Ladies and Gentlemen, Marcus Brown surely needs no introduction.
A short while ago he kindly offered to write some more information about 'green printing'. Marcus is a man of many strange and wonderful talents and currently he's a printer, so he knows what he's talking about.
Read what he has to say below. It's very good and very useful.
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As Ben quite rightly pointed out commercial printing is pretty much one of the more evil things that we can do to our environment. Almost every step of the printing process, including pre and post press, impacts our environment in a negative way. There are, however, some things that both printers, clients and designers can do the minimise the overall impact and I’ll do my best to outline some of them here. I should point out that I’ve focused heavily on the UK market, so my apologies to the rest of the world.
First of all, I think it’s important that you as designers should recognise that eco-friendly print production is becoming increasingly important for your commercial clients because their consumers expect it of them.
“We spend 17 to 20 Million GBP per annum on print […] We would regard a formal demonstration of some environmental credentials as a base line; probably ISO 14001, or it could be the BPIF scheme” […] “The environmental issue is a hurdle that any printer would need to jump”
Peter Phippen, Managing director, BBC magazines*
“We simply won’t consider any new suppliers unless they have that (ISO 14001) accreditation”
David Shorto, print and paper buyer Greenpeace.*
“All of our printers will be required to conform to our paper purchasing policy”
Sonjeeta Mahapatra, Internal Communication manager, McDonalds.*
*Source: PrintWeek Guide: Environment
Over the years I have met with numerous blue chip companies to discuss their multimillion pound print spends and the eco issue gains importance with every passing month. So if you buy print for your clients get ready for the eco-procurement push. Better still; instigate it.
Good green printers and how to spot the buggers.
There are two printers in the UK that have an outstanding track record for being green. First up is, of course, Beacon Press in East Sussex. It has around 100 different initiatives such as energy reduction (think of the amount of electricity it takes to power a printing plant), water conservation, reduction in the use of chemicals, emissions and waste (I’ll come to this later as this is something that designers can actually help minimise), that have steadily reduced it’s impact on the environment and has become the benchmark for all commercial printers in the UK. Beacon only uses vegetable based inks reduced it’s water consumption by 63% and has policies in place that has reduce it’s overall waste by 84%. And to top it all it’s they are really bloody good at printing.
The second printer is Posthouse Printing (also trades as Big Sky) based in Scotland. It’s situation in the middle of a conservation site for heavens sake so and is the only UK based printing that is powered by, wait for it, wind. They have some excellent tips on their website and it’s well worth a look.
If you’re looking to find a green(ish) printer in your area there are a couple of things that you need to look out for. First up they really should have an EMS (Environmental Management System) which is a written policy outlining how they approach environmental issues. If they don’t have one, or will not give you it don’t use them. Then there are two accreditations that you’ll need to watch out for; ISO 14001 (International Standards Organisation) which is bloody hard to get and the FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) which promotes forest management (trees – wood – paper). You can’t just get any old printer to print on FSC papers, they must have this accreditation.
You know those horrible print rep’s that turn up when you least expect them trying to flog you print? Here are some questions that you can ask them to see how green they are? How do you manage waste? Do you use waterless printing or vegetable based inks? Do you recycle your litho plates (these are made of aluminium) or crush your ink cans before they’re collected? How much paper do you recycle a month (we recycle 120 tonnes of paper a month)? If the sales rep can’t answer these questions tell him to bugger off. In fact, my little tip for you is that you ask him these questions before he gets past the foyer. A blank look on his face means that these issues aren’t important to their business and he should take his pots and pans elsewhere.
Another thing you should do is go to the printer and have a good look around. Meet the people working there and make sure they’re happy. I know this sounds silly, but eco-friendly, ISO accredited printers, are usually clean, happy friendly places. Happy people do better work. People who are miserable and high on chemical fumes don’t.
How designers can help.
You can be the greenest printer in the world, but if the designer has come up with a format that doesn’t match the printing press you will impact the environment with waste. Remember we carry off 120 tonnes of waste paper every single month and that’s optimised! Of course it get’s recycled but the truck that picks it up is big, smelly and leaves a big black cloud of diesel dust behind him so we only want him to come when it’s absolutely necessary.
As a designer, you have a responsibility to get to know you printer and his kit, and work together with the printer to come up with the perfect format that creates as little waste as possible. Don’t leave this to your “people who buy print”. You need to do it yourself. You need to get in there, and learn a new craft. Your bespoke design solutions impact the environment more heavily than you will ever know and knowing the printing kit will help you to produce cool work AND be green. It will also increase your margins because it’s more cost effective.
When you start to build a new relationship with a green print supplier it will help both parties if you audit the last twelve months of your total print spend. Look at formats, colours used, special finishes, varnishes, volumes, delivery destinations and substrates and discuss with your printer ways of optimising the things you do.
I think this is actually the most important part of it all. You, as a designer, are as much part of the sustainability picture as the printer is. It’s a partnership and one that both sides have to work on. Because sometimes, design arrogance can lead to massive, stupid, waste.
Hope that helped.