7 Environmentally-Friendly Design Practices

April 22, 2010 | Design Basics

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In honor of Earth Day, here are 7 things to consider on your next design job:

  1. Understand the type of papers you are using. In your copier or from the offset printer, understand the type of paper you are consuming. This can be confusing as there are recycled content numbers to look at, as well as sustainable harvesting practices to examine. Take the time to ensure that one or both of those are following good, green practices.
  2. Watch the coatings. Aqueous coating is water based and much more environmentally friendly than varnish. Don’t just assume glossy is bad and matte is good, ask about the specifics of how a print job is finished.
  3. Choose your print partners wisely. Printing has many qualities that can make it pretty bad for the environment: paper waste, toxic inks, high-energy machinery, to name a few. Find out what your printer is doing on all three of those fronts. Ensure they recycle waste paper, use soy-based or other less toxic inks, and see what type of energy efficiency or carbon-limiting programs that have going.
  4. Minimize your own printing. At the beginning of the design process, it is usually necessary to create a hard copy print out or mockup of a printed piece. This helps people understand the actual physical presence of a brochure, how big the text will actually look, etc. But once you are at the point of proofreading and double-checking, it is often not necessary to keep printing out every new version. Try to proof online by using PDFs.
  5. Don’t print excess quantities. The way offset printing works is that the per-piece price drops significantly the more you print. When you see that a quantity of 5000 is just a little bit more than a quantity of 1000 it can be tempting to print the higher quantity. But think twice: you’ll have to print, ship and store all of them.
  6. Consider transportation costs. Try to print near where you’ll be using the printed pieces to minimize the shipping of materials. Also, heavier paper means more shipping or postage costs.
  7. Does it really need to be printed? My business has changed dramatically in the 9 years I’ve been in business. It has switched from print-dominated to web-dominated. To make the same amount of information available online, as in print, it’s generally more economical to have it on a web site, rather than printed. It’s also, obviously, much more earth friendly. I’m still a believer in many forms of printed materials: I’m a book lover, and sometimes you just can’t get a good look at something unless it’s in printed form. But the throwaway marketing materials and excessive printouts of things is wasteful.

Happy Earth Day from this people-powered commuter.

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