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Go Green…Like an Avocado?

Written by in Environmental Responsibility, Features

 

What Does Eco-Friendly Mean?

Print Experts Help Explain

 

It’s April. The month we celebrate Earth Day. But as the planet heats up, it’s becoming harder to “celebrate”. Humans and animals, printers and designers, brands and governments are being forced to adapt to the changing climate. So let’s talk sustainability. What does it mean to be eco-friendly?

“We’re trying to understand what motivates people—developing a sense of empathy with each new project—and using that to inform brand strategies that help shift the marketplace and help companies succeed. We use a bunch of techniques to focus design on that empathetic point of view. When it’s done well, it may not seem ‘green’ to the audience. It just seems desirable, or a better solution for a particular need.” —Brian Dougherty, Celery Design Collaborative

The Avocado

Like most things in life. sustainability is complicated. This topic—as it pertains to design and advertising, printing and packaging—is huge and more than a bit overwhelming.  It’s not black and white. Brian Dougherty, of Celery Design Collaborative and author of Green Graphic Design, explains there are layers. Just think of the avocado. “An avocado has three distinct layers. The outer skin represents the most immediate aspect of design—the physical stuff we use (paper, plastics, ink, etc.). At that level, we’re searching for innovative materials that can make a big design impact and minimize the ecological footprint.

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CROPP Sustainability Report designed by Modern Species LLC in Seattle.

 “The second layer of the avocado is the edible meat, which represents the messages designers work with. At that level, we’re trying to craft effective messages that resonate with people and encourage a positive emotional response. Which leads to the seed of the avocado. That represents the central objective of green design, which is to affect positive change. We’re trying to understand what motivates people—developing a sense of empathy with each new project—and using that to inform brand strategies that help shift the marketplace and help companies succeed. We use a bunch of techniques to focus design on that empathetic point of view. When it’s done well, it may not seem ‘green’ to the audience. It just seems desirable, or a better solution for a particular need.”

 

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In a perfect eco-friendly scenario, Richard Stephens of  The Graphics Resource advises clients to use paper that is 100% post-consumer waste and a printer that is FSC Certified, meaning the use of low VOC inks and buying power from sustainable sources. In reality, things aren’t cut and dry, so there are often compromises. Stevens acknowledges the goal is to be as eco-friendly as possible. 

The Broker

No one understands those considerations (layers) better than Richard Stephens, co-founder of The Graphics Resource, an FSC-Certified print brokerage in San Francisco. For clients, brand managers, and designers who are looking to embrace eco-friendly materials and vendors, The Graphics Resource has the capabilities to handle steps from the start (design) to the final delivery. The Graphic Resource provides guidance along the way, looking at paper and printing options with three considerations in mind: printability, competitiveness, and sustainability.

In a perfect eco-friendly scenario, Stephens would advise clients to use paper that is 100% post-consumer waste and a printer that is FSC Certified, meaning the use of low VOC inks and buying power from sustainable sources. In reality, things aren’t cut and dry, so there are often compromises. Stevens acknowledges the goal is to be as eco-friendly as possible. “If the client’s overriding concern is high-end paper, the choices are much more limited—due to the scarcity of options,” he explains. “The we come at sustainability from other angles in as many ways as possible.”

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The Printer

If you’re looking for a printer that walks the talk, look north to Hemlock Printers. In business for over 45 years, Hemlock aspires to be progressive and responsible, making sustainability a priority.

Because paper makes up more than 90% by weight of the materials Hemlock uses annually, it provides the  best opportunity for creating positive change. Choosing paper with lower impact features—recycled and alternative fibers, chlorine-free bleaching, and FSC, Green-e and Ancient Forest Friendly certification—is one way to make a difference.

Another way is to collaborate with Neenah and create an FSC certified, Green-e certified and 100% completely carbon neutral paper stock. That’s what Hemlock did and CORONADO® SST 100 is the result. Hemlock president and general manager Richard Kouwenhoven says, “When our clients print with CORONADO® SST 100 they are reducing their impact and helping to prevent harmful CO2 emissions from entering the atmosphere.”

Hemlock continually analyzes its processes to look for areas of improvement and presses clients and vendors to do the same. Greenhouse gases, a climate-change culprit, led the printer to establish the ZERO carbon neutral program. It provides opportunity of offsetting the remaining carbon footprint of a given print project by purchasing carbon credits through Offsetters, an organization that supports renewable energy projects around the world. The goal,” according to Kouwenhoven, “is to reduce our manufacturing plant’s emissions and achieve the goal of overall carbon neutrality.” In the last six years, Hemlock has ‘Zero’d’ 18 million pieces of printed material, resulting in more than 4,500 tons of CO2 emissions effect.

The Takeaway

There is no magic bullet. This is going to take teamwork: printers, designers, clients, brands working together. Let’s create, print, and disseminate information thoughtfully and responsibly and build a more sustainable future.

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