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Green With Envy? Put Green Ideas to Action!

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Hey! Get off the porch! Being green is hard work. And great ideas for a greener, healthier planet abound. In our continuing series of Good Earth Ideas in Action, Guest Contributor Heather Parlato gives us some more great tips that will get your  your green ideas off the porch and into action. We will be sharing new ideas to help you grow a more sustainable design practice that we have gleaned from others. Have some kernels of sustainable insight to share? Post back or email us your ideas and comments. Spread the wealth of know-how.

There’s much more to sustainable design and printing than choosing eco-friendly inks and papers. Want to reduce your design firm’s impact on the waste stream? Examine your design process in reverse: reengineer the landfill by planning waste out of the entire process chain.

Attendees of the How Design Conference in Denver last year saw Celery Design talk about examining the design process in reverse. They begin by thinking about the end of things, building in the highest recyclability and safest practices along the way. Using this example, we started this series at the end of the production chain and talked about how to focus on creating useful items rather than single-life disposable ones.

Think About the End—Reverse Engineer the Landfill Pretend you are standing in a landfill surrounded by the remains of many pretty things. How could you have prevented them from ending up there? Imagine the final destination of your print piece, you reverse engineer to incorporate sustainable materials and practices that reduce to zero the likelihood of any part of that piece ending up in the waste stream.

  1. Question materials. Find those that are only blue-bin compatible.
  2. Question manufacture. Find processes that used green energy or fair trade practices. When your task is a piece on printed on paper, this is not difficult. But if you’re making a shoe, it is much harder (companies like Keen prove it can be done).
  3. Design in ways that make it easy for people to see the packaging can be recycled or reused. Reserve some space to tell them it’s biodegradable, recyclable, or how it’s intended to be reused.
  4. Use green practice, materials and sources.
  5. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new materials. If you find a vendor that has a new biodegradable substrate, ask if you can do some preliminary tests to see how it works for your purposes. Once you find a good alternative resource, tell your colleagues and help the vendor do a case study to get the word out.


Celery Design’s mayan temple-shaped packaging for Chocolatl went all out on a no-holds-barred eco solution: 100% recycled paperboard box, compostable inner biopolymer bag, no glue, efficient on the press sheet, and it’s reversible for reuse as a gift box!


Spunk Design Machine’s Craig Johnson developed the paperless poster using water based, non-toxic inks, screen printed directly to glass windows as an alternative to vinyl graphics. This paperless poster concept was applied to windows around town for reDesign (a sustainability focused program of AIGA Minnesota), announcing an upcoming Twin Cities Green Drinks event, with art designed by AGENCY F Design and Hunter Marcks.



LA-based gallery, Machine Project, created an immersion installation, turning the gallery into a forest for nearly 2 months. When it came time to break down, rather than discard materials, they sorted into compostable, recyclable, freecyclable and reusable, and held an event where attendees could request any item be made from the remaining materials. Artists on hand went to work creating all manner of stools, tables, purses & bookends.


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