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How to Order Green Printing

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Ordering green printing starts with the initial brainstorming and design process. During this preliminary stage, it’s important to keep the end stage in mind to minimize the environmental impact of the project. While you may not have control over whether a customer tosses your sales booklet into the trash instead of the recycle bin, you do control the life of the piece and the gamut of options for the disposal when the end is reached. By the time a project gets into production, its destiny is pretty much determined. Only during the design process do you have the greatest opportunity to minimize impact and maximize recoverability.

By making choices that minimize waste and facilitate recoverability you can ensure the greenest-case scenario for your printed materials. There are many disposal options available some are more preferable than others — landfill, recycling, composting, reusing and repurposing that are affected by the materials used to make your design project come to life. These decisions can be broken down into selecting the appropriate paper, process, finishing, packaging, and distribution for your widest range of disposal options.

Paper: Sustainable paper does not have to cost more. However, requesting a specific brand of paper could increase your printing costs substantially. Talk to your West Press account executive to ensure the right balance between sustainability and expense. Also, please feel free to contact us for the best finished size(s) to minimize material and energy usage for your project.

Print Process (digital vs offset): Digital printing is ideal for full color, short-run communications as no plates are needed, there is minimal set up and few overs produced in the process. For longer runs, traditional offset printing is the best bet. Your West Press account executive will help you determine the most efficient print process for your communications when appropriate.

Coatings: Varnishes, aqueous coatings, UV (ultraviolet) coatings and laminate are often applied to printed papers to provide protection or enhance appearance. Varnishes, UV and aqueous coatings are biodegradable, repulpable and recyclable. While laminate can provide a thicker layer of protection than other coatings, it cannot be recycled and can be difficult to remove.

Ink: Vegetable-based inks (specifically soy) have almost completely replaced VOC emitting petroleum-based inks as the solution to the printing industry’s environmental, health and safety concerns without sacrificing quality or reliability. Some Pantone color inks, even soy-based, have higher levels of potentially hazardous metals. Keep in mind that specifying nonstandard or special mix Pantone colors tend to create more waste than using common Pantone colors which can be purchased premixed.

Bindery/finishing services: Saddlestitching and sidestitching use staples to bind two or more sheets together as a booklet which are easily removed during the recycling process using magnets. Metal staples that are used in binding do not need to be removed for recycling in most municipalities. Plastic coil binding is less desirable for recyclabilty and is more difficult to remove than staples. In order for perfect binding to be recyclable, all adhesive residues must be removed from the paper fiber. Hot-melt, petroleum-based glues are hard to remove during de-inking while water-based, non-chlorinated glues break down easily during the recycling process. For padding or glueing, specify water-based adhesives to maximize end-of-life cycle options. Speaking of adhesives, address labels are hard to remove from paper during recycling because of the adhesive backing. Print directly on the mailing piece whenever possible by collaborating printing and mailing services with one vendor.

Special touches (Embossing, Foil Stamping and Die-cutting): Embossing does not use chemicals or inks to create a raised or receding image and is an environmentally friendly way to add dimension. Recent studies indicate that foil material used in foil stamping is removed through the normal de-inking process used in recycling paper and is biodegradable. Similar to embossing, die-cutting does not use chemicals or inks and is another environmentally friendly way to achieve a dramatic effect.

Packaging: Designing a piece that needs special packaging for protection during delivery or shipping can easily become waste without a second thought. Specifying the order be shrink-wrapped into small quantities also creates unnecessary waste. Explore ways to minimize material usage as much as possible.

During the design or concept process, thinking backwards through the life cycle of a project allows you to avoid roadblocks that might prevent you from ending up at the greenest-case scenario for your printed materials. You may even surprise yourself by designing a solution that allows for the materials to be reusable or re-purposable and substantially increase the life cycle and provide an even greener outlook.

For more information on how you can order green, contact West Press or your Account Executive at 520-624-4939 today.