In the UK, the printing industry is considered to be the 4th largest in the world. However, while there are over 6,000 printing companies there, very few of these have taken voluntary steps to reduce their impact on the environment.
Over the last few years, the printing industry has gotten appalling publicity because it used several chemicals that were hard on the environment. But due to rising demand for climate and carbon-neutral products and practices, printing businesses are going green, adopting environmentally-sound, best-use practices so that they can achieve a low carbon footprint. And, the printing industry has also jumped on board with something called sustainable printing. In fact, sustainable printing is becoming an industry standard.
What Is Sustainable Printing?
Sustainable printing is a more aggressive approach to going green. This approach involves consideration of the environment where several facets of printing are concerned.
A company can engage in sustainable printing by using paper that’s ancient forest friendly. This means that any certified papers or inkjet labels a company uses must contain a high amount of post-consumer waste. As well, this type of paper must not contain any virgin products that came from old-growth, endangered or ancient forests.
When a company uses Carbon Balanced paper, they can be sure that the World Land Trust has balanced the carbon impact.
Responsible Ink and Shipping Practices
Although not a new product, soy ink is one of the most significant components of sustainable printing. Soy ink releases less than 5% VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds into the air, which results in improved air quality. Soy ink can also assist the paper recycling process, because it can be removed more easily from paper than other ink such as petroleum-based ink. To the business that uses it, soy ink can also be a cost-effective choice. Soy ink spreads 15% farther than other inks, and tends to be brighter in colour than other inks.
Of course, there are caveats with using soy ink. One is that soy ink can take longer to dry than its petroleum-based counterparts because it has no VOC solvents to help with evaporation.
Avoiding the use of mineral oils, which have poor biodegradability, is another way to engage in sustainable printing.
There are several certifications which a printing company may work towards. One of these is the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership or SGP. This voluntary program certifies those printing companies who have chosen to subscribe to the SGP`s standards.
Similarly, paper producers can also enter into the sustainable printing arena by applying for certification from the Forest Stewardship Council or FSC. The FSC promotes the intelligent use and conservation of forest resources. Other organisations include the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification.
Certain methods of batch printing can also make a printer sustainable. In this scenario, set up and production is spread over every job in the batch. Unlike conventional printing which sees each job produced on an ad-hoc basis and being solely responsible for emissions, batch printing involves the collection and distribution of print orders in a way that saves resources.
A company can also engage in partnerships with other organisations having the environment as a primary focus. Some examples are the WWF and the Climate Partnership for Forest Protection.
Engaging in sustainable printing is not only easy on the environment, but it is also able to be undertaken without compromising the quality of the products being printed. As well, this practice can result in a company being able to save a lot of money in the long run.