Responsible Graphic Design

By Idelle, January 25, 2008


Here are many ideas to consider that can reduce your environmental impact and achieve better practice.

  • Strive to create the greatest visual impact with the least environmental impact. Achieving clients needs while limiting potential ecological damage

  • Encourage their clients to consider the environmental impact of their production. Educated clients are more willing to undertake ecologically sound projects

  • Consider the use of tree free paper stock such as sugar cane waste, straw, seaweed, algae and hemp. Alternative renewable paper sources can reduce need for wood pulp from old growth forests

  • Consider the use of Recycled paper stock with a high Post Consumer Fibre (PCF) recycled content. Clean mill waste has always been recycled so it is better to keep consumer paper out of landfill

  • Consider the use of recycled paper stock that has not been de-inked. De-inking is a energy expensive process which still results in toxic waste ink

  • Consider the use of unbleached or non chlorine bleached paper stock. Bleached paper requires the use of toxins which are harmful to marine and water based life

  • Consider the use of vegetable based printing inks such as soy inks. Vegetable based inks are renewable and emit less toxic Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

  • Avoid the use of ink colours which contain high levels of heavy metals such as copper, chrome, etc.. Many bright colours contain heavy metals which leach into ground water when landfilled

  • Avoid overuse of gloss paper stock, because more exists than can be de-inked and recycled. In some areas there is a glut of gloss paper because satin or matt paper is used less

  • Avoid overuse of plastic films, foil stampings, metallic colours and synthetic adhesives. Some synthetics have a life of 200-500 years after they have been disposed of in landfills

  • Avoid over use of perfect bound or spiral bound spines as they are difficult to recycle. The glues and metals in such binding impede cost effective recycling

  • Avoid ‘bleeds’ that are then trimmed and must be de-inked before recycling. Ink extended beyond trim marks requires more intensive recycling than ink within trim marks

  • Consider the smallest paper size suitable for each job, ie A5 instead of A4. Less paper used means less energy expended and should also be cheaper for client

  • Use paper sizes and number of pages that best fit standard sheet stocks without wasteful trimming. Printers can advise on best use of sheet stock for less paper wastage and more price savings

  • Use the least amount of ink colours for the job, ie 2 colour output instead of 4 colour. The greater the number of inks the more cleaning fluids required for the presses = greater cost

  • Avoid using too much ink in their designs. More ink means more difficult de-inking or greater toxic residue leaching into groundwater

  • Consider using filmless and plateless digital printing technology for small run jobs. Modern printing technology can reduce amount of plastics, metals and inks used for printing

  • Use computer equipment which has energy saver features. Energy saver equipment shuts down when not is use saving burden on non-renewable fossil fuels

  • Use the back side of other sheets to proof their work from inkjet printers. Increases by double the life span of office paper. Be careful with lasers as toner can adhere to the drum.

  • Avoid overpackaging, ie postcard for mailing instead of envelope and letter. Follows credo of REDUCE, avoids unnecessary paper waste and expense

  • Use the recycled logo or other devices to promote the recycled nature of their production. Customers and Users need to have the opportunity to know they are purchasing recycled goods

  • Promote design responsibility by printing PCW content, ink and bleaching type on their work. Customers & Users educated by one product will look for the same credentials in other other products

  • Specify that the windows on business envelopes be of recyclable cellulosic content. Cellulose based windows can be recycled as paper or easily composted, plastic cannot

  • Keep informed of the latest environmental developments in inks, papers and printing processes. New technologies and rediscoveries of old techniques for green design are occurring constantly

(To implement all the above ideas may be impossible – yet every suggestion adopted will make a difference.)

What do you think?

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