Environmental printing is something many of us find somewhat ironic. How can printing be “environmental?” In the digital age, how can consuming a paper product, using inks and industrial processes ever be green? But printing can be earth-friendly — as long as you consider the following:
Many papers are now composed of 100 percent recycled matter and are processed without chlorine bleach. And while the paper recycling process does consume some new pulp, environmentally friendly paper manufacturers collect or purchase this new pulp (sometimes called “virgin pulp”) from a sustainable forest, managed by a company that replants the trees to replace the ones used. A paper manufacturer that relies on pulp from old growth forests is far less environmentally friendly by comparison. If you’re looking for a green printer, look for one with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification.
Eco-friendly inks and coatings
Green printing relies heavily on eco-friendly inks, which are manufactured with soy or other vegetable dyes. Eco-friendly inks (made from soy) are made by refining and blending soy oil with pigments, resins and wax. The resulting inks spread further than traditional inks and are reported to last longer. They can also be removed more easily than regular inks, which helps during the recycling process. Look for a printer that uses low-VOC, soy-based inks, and alcohol-free dampening solutions. Also ask about paper coatings. Water-based, low-ammonia emission aqueous coatings are more environmentally friendly that other coating methods.
The place where a paper product is manufactured is just as important as the components of the product itself. The most eco-friendly facilities are carbon-neutral, use sustainable power sources (when available) such as wind and solar power, and offer digital printing in addition to or to complement traditional offset. Digital processes that use non-toxic dry inks use far less electricity than comparable traditional presses. There are even some green printers that recycle some of the energy used in their printing processes to heat and cool their own buildings. The options for eco-friendly facilities are boundless, so be sure to ask questions to find out what your local printers offer. There are times print products (e.g., menus, street signs, brochures) are a must because they serve a different purpose than online products. And, if you do it right, print can been earth-friendly.