Definitions of "Going Green" are many these days and I don't know if there will ever be a definitive answer to what a Green Printing Company does to make it eco-friendly. In many ways, whatever steps are taken are good for the planet and for future generations. Here are a few questions you can ask printing companies when deciding how eco-friendly they actually are.
Are they "carbon neutral" or "carbon friendly"? This would mean do they have offsets to the greenhouse gases they are producing to manufacture your printed product? Carbon credits can be purchased that are then used to offset by reforestation, renewable energy or energy conservation. They can also attain this by using a utility company that uses renewable energy(hydro, wind, solar, thermal). Most utility companies publish what % of renewable energy they purchase.
Do they recycle all waste not used in the final print product. The most common would be paper but ink, press solutions and plates would also be important. This can be done to where the printing company has a zero effect for producing your printed product. It is being done now so don't buy that it is something happening in the future.
The paper part is the largest waste product of printing and by using recycled paper and then recycling all waste you can save a considerable amount of trees in even one project. The added cost for the most part is usually minimal for recycled post consumer waste. There are also eco-friendly printers out there that are certified by organizations to having a minimal impact when it comes to using paper. Ask your printing company if they are certified FSC(Forestry Stewardship Council) or SFI(Sustainable Forestry Initiative). This insures that the paper being used on certified jobs is coming from a certified forest and being manufactured by a certified paper merchant and that the product is being produced by a certified printer. This gives you a Chain of Custody that is being verified by an audit process and dealt with by trained personnel. This also allows you to put the FSC or SFI logo on your printed piece to show and encourage our sustainable resources.
The manufacturing of paper and the printed product uses a great deal of electricity but if you choose to use eco-friendly printing companies you can decrease the footprint of a printed product to almost nothing. Over 50% of the paper in the United States gets recovered for recycling. The goal is to increase that to 55% by 2012. The paper pulp that is used to manufacture paper today is almost 35% of recycled fiber.
These are just a few thoughts for everyone to consider that reads this article to help sustain our planet for future generations. While global warming can be argued back and forth the needs for alternative energy and conservation of energy are just starting to impact our society with the high costs of fossil fuels these days. All, in my humble opinion.
Written by Buzz Tatom
The Odee Company