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As nonprofits, we
still rely a good deal on direct mail and many other printed materials to
engage our audiences. Once your materials are ready for the printer, are there
any advantages of going green?
First, here's a little bit about what
green printing is – and is not.
Green printing is
different from conventional printing in that it tends not to use virgin-fiber paper, petroleum-based inks,
toxic solvents, or chlorine-bleached papers.
uses recycled content paper, and if the paper is glossy, it uses nontoxic
coatings. When possible, it also uses processed chlorine-free paper. It
uses nontoxic soy- and vegetable-based inks as well as nontoxic cleaning
solvents for cleanup.
Green printers often go light on bindings. They
avoid using bindings whenever possible. And if a binding is needed, then they try to
bindings or cloth bindings with water-based adhesives.
of these practices serve to make printed materials recyclable, nonpolluting,
and much safer for workers. The question is whether or not all this is
affordable and of decent quality.
I actually couldn’t find much noncommercial information that compares the costs of green printing with conventional printing. What I can say is that the price of recycled paper
and processed chlorine-free paper has been steadily decreasing so that it is
now quite competitive with conventional paper and has comparable quality. It’s
much the same with soy-based inks. They used to be slower drying and poorer
quality compared with petroleum-based inks, but now the quality and pricing is
comparable. Huge industrial printers like newspapers have adopted soy-based inks and
so have made the basic materials of green printing – recycled paper and soy-based inks –
The advantages of green printing are that it doesn't cost much more if any than conventional printing, the quality is now quite good, nonprofit audiences generally like to see that you use soy-based inks and recycled paper, and it makes your printed materials much more recyclable when people are done with them.
The nonprofit that
does the main certification in this field is the Forest
Stewardship Council. They certify
paper, paper merchants, and printers.
There is also a nonprofit green
printing certification program by the Sustainable
Green Printing Partnership (SGP), which is an organization that provides a
certification label for sustainability in the graphic communications industry.
They host a list of certified
Third Sector New England has a list of
resources for finding green printers, including printers outside New England. Their recommended resources include:
I like is greenerprinter.com’s short
blog series on green printing:
We’d love to hear
about your experience using (or not using) a green printer. Send us your comments!