Green Sheets

Green Sheets
Which has a greater impact on the environment: printed materials or electronic content?

Conventional wisdom says that printed materials result in fallen trees and discarded paper clogging up landfills. But studies from Germany found that electronic newspapers can actually have a greater environmental impact than print newspapers. This is thanks to the energy required to make content available 24/7 on electronic devices, as well as the energy consumption of the required devices, not
to mention discarded batteries clogging up landfills.

Environmental impact is less straightforward than we think, and while electronic media reduce paper consumption and landfill use, they use more energy. So the use of electronic media over paper trades a renewable resource (trees) for a non-renewable one (fossil fuels used in energy production).

Print can actually be more environmentally friendly than electronic media, but there are opportunities to make it even more so.

Environmental issues have taken center stage in the past year, and while there is not a great “green” shift in the graphic arts, evidence suggests that might
be changing.

Recent surveys from The Industry Measure (formerly TrendWatch Graphic Arts) have found that, when specifying paper, graphic design and production professionals only occasionally take into account the source of a paper’s fiber, or a paper mill’s record on environmental sustainability. While these data don’t indicate a groundswell in environment-friendly print buying, they do suggest a not inconsiderable level of interest. Savvy graphic design professionals have the opportunity to further act on their conscience while at the same time boost business by appealing to the “green” market among their own customers (present or potential)—a win-win scenario.

Similar same surveys have found that only 24% of graphic design professionals specify their own paper. Clearly there is room for a more proactive approach to eco-friendly paper on the part of print buyers.

There are two basic types of environmentally friendly paper:

• Non-wood fiber sources, such as straw, cotton, kenaf, bamboo and other materials can be used as a fibrous source for papermaking, helping to take the strain off of wood forests.

• Recovered and recycled paper helps reduce the demand for virgin wood pulp and diverts discarded paper from landfills.

Many paper mills offer recycled paper in a variety of grades, and the quality, “runnability” and cost of recycled grades have improved to the point where they are often competitive with non-recycled grades. When specifying paper to your printer, explore alternative fibers, recycled papers or other environmentally friendly options.

However, there is more to being environmentally conscious than simply specifying recycled or alternative papers. Considering a specific paper mill’s overall record on environmental sustainability, which includes CO2 emissions generated during paper production, is just as important as its offering recycled grades.

For graphic design professionals seeking to improve their own records on environmental responsibility, the Internet—and paper companies and industry organizations themselves—offer a wealth of resources. After all, touting one’s design business as “eco-friendly” is a good way to attract the business of customers who are either already environmentally conscious or who are on the fence about the issue and are looking for service providers to make these decisions easy. And given
the inherent environmental advantages of printing over many alternative media, running a “green” design shop can be a good way to stimulate demand for print among clients who might be considering other media.

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