Spreading the sustainability message - Part 3

Laurel Brunner's picture
Laurel Brunner

In our first blog on getting industry associations to encourage wider sustainability awareness, we put the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, at the top of the list. But sector specific environmental impact and sustainability policy statements need much more. Graphic industry sectors such as newspapers, magazines, book and packaging production really should have robust environmental guidance from their associations.

Sadly it’s largely absent from their websites and, even sadder, this is a missed opportunity. A high profile position on the environment helps the graphics industry to take ownership and lead the environmental impact conversation. It’s also useful reference for countering the negativity that is often associated with print in all its forms.

Sector specific policy statements can help to codify key sustainability concerns for members. We’ve talked about the three Rs and we have also suggested adding energy emissions to the list of things to think about. Next on the list should be suggestions for improving waste management throughout the supply chain, with ideas for how to cut waste and use it as a resource.

Paper is probably the biggest source of waste for the printing and publishing industries. Healthy paper recycling supply chains are the lifeblood of many paper mills, particularly those producing newsprint. But modern printing techniques, new ink recipes and the use of coatings and varnishes and other embellishments can make it harder to recycle materials using established deinking methods. This doesn’t mean industry associations should discourage the use of digital printing and embellishment technologies, far from it: it’s up to the paper industry to keep up with printing advances. But industry associations should be advising members to be aware of the importance of printed paper’s deinkability, and of the particular type of new paper it can be recycled into.

Other measures to help people deal with waste include process efficiency and colour management. Getting accurate colour early in the production process requires awareness of colour management, device profiling, frequent proofing and discussion with clients to ensure that the colour they want is the colour they can have. This aspect of waste management is also a means of improving time management.

So now we have a basic list of things to consider in an environmental policy statement for associations. The three Rs, energy emissions, waste management are just the start but all three topics can differ in their details, depending on what sector we are talking about. As long as we work to a common framework, we might see an overall improvement in overall environmental awareness in the graphics industry.

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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.