances must fall on average by approximately 25% from 2020 levels by 2030 and 40% by 2050.

This is no mean feat and requires greater international cooperation and wide support by key political institutions and decision makers.

The progress made in the lighting sector serves as a great example of best practice to be replicated in other areas of household and office appliances, including printing technology.

Technological advancements in artificial lighting, such as improved uptake of LED light fittings, have reduced energy consumption in this subcategory substantially, reinforcing how incremental changes can mitigate total carbon emissions.

We call on decision-makers to encourage the uptake of more efficient appliances. As we saw with lighting regulations, this has the potential to accelerate action and drive down the costs of energy efficient appliances. Another important aspect is product labelling. Energy efficiency labels are proving to be an important tool in promoting environmentally-friendly products and helping consumers make informed choices.

Every single choice is important

Reducing the energy required to power our appliances in our homes and workplaces, including printers, is critical to minimising the devastating impacts of climate change.

Every single individual and organisation has a responsibility and a choice to act now. If everyone on the planet makes one positive change, it can have a huge overall positive impact.

For businesses, the responsibility for change extends into their partner networks and supply chains. They must question the environmental commitments of suppliers and partners to check if they align with their own environmental standards. Influencing the activities of other businesses spreads awareness of effective practices and extends the beneficial impact for the company and the planet.

The future is in our hands. The one thing we have control over is our choice of technology and how we consume energy – and we can make the world a better place one appliance at a time.

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