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Digital Printing, Green Thinking

(September 2007) posted on Thu Sep 06, 2007

Eco-friendliness is a hot topic among printers. This month, Mandel discusses the benefits and considerations associated with making digital imaging green.

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By Rick Mandel

The digital-imaging community has not been contacted by Al Gore’s team, though now may be an opportune time to address the options for eco-friendly printing. Why should we pursue ways to make our products environmentally sound? One reason is because it’s a wonderful story to tell our clients and one they’ll appreciate. And although the initiative probably won’t save money for the company or our clients, it’s simply the right thing to do.

Why is this now on my radar screen? A very good client has asked my company to pursue eco-friendly alternatives for its customer. Now I’d like to share with you some of the findings I uncovered as I researched alternatives for producing a green, digitally printed point-of-sale product.

When clients make a request for eco-conscious printed materials, what are they really asking for? In my opinion, the client is looking for a final product onto which we can stamp something to the effect of “Our earth does not have a problem with our P-O-S materials.” Is this possible? Let’s break it down.

My initial research led me to separate the world of green large-format printing into two main areas of concern: substrates and inks. Subcategories address whether the consumables are biodegradable, recyclable, made with recyclable or renewable products, better for the environment, and finally, better for your employees—the ones who work with the materials.

The graphic process that is associated with our discussion of eco-friendly can be displayed in the following workflow: design→ raw materials/consumables→ print manufacturing→ use of the P-O-S products→ end of life (disposal). Intervention in each of these areas can have a great impact on the green factor of the product.


Design and materials

The design of the imagery will relate directly to the type of materials and equipment that will be utilized to produce the prints. If the goal is an eco-friendly product, the marketing/ design people need to be involved up front. For example, if the product requires back lighting, then the flexibility of substrates, energy utilization, ink durability, etc., will be very narrow.

Your choice of raw materials may impact the durability and cost of the project. The design of the piece and the budget drive your options. Adding materials such as protective coatings, adhesives, and laminates to the raw substrate makes the final product less recyclable.


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