A sustainable model for campus cost savings

Seven years into a system-wide push for a sustainable campus, Arizona State University (ASU) is on track to become completely carbon neutral by 2025. And it’s not just the campus environment that’s being saved — the university has reduced costs by $2 million a year.

ASU offered Canon a 20-year deal.

The project, called Sustainable Digital University, is a partnership with Canon, the imaging and electronics company. Through the arrangement, the university uses discounted Canon technology to reduce both costs and the number of printing and copying devices on campus.

For example, a Canon multi-function device can copy, fax, print and scan, potentially replacing four different machines. Canon also plans on introducing digital replacements for traditional print methods.

Check out our recent webinar on ASU’s Sustainable Digital University

The partnership first began taking shape in 2005 when the university realized it was time to update its printers, scanners, copy and fax machines.

“We needed $1.5 million to replace the fleet,” said Robert Lane, director of Digital Document Services at ASU. “We told the university what how much we needed, and they, of course, said ‘no way.’”

Lane was then tasked with finding a way to not only update the fleet, but also find a way to save money and energy. The solution would be to build what administrators call a sustainable digital university.

The university would need to strike a deal with a company willing to commit to a similar goal of sustainability and cost saving, even if it meant selling less machines.

ASU found that partner in Canon, offering them a rare 20-year deal.

Under the arrangement, ASU leases machines from Canon, instead of outright purchasing them. These machines can then be more easily switched out for newer, more efficient ones as they are created.

See page 2 for details on just how big an undertaking this was for ASU officials…

The first major challenge in implementing the program was assessing the condition of all of ASU’s machines. It was a large undertaking, comprising of 6,000 different units over 4 campuses. A large number of the machines, particularly copiers, were analog and needed to be upgraded to digital.

“ASU had this variety of devices,” said Stephen Agostini, director of solutions marketing for Canon’s Business Imaging Solutions Group. “We needed to understand usage and the needs of the students. From there, we had to take that info and find Canon technology that that best fit ASU’s requirements of sustainability.”

The university found a similar challenge in convincing some faculty to get on board with the plan, Lane said. Not all professors liked the idea of bringing in the new, more efficient technology, particularly if it meant removing their personal office printers.

“Most departments fought it tooth and nail,” Lane said. “Having a printer in your own office was a perk. Faculty didn’t want to give up that perk, when they’re giving up so many other things lately. But now they go along with it because they see the savings.”

Since officially switching to Canon in 2006, the university has saved more than 700 trees and 2.34 million liters of water. This has primarily been achieved by switching to duplex printing – producing images on both sides of paper, rather than just one side.

The number of printers has been reduced by 32 percent, cutting down the use of paper by 48 percent. That’s 107,000 reams of paper no longer used or needed on campus each year. Greenhouse gas emissions at the university have been reduced by 500 metric tons per year.

The university projects saving an additional 3,500 trees, 793,000 tons of Co2 emissions and 3,000,000 liters of water. Even with these strides, however, the goal of complete carbon neutrality could still be as much as 12 years away.

Carbon neutrality does not mean reducing carbon emissions totally, but achieving what are called “net zero carbon emissions” through a complicated balancing act of energy use.

It’s process of offsetting a measured amount of carbon emissions with an equal amount of renewable energy. Think using solar panels or planting more trees to help fight future greenhouse gas emissions.

ASU and Canon have accomplished at least 60 percent of their goal, so far.

“There’s been some growing pains,” said Paul Albano, senior manager of solutions marketing for Canon’s Business Imaging Solutions Group. “But it’s really going now and we’re well on our way to meeting our target.”

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