Printing Green – Resources & Tips

I thought I’d share with you all some of the research and info in regards to printing green. We’ve done a tremendous amount of research as a firm in order to educate our clients and make the best suggestions based on their needs and the best environmental choice.

In a recent issue of Dynamic Graphics, they published an article called PRINTING GREEN: 12 Things you need to know. The article is written primarily for design professionals and creative agencies, providing tips for making wiser eco-friendly choices and passing along that information to their clients. My favorite 3 items are below:

7. Educate your clients.
Many companies today are concerned with producing print materials and packaging made with sustainable resources. IBM, Coca-Cola, and Mc-Donald’s are just a few major businesses making an effort to publish shareholder reports on 100-percent recycled post-consumer content. But not all clients are familiar with “green” design and printing processes. You may find that you need to act as an eco-friendly project adviser.

8. Practice what you preach.
Set a good example to convince others to follow your lead. Consider incorporating these methods:

  • Conserve ink use by determining whether print projects need to be full color. Could a two-color design suffice instead?
  • Maximize ink staying power by substituting a Pantone color for metallic inks, which tend to degrade. (This reduces VOC emissions, too.)
  • Avoid wasting paper by designing to standard press sheet sizes (e.g., 23 x 35, 25 x 38, 26 x 40, 28 x 40). If a job is large enough, your printer can order a special sheet size from the mill. Since paper is sold by the pound, this approach can also save your client money.

9. Offset cost with creativity.
Some environmentally friendly products may be a bit more expensive. It’s important, however, not to view pricing issues as constraints. Instead, think creatively to help balance benefits with costs.

Design multifunctional projects—e.g., self-mailer/ program combos—to economize when using more expensive paper. Also, combining projects whenever possible is wise; one idea is to print business cards and postcards from the same recycled paper. In the long run your clients may save money, and they’ll also be honoring the environment.

We encourage you to read the rest of the article, linked here.

With all honesty, I am admitting that about a year and a half ago we printed up a batch of our company business cards from a discount -gang run printer. At that time, as a team, we were all committed to environmental causes, progressive social political causes, being active in the community, etc. However, at the time jungle [8] hadn’t positioned ourselves, our brand, as an eco-conscious, socially conscious brand development agency as we have grown into today. (baby steps are all part of the journey, the path getting you there…) Additionally, a year and a half ago, there wasn’t as much information out there about green printing, conservation and the effects the printing industry has on the environment as there is today. Today there is more green printing options and educating yourself is the first step which is the purpose for this posting. I am about to place a re- order for new business cards for me and a couple of our team. Compare the cost of $50 for 500 cards from a gang run printer, toxic UV coating and damages to the environment through the bleaching processes and use of virgin paper. I have placed an order for the same amount of cards, for a little over double the cost, but using 100% recycled paper, soy based inks, plant run of wind based energy and NONE OF THE GUILT! The cost difference creates a little perspective in terms of giving away the cards, actually acting more sustainable. The perception of being more sustainable is a mind shift for many. Even if you discover that going green means paying more, there are still many ways you can offset the costs:

  1. Consolidate

    Instead of holding four mail campaigns a year, try sending out three eco-friendly ones. The positive publicity generated by going green may in fact improve response rates, and you’ll be more likely to make the most of what you do send out. Or, offset costs with creativity, as listed above. from the Dynamic Graphics’ article. Also, combining projects whenever possible is wise; one idea is to print business cards and postcards from the same recycled paper.”

  2. Bypass the Middle Man

    Sourcing and managing a print project internally is not as complicated as it might sound. Pass those savings along to your client. Ask the printer to provide a digital proof and approve the job jointly with your client.

  3. Share the Glory

    Another way to offset costs is to ask a vendor to chip in. If your client is a non-profit, they may be willing to do so in some cases. Some printers will reduce their price if they can put their logo on the piece, and many will do so unobtrusively. Likewise, you could ask one of your funders to help cover the costs in exchange for a small promotion on the piece.

  4. Keep It Exclusive

    As an design agency, approach your favorite printer, offer exclusivity. Some printers may be inclined to offer discounts if you bring all (or most) of your business to them. Choosing an exclusive printer to print all of your client’s projects can result in a contract that can reduce costs the more work you send them.

renoursish published this download-able pdf checklist for sustainable design. I recommend applying the practices in this check list in every project.

Another resource is this 14 page download-able pdf FCS Chain of Custody Certified Printers. FCS stands for the Forest Stewardship Council. Here’s a web site called Buyer be Fair that talks more about the product certification. Here’s a little on how FCS works:

here are four main ways FSC works towards its goal of achieving sustainable forest management.

FSC sets international standards for responsible forest management, with all chambers meeting annually to assess current standards and develop new ones.

It accredits independent third-party organizations to certify forest managers and forest product producers to FSC standards and to conduct annual audits to make sure operations adhere to FSC principles.

The FSC Chain of Custody tracks products from the forest through all the steps of the production process until it reaches the end user.

Finally, the FSC product label enables consumers to recognize which products support responsible forest management.

The last link / resource I want to leave you with is the environmental calculator. This web based application will show you the environmental benefits in an easy to read report. (Suitable for displaying on your web site!) I recommend visiting this site and seeing how your choices make a difference.

If you are in the position to choose a printer or design a printing project for a client, please consider all the information and resources in this posting. I’d love to hear your thoughts or if there are other resources you’ve come across that you’d like to share.

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6 thoughts on “Printing Green – Resources & Tips”

  1. Rob says:

    PRINTING GREEN: 1Resources and Tips: These are some nice ideas!!

    I blogged about almost the exact same thing here:

    I called it: 10 Easy Steps to Save Thousands of $$$

    I ended-up with a more diverse list of things. However, What I found out was that everyone has a carbon footprint – it’s your own personal measure of how much carbon dioxide you create and how much you contribute to climate change. But by actually trying to reduce this you save lots of hard earned cash.

  2. lainie says:

    Thank you Rob! It seems that saving thousands of $$$ is only the tip of the iceberg. If people followed the items on your list, the real savings is on the earth. The idea of everyone leaving a carbon footprint is reality. However, it seems people don’t understand the impact their footprint leaves and how they can contribute to lowering it’s impact. Thanks again for linking to your list and such a wonderful resource.

  3. John Biggs says:

    Great article………thanks…….We’re just a humble consulting startup, but we’ll look at implementing this in our firm.

  4. lainie says:

    Good luck John! Let us know how it goes. Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions. Best!

  5. Ronn says:

    Great post I must say. Just wanted to share…I have recently come across a great green printer at They are FSC certified and really good.

  6. lainie says:

    Thanks for the tip, Ronn. I’ve added them to my growing directory of resources. Please feel free to send us more tips as you come across them!

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