Printing Green

You can have the quality you need within your budget and print green with today’s technologies and a eco-friendly printer. The biggest deterrent to printing green is the lack of information. Unfortunately, the perception that going “green” means lower quality and higher costs still exists.

When recycled paper first appeared on the market it had imperfections and a brown cast. Printing results were unpredictable. The quality of today’s recycled papers are significantly higher and at times it is difficult to differentiate them from virgin-fiber papers–even when printed on.

The issues of costs are more difficult to address. It is important to remember that ink and paper are just two components in the cost formula. The size of the print run, the type of press the project is run on and the time of the year can affect the cost of a project. Today, vegetable-based inks are competitively priced with petroleum-based inks

According to, “recycled paper production saves trees, energy and water, produces less pollution, uses more benign chemicals, and requires less bleaching than virgin paper production. It also solves a community disposal problem.” - Allen Hershkowitz, senior scientist,

Natural Resources Defense Council says there’s no inherent reason why recycled should be more expensive than virgin. “In terms of actual production price, it need not cost more. There’s less chemical waste, less water waste, and equal or less energy needed.”

The paper market is a “curious beast,” according to John Klungness, research chemical engineer, U.S. Forest Products Laboratory. “Like all markets, it’s a cyclical creature that responds to supply and demand. But it also responds to taxes. When times are good, a paper company can either take its profits and pay taxes, or it can invest in additional capacity.”

“Given that choice, the companies logically invest in more plants when prices are high. But when the new capacity floods the market with paper, prices fall and no more capacity gets built. Eventually demand catches up with supply, and the price of pulp and paper rises. All this has implications for recycling, Klungness says: When virgin pulp is expensive, “recycled fibers are wonderful but when it’s low, virgin pulp can beat it out on printing and writing grades.”

I have seen considerable change in conventional printing, especially the past 10 years. For one, the technology is much more automated, even smaller printers are transferring images to plates electrostatically, eliminating harsh chemical processing and the recycled papers that once were considered “cadillacs” are used on a daily basis.

Lou Parks
Production Manager
LithExcel Marketing

Hershkowitz says “recycling is overwhelmingly a matter of money and the market,” not mandates or the public enthusiasm for recycling. And that means the ever-shifting market will determine whether it’s cheaper to use recycled or virgin paper on any particular day of the week.


Digital is Green

Looking at the three key elements: less water, energy and emissions to determine the “green” commitment factor, today’s digital printing technologies provide a viable option to traditional printing. Digital technology uses water and non-toxic dry inks that do not require traditional developers.

“At LithExcel Communication Services Providers, we are continually working to reduce our impact on our environment and reduce our consumption of non-renewable resources,” said Waleed Ashoo, owner and president. “We have made equipment purchase decisions that support our commitment. In 2006, we acquired the Xerox iGEN 3-110™ and an iGEN 4™ the following year. Both have built-in air conditioning systems that recycle air to reduce emissions, conserving energy and reducing overall electrical costs,” said Ashoo. According to Xerox, the iGEN4 does not generate or use alcohols, chlorinated solvents, acids, or flammable materials; and the exhaust air is cleaner than the intake air because of its advanced filtering system.

The economic benefits of digital printing include: variable data printing; personalized printing for cross media marketing projects; print on demand–you can print what you need, when you need it; no more large minimum quantities and shorter turnaround times.

The following suggestions are alternatives and suggestions to traditional printing from Dynamic Graphics’ Printing Green: 12 Things You Need to Know and sustainable-design site Renourish.

Choose paper that is 100 percent post-consumer waste, processed chlorine free (PCF), uncoated, Forest Stewardship Council certified, made by renewable energy sources like wind or solar power (Mohawk Paper is a leader in this area), or even treeless (e.g., hemp and kenaf).

Use vegetable-based inks or soy inks (less than 2 percent volatile organic compounds VOC) instead of petroleumbased inks. These alternatives are both low in VOCs and competitively priced.

When using Pantone colors–an industry standard–avoid colors (mostly metallics and warm reds) that contain barium, copper, and zinc, which can cause health problems in humans. Renourish offers free downloadable PDFs showing which Pantone colors are safe in its ink section.

Try waterless printing, which eliminates the dampening systems used in conventional printing.

Use digital printing, which avoids the film and chemicals in traditional printing processes, is another good alternative.

Avoid using bindings, adhesives, or foil stamps in packaging.

Reduce the amount of inks you use; you can also save paper by asking your designer to use standard press sheet sizes.

Familiarize yourself with industry standards. The Environmental Protection Agency mandates that federal agencies must use uncoated printing and writing papers containing at least 30 percent post-consumer waste content; coated papers must contain 10 percent.

If you print on recycled paper using soy-based inks, add a text at the bottom of the printed piece or include a Forest Stewardship Council, Soy Seal, or Processed Chlorine Free, recycled symbol or seal if it applies.

Promoting green practices is the right thing to do.