Sustainable printing methods are a major component of environmental conservation. Here’s how print houses can contribute to better sustainability.
Let’s just come out and say it: the printing industry hasn’t always been the most ecologically aware. Turning a natural resource like wood into paper is a process that can create a lot of waste, and the technologies that go into applying ink to that paper can result in even more.
It’s become readily apparent that traditional printmaking approaches aren’t doing a good enough job to protect the environment from its byproducts. That’s why sustainable printing methods and practices, many of which don’t increase the cost of printmaking significantly or even at all, have become so widespread in the industry.
Here’s how print houses can contribute to better sustainability and help conserve the natural resources we need to survive.
Defining Sustainable Printing
There’s a lot of uncertainty around just what “sustainability” means in the context of printmaking. Sustainable printing, often used interchangeably with the term “green printing”, means more than just slapping a label on your methods; it requires a dedicated approach that meets the printmaking needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet those same needs.
In printmaking, sustainability means more than just using recycled paper products to print on. It means using specific types of recycled products, using paper that’s been processed in ways as to not rely on volatile organic chemicals like chlorine, using soy-based inks to reduce impact on the ozone layer, and recycling as many byproducts of the print process as possible, such as turning spent oil and solvents into alternative fuel. All of these methods, and even more, all come together to make a major difference.
According to the Forest Stewardship Council, “currently the world’s forests store 283 billion tons of carbon in their biomass.”
Important Sustainable Printing Terms You Should Know
There are a lot of important terms that get thrown about when it comes to sustainable printmaking. Here are a few of the most common and important ones and what they mean.
- FSC Certified: the Forest Stewardship Council is a private, international regulatory body with a mission to promote environmentally sound, socially beneficial, and economically prosperous forest management. Printers can become certified through the FSC by adhering to their sustainability guidelines.
- Virgin versus Recycled Paper: Virgin paper is fresh paper produced without any recycled paper content. This is usually the least sustainable way to create paper unless FSC certified forestry methods are used to replace trees harvested for paper. Recycled paper consists either in part or in full of paper that’s been used before, reducing or eliminating the need for virgin paper to begin with.
- PCW and TRF Paper: There are two types of recycled paper that can be used in sustainable efforts. One, post-consumer waste (PCW), is a major component of recycled paper today, and it’s usually used in combination with virgin, unrecycled paper. There’s also totally recycled fiber (TRF), which is another sustainable approach, though the higher the percentage of recycled fiber in your product, the more you might need to process it to produce high-quality paper.
- VOC, ECF, and PCF Processing: Processing either virgin or recycled fibers into paper often requires the use of chemicals. Sustainable approaches focus on minimizing the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOC) used in processing, with many different methods being employed. Elemental chlorine-free (ECF) processing uses a less toxic chlorine derivative instead of pure bleach, for example. Meanwhile, process chlorine-free processing (PCF) means no chlorine or chlorine-derived products were used in processing.
Looking for Sustainable Printing? Las Vegas Color Graphics Has Your Back
Sustainability is important to Las Vegas Color Graphics, and we put our money where our mouth is every day. We’re not only an FSC Certified print house, but we’re committed to going above and beyond in our efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle all waste generated by the printing process.
From reducing the use of paper copies by providing PDF proofs for clients, using all alcohol-free press solutions, and the use of low-VOC and soy-based inks to minimize environmental impact to ensuring that every possible facet of our work waste is recycled, we’re completely committed to sustainable printing.
Don’t rely on a print house that says they use green technologies and practices to reduce their impact on the environment. Turn to Las Vegas Color Graphics and see the difference an FSC Certified printmaker can make on preserving our most precious of natural resources.
Contact us today to see how we can put our sustainable printing practices at work for you!