If you’ve ever heard of Kermit the Frog, then you may have heard his mantra, “Its not easy being green.” And, for many major manufacturers and consumers today, those words have never rung truer.
But for Seiko Epson, being “green” comes naturally; after all they’ve been implementing sustainability practices since the 1950’s. All over the world, in each of Epson’s markets, the company hopes to help their customers achieve sustainability by striving to fufill their own mantra: “Better products that use fewer resources help ensure a better future for us all.”
To accomplish this lofty ideal, Epson strives for excellence in four main areas: Energy Savings and Efficiency, Preservation of Resources, Elimination of Harmful Substances, and Recyclability.
Energy Savings and Efficiency
Epson sets energy conservation standards for each product during conception and the aim is to continue to improve on those standards with each new product announcement. For instance, the total energy consumption of the Epson Artisan 700 All-in-One (AIO) printer (released in 2008) is 57% less per day than the Stylus Photo RX600 AIO (released in 2003). That’s a good chunk of energy if you leave your printer on all day while working.
Reduction in total power consumption per day
They also strive to meet initiatives in all markets. In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has created the Energy Star guidelines to help manufacturers get their products up to current efficiency standards. Since 2002, Epson products have been designed to increase efficiency while meeting the EPA’s strictest requirements – even if not necessary in certain markets.
Epson tries to conserve energy in-house; they’ve reduced their energy consumption 5% to 10% over the past three years in their corporate headquarters. Several distribution centers have had their lighting replaced with energy efficient light, and Epson factories practice a closed loop cycle, reusing waste.
Preservation of Resources
Another way Epson tries to minimize consumption is by reusing materials and eliminating waste across the entire product life cycle.
Since 2007, Epson products have had an average recyclable rate of 92.5% meeting requirements set by the European Union’s WEE directive, which requires products to be recyclable. All products are designed with recyclability in mind and flame retardants have been eliminated in 70 % of products.
In addition to removing flame retardants, Epson also uses paint-free plastic housing for their printers – again meeting a WEE requirement that stated that manufacturers had to be able to separate paint and plastic.
Another way Epson is reducing their impact on natural resources is the reduced volume of user manuals. Currently, products are shipped with CD’s that contain the specific model’s user manual but users can access it online as well.
Epson packages some ink cartridges in boxes made from 100% recycled paper although it varies depending on demand and locality. The goal would be to someday make this type of packaging universal but that is currently not feasible due to lack of recycled materials available.
Epson’s biggest project in this area is the Environmental Vision 2050, an effort to help reduce greenhouse gases by reduction of resources. The 2050 Vision was introduced in June 2008 with the main goal of reducing CO2 emissions 90% by the year 2050.
Elimination of Harmful Substances
Epson began eliminating harmful substances from wastewater in their facilicties in the 1950’s – an early leader no doubt.
In 1988, they began implementing CFC-free initiatives; today, they are the first company worldwide to do away with CFC’s in their manufacturing resources.
Not only have they eliminated CFC’s, but Epson products are RoHS complaint worldwide and were close to a year before the official deadline. Epson is continuously looking for ways to reduce as many toxins as possible from their products. The company keeps a running database of close to 200,000 materials to make sure they are either completely eliminated from products or used in the proper amounts in conjunction with the strictest laws and standards available for a certain market.
They also started a program in 2004 so that all Epson’s suppliers or vendors are held to sustainability standards – another offshoot of their 2050 Vision.
As a part of their Vision 2050 program, Epson uses the 3R design guide – Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle – when addressing the recyceablility goal. For instance, Epson manufacturing facilities are now set up to reduce any unnecessary pollutants before the manufacturing process begins, then recapture waste (carbon dioxide, waste water, particles) during the process and reintroduce scraps, leftover materials into the lifecycle or recycle them.
Epson began recovery of ink in 1993 but Epson cartridge programs in the U.S. did not being until 2004 with the first toner recovery programs. In 2008, Epson began inkjet cartridge recovery programs in the U.S.
Epson also introduced a U.S. product recycling program in 2002. Consumers pay $10 up front for each item returned – covers shipping – but will receive a $5 coupon good for any future Epson product found at the Epson Store.