Spreading the sustainability message - Part 2

Laurel Brunner's picture
Laurel Brunner

This is the second part of a short series to provide industry associations with some basic ideas for how to encourage sustainability awareness amongst memberships. Environmental sustainability is becoming cool again as named brands, consumer associations, hotels and even banks start following the leads of governments and environmental groups. They’re doing this for commercial as well as sustainability reasons because sustainability messaging resonates with consumers. For people in the printing and publishing industry supply chains, this is especially important. Print still takes the rap for poorly handled waste, so messaging that improves how people use printed communications supports the graphics industry and its long term health, as well as reducing negative environmental impacts.

There are very few countries around the world where graphics industry associations provide recommendations for members to help them do battle on behalf of environmental sustainability. This is true for groups supporting printers, publishers, authors, illustrators, designers, journalists and agencies producing books, packaging texts, newspapers and magazines or whatever. We should all be doing more and associations need a coherent policy to help members to manage environmental impacts in the supply chain.

In our last blog we put the three Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) at the top of sector specific policy statements for environmental impact and sustainability. Policy statements should cover several key concerns, tweaked to suit different member interests. They should include an environmental checklist, and provide members a sensible starting point for how to reduce negative environmental impacts.

Next on the list is to be aware of the energy missions associated with a project and if possible to minimise them through process efficiencies. This includes the printing method and associated activities such as proofing and colour management. Association members should consider the pros and cons of digital printing versus conventional on the basis of run length for instance. If the project is for online delivery the emissions associated with electronic media as well as the print’s use should be considered.

The printed word has no emissions apart from those associated with its production, but the printing method and materials used will all involve emissions. How they get quantified should include some suggestions for what to think about, such as guessing, making assumptions or actually calculating the energy emissions. This can be done using formal tools such as ISO 20690 for calculating the operating power consumption of digital printing devices and ISO 21632, which does the same but includes transitional and related modes. For calculating the footprint of electronic media ISO 20294 should be out by the end of the year.

Associations serving players throughout graphics industry supply chains can take a lead on behalf of their members. The environmental impact of media is something we have long paid too little attention to. Guidance for association members would be welcomed and would encourage a wider uptake of sustainability initiatives and leadership. It might even help polish print’s tarnished reputation.

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The Verdigris Project investigates the environmental impact of print media and provides information about sustainability initiatives for the international printing community. Keep up to date with the weekly Verdigris blog by Laurel Brunner.