Greener Printing Practices That are More than Just PR
Everybody is going green! Or at least they’re trying to make it look that way. As a civilization we’re all gaining an awareness of our individual responsibilities in saving the environment. And of course businesses of all kinds are jumping on the band wagon. But when are their efforts real and when is it simply “green washing”? Using PR and marketing to create the perception that a business has green policies is often more popular than enacting changes to procedure. But when it comes to printing practices some companies really are making fundamental changes that can have a positive impact the environment. It doesn’t necessarily mean an overhaul or a major added expense. There are plenty of little ways that any business can engage in greener printing practices to help keep their day-to-day business a little kinder to the environment.
The most obvious way to implement greener printing habits is to make a move toward recycled paper. The virgin paper production process is taxing on natural respurces like trees, water and energy. According to the Environmental Defense fund, the creation of 1 ton of new, uncoated paper uses almost 3 tons of wood more than 19,000 gallons of water and results in over 2000 pounds of solid waste. That’s why it’s so important to try to use recycled paper as often as possible. While not all recycled paper is the same, the majority of recycled products created now are virtually indistinguishable from virgin paper in appearance. But there are a few key things to look for in recycled paper products. First you’ll want paper which is anywhere from 50- 100% post-consumer waste (PCW), you also want to look for the letters PCF which mean that the paper was Processed Chlorine Free. You can also choose paper that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Their approval means that the paper was made using renewable energy sources like wind or solar power. In some cases you can go completely tree-less and get paper made from kenaf or hemp. Even when you are outsourcing printing, you can select these kinds of paper for everything from business cards to brochures and presentation materials.
Recycled and Alternative Inks
Another easy step any business can take is to make a commitment to recycling ink and using recycled ink. Each year over 300 million ink cartridges are thrown away, and each one of them will take over 500 years to decompose. When you simply throw away empty office ink cartridges they wind up in landfills where they disseminate cancer causing Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) into the ground. Rather than tossing out used ink cartridges, send them back to the manufacturer or visit any number of local establishments like Staples or Office Max where they have ink recycling programs in place.
When you are buying ink, there are a few ways you can make greener choices. First, buying recycled ink tends to be a little bit cheaper. And because there are environmental consequences to the production of every single new ink cartridge, from both the cartridge itself and the toner inside, using recycled cartridges is the greener choice. Manufacturing one single ink cartridge results in almost 11lbs of GHG (Green House Gas) emissions. Add to that, about 6lbs of emissions from the ink and you have 17 pounds of GHG’s for every single new ink cartridge. But buying recycled or refillable cartridges spares the environment the production of new ones and keeps empty cartridges out of landfills.
Perhaps the greenest choice in printer inks are vegetable or soy based. Traditional inks are petroleum based meaning that they use fossil fuels and are non-renewable. But vegetable and soy inks on the other hand are completely renewable and are priced competitively. While soy ink takes a bit longer to dry it is also easier to recycle on paper. The main benefit of soy and vegetable inks though is their relatively low amount of VOCs. Not every soy ink is the same, but you can get inks which have less than 2% VOCs. The disadvantages of course are that soy won’t work with many personal printers or coated paper like magazines. But many larger printing companies are now using them regularly, meaning that all you need to do is outsource to a printer that utilizes vegetable based inks.
Of course the ultimate way to green your printing process is to cut paper and ink out of the equation as much as possible altogether. There are plenty of practical ways to cut down on paper internally and in marketing.
- Replace inter office memos with emails, an intranet or another web-based communication platform.
- Cut back on marketing materials like flyers and brochures and experiment with online marketing techniques. Internet marketing is a whole new landscape for advertising, and you can do an amazing amount of promotion through strategies involving social media, email marketing and online coupon codes.
- Ditch traditional newsletters and switch to digital ones.
- Rather than printing reports or booklets, consider digital power point presentations or small websites for meetings.
- Implement a “paperless policy” in the office, encouraging employees to only print what is absolutely necessary. And when something must be printed, set the printer default on double-sided to cut down on the amount of paper needed for the job.
Going 100% paperless is hard for any business, but if you make paper use reduction an active goal, you’ll find that you can cut down on your paper consumption significantly.
The truth is anyone can call anything “greener” these days because it’s a hot buzz word. But truly taking steps to help reduce your carbon footprint requires work and conscious effort. The choices your company makes about printing products, policies and vendors will determine how green your printing practices truly are. There are simple decisions and difficult decisions in business, but taking tiny steps to help the environment should be the easiest decision a company ever makes.
Juliet writes most often for Print Express a UK Printing company that offers FSC certified materials, recycled products and uses vegetable based inks. Juliet has been working in marketing, advertising and brand consulting for many years.