Since there’s no official standard, you’re on your own to determine who’s really committed. In general, an environmentally minded printer should: use the most eco-friendly papers available; reduce toxic chemicals, waste ink, and solvents; be willing to use soy or other vegetable inks without any price premium; educate customers about how to reduce a project’s environmental impact; and provide safe working conditions for employees.
Green printing: What’s in it for you?
E-mail boxes are swamped and the Web has become an indispensable resource, but the long-predicted paperless society hasn’t come to pass.
The need for paper and print remains strong — for business cards, packaging, brochures and other uses that call for a well-designed, quality print piece. Just count the items that land in your mailbox every day, including the armful of catalogs.
But recent years have brought a keener awareness of the environment, and global warming has escalated concern about the impact of many commercial and personal choices — including the ecological costs of print and paper.
Green printing, once the passion of a very few printers and print buyers, is now in demand as a way to help companies protect their investments, satisfy shareholders and enhance their image with customers.
Green policies are showing up in company mission statements. The Sarbanes Oxley Act, which regulates corporate governance, lays out not only responsible money accounting practices but also an environmental accounting of company impacts and plans for sustainable development.
Establishing a green record is more than an altruistic endeavor; it’s an act of self-interest — self-preservation, even.
“Brands will not be able to opt out of [being green],” said Lee Daley, chairman and chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi UK. “Companies which do not live by a green protocol will be financially damaged because consumers will punish them. In the longer term, I do not think they will survive.”
In a recent poll by Global Market Insights, Americans chose damaging the environment as the main reason they would consider a company to be socially irresponsible. The poll also found that American consumers between the ages of 18 and 29 — future consumers — are more likely to buy organic, environmentally-friendly or fair trade products than other age groups.
Victoria’s Secret turned to greener choices for the million-plus catalogs it prints every day following two years of protests by activists seeking to protect Canada’s Boreal Forest. The company was using 100 percent virgin paper, made from pulp from the forest, which was being logged at the rate of 2 acres per minute. In 2006, its parent company, Limited Brands (which also includes Express, Bath & Body Works and The Limited) agreed to use paper with recycled content or paper certified to come from sustainable, responsible sources.
Many companies, such as IBM, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, have heard the message and taken eco-friendly printing steps, such as printing shareholder reports on 100 percent recycled paper.
The greening of paper production.
Environmental Defense, an advocacy group, calculates that one ton of virgin uncoated paper – which accounts for 90 percent of paper used in the U.S. – consumes three tons of wood, more than 19,075 gallons of water and generates 2, 278 pounds of solid waste.
U.S. pulp mills consume 12,430 square miles of forests around the world each year, an area almost the size of the states of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined.
Globally, according to The Environmental Paper Network, 70 percent of trees used for paper pulp comes from biodiverse forests as opposed to tree farms, much of it from endangered forests.
Illegal logging has destroyed or degraded 80 percent of the world’s ancient forests. These forests create oxygen and hold massive amounts of carbon dioxide in the plant life. When the forest is cleared, that carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Scientists estimate that preserving the world’s forests and managing land use sustainably would reduce CO2 emissions by one-quarter, enough to stabilize the atmosphere. Deforestation accounts for about 30 percent of the global warming pollution released into the atmosphere each year.
Irresponsible logging undermines the culture and economy of millions of indigenous and rural people who depend on forests for their livelihood. It also leads to erosion, flooding and water pollution and creates conditions that erupt in violence and human rights abuses.
The Sierra Club says the U.S. has entered into trade agreements or is in negotiations with some of the world’s worst illegal logging offenders and has failed to address the problem in its negotiations. The environmental lobby has called for a definitive ban on trade in illegally harvested timber.
But illegal logging isn’t the only problem. Mountains in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska have been stripped bald with clear cutting that is actually subsidized by the federal government, in the form of logging roads that are constructed using taxpayer money and tax breaks that enhance the bottom line of already profitable corporations.
What is being done about this?
Just as other industries are taking a hard look at policies and practices that impact the environment, many in the paper industry have taken this challenge seriously.
Some pulp and paper companies and printers have committed to principles of corporate and social environmental responsibility, and organizations have formed to help define, recognize and credit those efforts. But the bonus is on paper and print buyers to use and build demand for eco-friendly printing products.