For those of you in the printing business, you might often get chided for not doing enough to reduce your carbon footprint through eco-friendly practices. However, there are measures you can take both in-house and during production that are not only smart, but they also reduce the impact on the environment.

Ever since "eco-friendly" became a buzzword, I've watched as printing practices evolved from downright eco-unfriendly and morph into highly sustainable ones. As society has become more progressive on certain issues, people are increasingly expecting and demanding choices that are more sustainable (from businesses that put in the effort to go green)--including everything from biodegradable shopping bags to boxes and packaging that are created digitally rather than using dye based ink.

One study on eco-friendly products and services reported that just over 80 percent of consumers are intrigued with purchasing and using products and/or services that are environmentally friendly. While certain consumers are not particularly concerned about sustainability, it is interesting to note that a vast number of them will not refuse to purchase products that are green, and some will not purchase a product if it is not.

The Digital Wave

Before the turn of the century, print shops used printing presses, which themselves used toxic ink and stacks of paper that waited in line to be printed. In the present state of the digital world, toner, paper, and digital presses are used in growing numbers. Eco-friendly practices have entered the industry and the harmful impact on the environment has been decreased significantly.

The Highcon Euclid is the world's first production speed digital cutting and creasing machine. Its digital workflow boasts not only efficiency, but also a reduced carbon footprint.

Companies and organizations leverage social media and online digital marketing to broadcast their causes and campaigns. Even though this has removed a lot of the negative impacts on the environment, there is still a huge need for printed collateral, ranging across a variety of items like newsletters, brochures, business cards, boxes, and paper wrapping. From the start of the printing process to the end, you can see that the entire supply chain is much more conscious about the environment and how we can reduce and prevent waste.

Here are some tips for reducing waste and becoming more eco-friendly when printing, whether you are an established print house or a company or organization that's invested in an office printer. By the same token, consumers out there can also exhibit consciousness by asking about eco-friendly print options available for selection. I've included a bit of an explanation when warranted.

  • Utilize email as a communication tool, keeping proofs flowing digitally throughout the process and reducing paper waste. Customers rarely need to visit the print shop now, as they can stay updated on each stage of the process reducing the need to get into their car and drive over to see each step personally. Hence, they reduce their overall carbon footprint during this business exchange.
  • Move on to digital printing. This type of printing uses nontoxic toner, which reduces chemical waste. If a switch to digital isn't in the cards, there is no need to fret, as traditional printing has seen greater green advancements over the past few decades.
  • Downgrade the size and weight of materials. Design pieces that are more compact, reducing the overall number of materials needed. Look at it this way: you might discover that if you trim half an inch off of the cover off of a 2,000 page booklet, you'll save over 800 press sheets with no harm done to the design of the final products. Final products that are also lighter in weight reduce carbon emissions as well as cost by trimming the shipping fees.

As you can see, there is an ongoing demand for printing. We notice it most during holiday seasons when we see boxes full of presents and bundles of holiday stationery. We also see it daily in business, from business cards to billboards and everything in between. As printing continues to remain on the market with steady demand, the whole idea going forward is to reduce the impact.