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A Sustainable Design Blog

Water Saving in Print Design

A few months ago road construction necessitated cutting off the water to our block. That day I stood looking out the window and took stock of all the closed business – three restaurants, a bakery, hair salon, pottery workshop, bar, and a coffee shop – unable to open their doors without water. It became quite clear how infrastructure is necessary to modern society and how devastating our current water crisis could be.

Through our own research and participation in sustainable design, we've become rather sensitive to water conservation, so we've tried to look for ways to save water in the designs we produce. Here are a list of things you can do to reduce your consumption of water in printing materials:
  • Recycled paper takes much less water to produce than virgin pulp, saving 7000 gallons for every ton of recycled paper produced
  • Use water-free stone paper like Fiberstone or TerraSkin. This paper is make for 80% stone and 20% HDPE plastic, is fully recyclable, and is naturally water and grease resistant making it perfect for labels, posters, maps, book jackets, etc. Best of all, no water is used to produce it, saving 14000 gallons of water per ton of paper.
  • Try waterless printing, a process that uses silicone rubber plates and UV exposure instead of the typical offset process that uses water and isopropyl alcohol. The Waterless Printing Association even has an international search tool to find a printer near you.
  • Find a printer with a closed-loop water system where they collect and recycle their own waste water. Virtually every print process uses tons of water to wash off printing plates. Those printers that recycle their gray water can have a massive reduction in their water usage.

There are also some obvious steps you can take to reduce water use, such as only printing what you need and using as much of the press sheet as possible, but we're assuming you already know that. If you have any other water-saving design tips, please share them below! We're always wanting new ideas.

Jennifer Stewart is the Office Manager and wanna-be organizational psychologist at Modern Species. For more posts from her, click here.

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