Hey, you’ve seen an Inconvenient Truth. You know the deal. You aren’t going to be the one responsible for the polar bears not having ice to walk on. You probably already have made some environmentally conscious changes in your own life. You recycle and you use cloth bags when you go shopping. You’ve replaced your daily bottle of water with a reusable earth friendly version. You might even be walking or biking to work or the grocery store.
But now you want to take the next step and bring that green attitude into your work. But how you ask? This easy guide will help you get started on making your next print project a greener one.
The Paper Chase
Paper has come a long way and you will find you have a lot more green options in this area.
You should be looking for recycled papers with a significant amount of post consumer waste in them. You’ll find this information by looking at the recycle symbol on the paper you are looking at. A good rule of thumb is to shoot for at least 30% post consumer content for uncoated papers and 10% for coated By choosing recycled papers you are not only saving trees you are reducing landfills, saving water and energy, and even improving our air quality.
In the past paper, manufacturers commonly used elemental chlorine to bleach papers to make them bright white. These days more paper producers use chlorine dioxide like what is used in swimming pools. While chlorine dioxide is less hazardous to the environment it is still an environmental polluter.
For your green project you are going to want to be looking for processed chlorine free (PCF) or totally chlorine free (TCF) papers. PCF papers are recycled papers in which only the recycled portion of the paper gets bleached. TCF papers are papers made from 100% pure fiber from an original source and they receive no bleaching. TCF papers are much rarer these days however since fewer papers are made without some recycled content in them.
Also consider alternative tree-free papers. These innovative solutions, while more costly, add depth and interest to your projects while being friendly to the earth. For example there are papers made from vegetable fibers like hemp, flax, cereal straw, corn and even papers made from reclaimed blue jean cotton and natural stone or limestone.
The Ink Link
Petroleum-based inks leech volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) into the soil when paper they have been printed with end up in landfills and into the air as the inks dry. VOC’s can cause cancer and birth defects.
Check with your printer to see how they dispose of their unused ink. Also check to see if they can print your project with soy based inks which are naturally much lower in VOC’s and made from a sustainable crop. Almost 15% of soy ink is biodegradable.
If your printer doesn’t dispose of ink in an environmentally friendly way and cannot print with soy inks consider switching printers.
If your project is a simple four-color short run job-like postcards, business cards, or stationary-seriously consider digital printing. Digital printing is even more environmentally friendly that soy inks because it produces less chemical waste and uses non-toxic biodegradable toners.
Other Ways to Be Green
Be creative and you can take the greening of your work to a whole new level. Beyond choosing the right papers and inks perhaps you can find other ways to be kind to the earth. Maybe you can create double-duty pieces like a business card/promotional bookmark or use the same paper for more than one project.
Be sure to design with the environment in mind. For example save on paper by creating projects that can be printed on standard press sheet sizes (check with your printer if you are unsure what sizes these are) and don’t use a four color design when a two color version would be just as good or a metallic ink when a regular-longer lasting lower VOC producing-pantone would do.
With a little extra research, a dash of creativity, and a true commitment your next print project could be a green one.