Many of us make a conscious effort to practice environmental
responsibility. We haul old newspapers to local
recycling centers. We use ink refi ll kits instead of buying
new cartridges for our printers. And who doesn’t
have at least one blue recycling bin wedged underneath
But is this enough? Noah Scalin, founder of ALR
Design doesn’t think so. “Social
consciousness isn’t just about making good paper and
ink choices,” he says. “A lot more of it has to do with
how work is produced.” For designers, this means keeping
the environment in mind when planning projects.
The following guide to “more green” offers 12 ways to
incorporate environmental awareness into your work.
1. Learn the lingo.
You’ll need to be familiar with industry jargon to
appropriately select environmentally friendly papers.
Here are a few terms you’ll often see:
- Virgin fiber—100-percent “pure” fiber from an
- Post-consumer content—Waste recovered from
consumers and recycled
- VOCs—Volatile organic compounds (such as
occur in petroleum-based printing ink)
- PCF—Processed chlorine-free
- TCF—Totally chlorine-free
- ECF—Elemental chlorine-free
2. Preserve and conserve.
The Recycled Products Cooperative estimates that
over 100 million trees are cut each year to supply
fiber for writing and printing papers in the United
States. This is not only detrimental to forests, but to
air quality and water reserves as well.
One way to preserve resources is to purchase
recycled paper with high levels of post-consumer
content. Using recycled paper saves landfill space and
minimizes water and energy consumption. Check
recycling symbols to see what percentage of recycled
fiber was used during the manufacturing process.
3. Think about ink.
Do you know how your printer disposes of unused
ink? If you’re unsure, ask. Petroleum-based inks
leach VOCs—which cause cancer and birth
defects—into the soil when printed papers end
up in landfills. These toxins can also be released
into the air as fresh inks dry.
Soy ink is an excellent alternative to petroleumbased
inks. Soy ink uses soybean oil that’s naturally
low in VOCs. This smart substitute is sustainable,
efficient, and cost-competitive. Many newspapers,
magazines (including this one), and other materials
are now printed with soy ink.
4. Do it digitally.
www.gregbarberco.com, an environmentally
oriented paper and printing specialist, also recommends
digital printing for economic reasons: Digital
is ideal for short-run, four-color work for business
cards, stationery, promotional pieces, and most print
work that is less than 1,000 sheets of 14 x 20 inches.
This printing method even has advantages
over soy inks. While soy is comprised of 86-percent
oil—which isn’t biodegradable—digital printing uses
100-percent nontoxic toner. Toner-based inks also
produce less chemical waste.
5. Consider alternative papers.
Move over, pulp-based paper. A number of alternatives
to traditional papers are now available, and
Barber recommends several “tree-free” varieties,
such as Denim Blues (100-percent reclaimed blue
jean cotton), and synthetic papers by Yupo because
of their environmental attributes and durability.
For certain projects, Barber suggests papers
made from Kenaf and hemp, and a newer paper
called TerraSkin, which is made from ground stone.
“TerraSkin is almost as strong as [synthetic] FedEx
envelopes and it prints like a coated sheet,” he says.
It also uses less ink, and is nontoxic and waterproof.
6. Choose better bleaching solutions.
Brighter, whiter papers are created by various
bleaching processes. It’s a good idea to have a basic
understanding of how manufacturers process their
products so that you can select the best, most environmentally
friendly papers for your projects.
Elemental chlorine was once extensively used
to brighten paper products, but now chlorine dioxide
(used in swimming pools) is a common substitute.
This process yields ECF papers. Although chlorine
compounds are safer than pure chlorine, some pollution
still results. Better choices include PCF and TCF
bleaching, which substitute oxygen-based compounds
for chlorine compounds. Only the recycled portion
of a recycled sheet has been bleached with PCF.
Fewer TCF papers are available today because most
papers contain some recycled content—TCF relates
only to 100-percent virgin papers.
Only products deemed acceptable by the
Chlorine Free Products Association are granted PCF
and TCF emblems. Look for the symbols when purchasing recycled paper.