When labeling a print job “recycled paper” no longer satisfies your environmental conscious, Ecoprint in Silver Spring, Maryland has been striving since 1977, initially out of an old school bus, to assure the highest standards and the deepest shade of green for demonstrating your commitment to sustainable practices through your printed materials.
Simple but effective messaging, minimalist packaging and recyclability are key ways to make printing design and distribution choices that speaks volumes about your organization’s priorities. To date, other than business cards and a sponsorship postcard, Eco Studio has strictly utilized our website, blog and social media to communicate sustainable resources to the community in order to have the smallest footprint we can. However, we are moving towards developing a series of sustainable project and tour brochures that highlight resources within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. In doing so, Eco Studio encourages others to also make the most responsible printing choices to reduce the impact on our region and planet. In fact, those buying printing are the largest contributors to shaping the sustainable impact of the printing industry on our planet.
Printing remains one of our nation’s biggest industries, generating approximately $100 billion a year and employing nearly a million people in over 35,000 shops. The industry uses millions of tons of paper, approximately 40% of trees harvested on our continent go to the manufacture of paper, and the vast majority harvested from virgin forests. Virgin paper production is one of the most energy intensive and dirtiest industries on the globe. Using recycled fibers and sustainable bleaching methods make huge strides in turning the tide. As well, the industry uses millions of gallons of solvents, cleaning compounds, and wetting agents; billions of pounds of inks and coatings; and untold amounts of non-renewable carbon-emitting energy.
Ecoprint uses an “eco-ink” product that takes printing ink to a new level of environmental sensitivity. Overall, their printing process is 100% Carbon Neutral with a net of ZERO Greenhouse Gas emissions. Along with printing, they offer “integrated services” for total project management that include conceptualization and design, data work, storage, and mailing services. Moreover, Ecoprint will be able to document your environmental savings and make them visible to constituents and customers. In order to help clients make the most sustainable choices that effectively communicate their messages, Ecoprint has developed “the Little Green Book” that supports clients from the starting point in rethinking the overall design of their project and also provides an informative overview of the key elements involved in printing jobs: choosing paper, inks and coatings, the production process and mailing and distribution.
Sustainable Printing Design Concepts:
During design, try to visualize all of your future needs for distribution. By relentlessly focusing on the effective use of your printing and mailing, you can reduce both. This way you can create multi-purpose items that can be handed out – or self-mailed without the need for an outer envelope. As you select sustainable paper, inks and other design elements, there are plenty of choices that should be cost-effective while still offering top environmental credentials.
Avoid using “hard” labels or self-adhesive materials. These introduce contaminants that compromise the recyclability of your materials. Instead, use a water-based ink-jet to apply addresses and barcodes at the same time.
Hone mailing lists by aggressively de-duping names. Also, insist on “move update” processing for your lists to increase hit rate and eliminate wasteful “undeliverable as addressed” mail.
Try to make your whole piece recyclable – lose the foil stamping, UV coatings, or plastic inserts. (Staples and metal fasteners are okay, because they are easily separated out during recycling.)
Avoid use of metallic (gold, silver, bronze colored) inks. They end up adding toxins to the “de-inking sludge” output during the recycling process.
Ask for the chemical breakdown of soy-based inks. An ink can be called “soy-based” yet contain only 20% soy oil. That means the ink might still have lots of petroleum compounds that evaporate, releasing air pollutants. The chemical breakdown of the ink will reveal the percentage of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). Make sure VOCs are lower than 3%.
Avoid UV-cured inks and coatings. While not toxic, they create a thicker coating that interferes with the recycling of the printed piece. UV-cured products also increase the energy intensity of print manufacturing and emit ozone, a pollutant when present in the lower atmosphere. Aqueous coating or varnish is a good alternative to heavier UV finishes. Either of these has a smaller eco-footprint: They use fewer solvents and VOCs during manufacturing, consume less energy, and result in a more recyclable finished product.
Consult with your printer about size and page count. A conscientious printer should be able to tell you which format wastes the least amount of paper. (This saves money, too.)
Ask whether “bleeds” (edge to edge images) require excessive rimming, thus wasting paper. Like most environmentally sound design decisions, this may save money too.
Cleverly try designing self-mailers to eliminate the need for an envelope or a postcard instead of a letter. This saves on paper, energy, and the cost of insertion.
Cut down on the packaging. Evaluate if you really need a box or folder to package your printed materials. This excessive packaging will quickly eat away your budget and environmental credibility.
When using envelopes, use “glassine” over “poly” windows. Glassine is a translucent paper product and is fully recyclable while actually looking classier.
Choose papers with a high post consumer (PCW) recycled fiber content. For uncoated stocks, this means 100% PCW. For coated papers, strive for at least 25% PCW. (Ecoprint Silk grades contain up to 60% PCW.)
Go Processed Chlorine Free (PCF) wherever possible. This means the paper was recycled and re-bleached without use of toxic chlorinated agents, which accumulate in the environment and threaten water quality and people’s health (especially children). Note: ECF (Elementally Chlorine Free) means the paper was still processed using Chlorine Dioxide, and it’s pretty much the industry standard – no kudos there.
Research your tree-free papers. These papers are made with fast-growing plants such as cotton, hemp, or kenaf (similar to bamboo – which is very invasive). Ecoprint favors kenaf because of its rapid growth, high yields, and less intensive processing requirements; however, it is priced much higher than recycled papers. Ecoprint believes recycled content papers remain a better environmental choice.
Try to use as light weight paper as possible. A 70 lb. paper uses 12% fewer resources than an 80 lb. sheet.
Monitor the printer’s overall footprint and energy conservation. Zone heating and cooling, reduced lighting, insulation, using renewable energy providers, and more efficient office and manufacturing equipment also make a big difference in the overall production process of your print job.
Take advantage of digital printing technology. It’s an efficient and economical way to produce shorter run jobs with less start-up waste – and very few chemicals.
9335 Fraser Avenue – Silver Spring, MD 20910 – (301) 585-7077 – www.ecoprint.com