There’s been a lot of talk over the past few years about going green. One of the drums people beat in the Green movement is to eliminate printing all together and try to avoid it at all costs. Banks and other services are requesting that people sign up for e-statements, and businesses are moving to digital forms of marketing like e-mail newsletters, in lieu of print mail-outs. We agree with avoiding print wherever possible. It’s a great way to cut costs while doing your part for the environment. However, there are some situations where printing is required, and unavoidable in some businesses. In those situations, green printing is a healthy alternative. We’ve put together a brief intro to help you get started. It’s by no means extensive, but it arms you with enough knowledge to find a printer who can take you the rest of the way.
Greening your INK:
When purchasing inks (or using a professional printer), seek out non-toxic inks! That seems obvious enough, but to understand non-toxic inks (as opposed to traditional Petroleum-based inks), you’ll need to know your alternatives. SOY and VEGETABLE based inks are what you are in search of. These inks are biodegradable, better for employee health and (thankfully) produce lesser carbons. Soy inks are available in brighter colors, improve the lifespan of printers and make it easier to recycle paper. But, be aware of a couple of things. Not all soy inks are the same. Try to use those with less than 2% VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Also, when using Pantone colors, it is important to avoid colors that contain barium, copper and zinc as much as possible (this is usually associated with metallic and warm red tones).
If you are just now learning about green printing, chances are your printer is currently stocked with petroleum-based ink. This common form of ink is known to leave VOCs (remember that term from above?) in the soil and ground water. These are the same toxins related to the formation cancer and birth defects in humans/animals.
Greening your PAPER:
Non-toxic coatings are what we are hunting for when it comes to the paper department. Contrary to popular belief, a partial or full-gloss finish can be achieved with WATER-BASED products, and you get to avoid all those harmful toxins.
Choose recycled and PCF (processed chlorine-free) papers over Virgin Fibers (100% pure fiber from an original source). You can save 12-24 trees by making this simply switch to recycled paper. Hooray!
The production of paper can be a taxing process on forests, water and energy supplies. According to eco-advocacy group, Environmental Defense, producing one ton of virgin uncoated paper requires three tons of wood, 19,075 gallons of water and generates 2,278 pounds of solid waste. This paper is often bleached through a chlorination process that releases dangerous chemicals and pollutants into the water.
Greening your BINDING:
Avoid binding when possible. However, if binding is necessary, request saddle-stitching or water-based adhesives. In comparison to the petroleum-based versions, these binding options are easily removed in the recycling process and (most importantly) contain less VOCs and chemicals.
Becoming green certified is certainly a smart consideration and offers a competitive advantage to your business. When choosing a printing company, it is important to verify their certifications. This demonstrates commitment to sustainability and ensures that the proper eco-plan is in place. While there are many ways for a company to become green certified, the following two are what you should be looking for as it attains to green printing.
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC): Being certified by these standards guarantees that forest products used within this company are from responsibly harvested and verified sources.
Green Business Bureau Membership (GBB): offers a step-by-step action plan for achieving green initiatives, recognizes when these initiatives have been met (through online tracking) and offers a GBB seal for your website.
Using CARBON OFFSETS:
Reduce as much carbon as possible, and offset the rest. When reductions become impossible or too radical for your company, an option is to buy an offset. Essentially, this allows you to fund projects that work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Companies often purchase carbon offsets in order to reduce their carbon footprints and build their green image. Consider offsets for your business or look for printing companies that make this a part of their eco-solution when sending your work off to a professional.
Defining ENERGY CREDITS:
The best definition we’ve read yet…
“Many companies which cannot invest in their own solar panels or wind turbines purchase green energy credits. These credits represent the renewable energy resources associated with power production. When they are certified, they are eligible for renewable energy certificates (RECs). The credit can be sold, bartered or traded and the green energy credits represent the source of the energy produced.”
Is it CHEAPER?
“Going green” typically has the same stigma as eating organic…”We know its better, but it’s SO expensive”. We are here to tell you this is simply not true, especially in the printing world! In fact, you can substantially reduce your processing costs by going green. If you are printing multiple projects over a period of time, attempt to consolidate and print as much at one time as possible. This can save energy and paper while showing wallet benefits as well. An added perk is that having an eco-friendly system in place will generate more customers and followers, increasing your profit margins. Organic inks and paper are competitively priced and remain standard to those traditional inks you’ve been using.
Questions to ask:
When searching for a printer, check to see what their eco-solution is for their company. Use the handy terms you’ve learned here (ie. VOC, PCF, REC) and find out how they can accommodate your green printing needs. In addition, ask them the following questions:
- Do you have a formal recycling and waste reduction policy in action?
- Do you have an eco-preferable policy?
- Do you offer waterless or digital printing?
- Are you FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified?
We hope this guide helps you make the shift to greener printing policies for your company. We think the benefits outweigh the costs, and any company that moves to greener policies will experience an immediate benefit to their brand.