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A Sustainable Design Blog

5 Easy Eco-Friendly Printing Tricks

by Gage Mitchell | Jun 1, 2011 | Sustainability

Though there are many more sophisticated ways to reduce the impact of your printed piece, here’s a quick list of big-bang-for-your-buck solutions for those quick projects.

  1. Does it really need to be printed? If there's a way around hitting the print button, use it. If it does need printing, try to eliminate information that will date the printed piece (think special offers that expire, prices that are subject to change, etc). By doing this you can print a higher quantity now, saving you a lot of money per piece, and you won’t have to reprint it as often. If it doesn’t NEED to be printed try a downloadable PDF, an e-mail campaign, or why not put the information on your website? This costs electricity sure, but it saves paper, water, ink, metal, and the power used to run the printing press.
  2. Ask your designer to specify tree-free fibers if possible (cotton, hemp, agrifiber, etc are all more renewable than trees), or switch to a minimum of 30% Post-Consumer recycled if you do need to use wood-based paper. Post-Consumer is paper that has gone out into the market and made it all the way back into the cycle again. We should reward that brave paper by giving it a new life.
  3. What about all those awesome finishing techniques (embossing, spot varnishes, gold foil stamping, etc)? Ask yourself if it’s absolutely necessary or just an extra piece of flare. By cutting these processes down to a minimum, you save money, materials, and keep toxic chemicals out of the waste stream. If you feel the urge to splurge, try to at least avoid the processes that add extra chemicals (varnishes, coated paper, etc) or potentially toxic metals (metallic inks, foil stamping, etc). Stick with embossing, engraving, and interesting die-cuts.
  4. Ask your designer to optimize the press sheet when determining the size of your package, brochure, or business cards. With proper planning, you can use up every inch of paper that you purchased, avoiding waste, and you might get more total pieces out of it as well. Sometimes this means you’ll need to give up your bleeds (printing that runs beyond the trim edge of the paper), but with some creativity, the piece will still look great.
  5. Print near the delivery point. Does your printed piece need to travel? Are all your flyers heading to an event three states away? Is your package being shipped to a fulfillment center? Think about the ultimate destination of the piece and try to source your printing, paper, or anything else, as close to that location as possible. This will save you money and the extra footprint of shipping.

Do you have any go-to favorite ways to reduce your impact? Do share.

Gage Mitchell is the Principal / Creative Director at Modern Species. For more posts from him, click here.

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