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A Balancing Act: Print Design and Environmentalism

Between Earth Day, Arbor Day, and a Netflix binge-watch of natural disaster movies, we’ve been thinking a lot about the environment lately. Print design is an integral part of what we do, and it’s got us wondering. Are we—with our Pantone swatches and full bleed brochures—killing the environment?

What impact does print media have on the environment?

You may be surprised. Because trees can be planted and replanted, they—and as a result, paper—are a renewable resource. And sustainable forest management ensures that the volume of harvested trees is replenished. According to the non-profit organization Two Sides, “Each year, forests in North America grow significantly more wood than is harvested.”

While the end product is renewable, the process of turning trees into paper is less eco-friendly. But there’s good news. A deeper dive reveals that, “With 0.8% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2017, the paper, pulp and printing sector is one of the lowest industrial emitters.”

Phew! We can rest a little easier about the impact of print design. But our work isn’t done. There are still a lot of opportunities to support the environment and minimize waste. Here are four ways you can go beyond recycling and support sustainability in your print projects.

Design Thoughtfully

Consider ways to reduce waste without sacrificing design quality. Can you reduce any white space? Or eliminate full bleeds? Design with efficiency in mind and make the most of the paper available.

Choose Eco-Friendly Paper and Inks

Whenever possible, opt for chlorine-free and post-consumer recycled paper. Use inks that are free of VOCs (volatile organic compounds), as they can contribute to air pollution.

Track Your Results

Consider creating and publishing a report of environmental data (or including this information in existing annual reports). This will allow you to better evaluate your progress and set goals.

Choose Your Vendors Wisely

Partner with suppliers that implement green practices and make efforts to minimize their environmental impacts. Look for certifications, like those from the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), the SFI (Sustainable Forest Initiative), and the SGP (Sustainable Green Printing Partnership).

We’re proud of our longstanding partnership with Canon Solutions America, whose commitment to sustainability drives every aspect of their business. In the design and manufacture of their industry-leading commercial printing presses, Canon incorporates carefully chosen and crafted technology that helps protect the planet. Eco-friendly approaches include the development of VOC-free aqueous pigment inks; a focus on maximizing the lifespan of their products; and enterprise-wide processes to reduce waste.

Canon also helps their production print customers build a positive sustainability portfolio through the Canon Eco Start Program. When a customer purchases a new production press, Canon engages Trees for the Future to plant trees in developing communities on behalf of that customer. This simple act not only helps tackle environmental degradation and restore biodiversity and natural greenspace but also impacts the livelihoods of local families. The donated trees help families plant sustainable Forest Gardens—a mix of trees and crops that provide fuel, food, and a way to engage in local commerce.

If you’re looking for a marketing partner with creative ways to align your print projects with your values, we’re ready to be your vendor of choice.

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