EcoCat vs Dell

7 March 2010

Not Clear On The Concept: Dell’s “Green” Ink

by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango + Ink-Devouring Eco Junkie

I have a love-hate relationship with my Canon MP500 printer. Love because it prints out professional looking photos. Hate because its insatiable thirst for ink is robbing me dry, like NYPD cops in a perfume warehouse.

Indeed, according to one study, it would be significantly cheaper to refill my printer with Chanel No. 5.  And as the chart below notes, printer ink costs more than human blood, penicillin or vodka.

relative prices of different liquids

Source: Gizmodo

After burning through hundreds of dollars in ink, I now do most of my printing on a Dell laser printer — a move I should have made years ago — but I still use the Canon for photos and graphics.

Then one day, while ordering some laser toner on the Dell website, I noticed something called Dell NextLife Ink. NextLife’s remanufactured cartridges supposedly last longer than regular cartridges and are more environmentally responsible. According to the Dell site, “if roughly 1% of the ink cartridges thrown into landfills every year were remanufactured by NextLife, the carbon savings over new cartridges would equate to planting almost 15,000 new trees.”

That sounded convoluted and contrived. But since I’m a lifelong environmentalist who regularly recycles jokes, I was game. I’ve tried other off-brand ink cartridges made in China, and they just don’t work. Since this is Dell, and their laser printer has been problem-free so far, I decided to try their Canon-compatible cartridge.

The cartridge is smaller than a can of Altoids, so I expected it to arrive in a padded envelope. But as you can see in the photo, it came in a 12″ x 9″ x 3″ box lined with foam. (The cartridge is the dark item wrapped in cellophane in the middle.)

EcoCat vs Dell

EcoCat is not amused.

Inside was the cartridge’s own box and a Dell ad. Altogether, it wasn’t exactly Chernobyl, but it was still less eco-friendly than if I had driven alone in a Hummer at top speed to a Staples across the state and bought a brand-new Canon cartridge along with a plastic store bag while drinking bottled water made from a genuine Antarctic glacier.

If this cartridge doesn’t work, maybe I’ll try blood next. It’s reportedly cheaper and less painful.

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches graduate-level marketing communication courses at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

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