Green, green, green. Eco, eco, eco. Have to say I’m sick of the words myself, but I am not sick of what they represent. The possibilities of living sustainably always bring excitement and innovative thought along with unique challenges and opportunities.
For the print industry, the future of printing is here, now. And designers can play a crucial role. Providing green options to clients is a commitment by both parties to the health of print house employees, the members of our communities and the health of the planet for generations to come. Such a commitment speaks volumes and far exceeds saving a few dollars on print costs. If looked at correctly, it’s even a way to advertise where one stands, without being heavy-handed, all rolled into print costs. That’s pretty effective, given that consumers are becoming more and more savvy as to where and how to spend their hard earned money. That choice, that dollar spent, is a way to vote, not just every 4 years, but each and every day.
- • The US has the largest paper industry in the world.
• According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA) the US papermaking industry used 75 Billion kilowatt hours of energy in 2006… second only to the petroleum industry.
• Large organizations typically spend between 5% and 35% of every dollar spent (exclusive of labor) on paper and printing.
• The print industry is the largest employer in the US, believe it or not, more than the automobile industry or any other.
(Source: Institute for Sustainable Communication)
The Next Generation
Rolling Press, Park Slope, Brooklyn is one of many printers finding ways to provide high quality print product without the highly toxic chemicals used in the past. I have previously written about Monroe Litho based in Rochester, New York, who precede most, as the front runners of the environmental printing movement. There are varying degrees of certifications among printers, similar to organic foods. Some have no official certifications, yet run their company to the highest standards and others have verifiable 3rd party accountability.
Choosing A Green Printer: 5 Key Considerations
There are several levels of sustainable paper options available. Your printer should be knowledgeable as to the differences in each and guide you to the best fit for your project.
• Produced from sustainable power sources
• Made from pre & post-consumer waste, varying percentages
• Tree free papers
• Alternative fibers
• Certified by one or more of the following: FSC, SFI, PEFC, Green Seal
See this post for more info on sustainable papers.
• Soy & Vegetable based inks—Alternative to traditional petroleum-based ink, available in brighter colors, easier to recycle paper. Downside: It is slower to dry than many inks.
• UV Inks—Fast drying, non-solvent based, less wasted ink in the process.
Find out what energy sources are being used to operate the facility. Many companies use alternative, renewable energy sources such as solar, wind or hydro-electric power. Monroe Litho has been 100% wind powered since 2006.
Get the skinny on their status. Look for certifications by a verifiable 3rd party. The certifications will apply to the papers used, the sources of energy and inks. See this post for a guide to some of the major certifications with links to their websites for more information.
Find out what the company is doing in their daily operations to become more environmentally friendly.
• How much recycling do they practice?
• What kind of social initiatives do they support?
• How are employees valued?
• What goals have they set toward reducing their environmental impact?
In summation, your printer is your partner, an extension of your business, make sure it is a company you would stand behind as you would your own. Be sure their practices and values align with yours, that way you can stand behind any project you produce 100%. Go visit a print shop you are considering working with. By the way, if they are in your geographic radius, all the better. Have fun with it, get to know these people. You might be able to move mountains together!!