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3 Ways to a More Eco-friendly Printed Marketing Project




There is a lot of misinformation out there regarding the environmental impact of printed media. But this is certain: printing is recyclable, renewable and responsible. In addition, many people forget that digital media also has a carbon footprint. Websites, online ads and email are all supported by an electronic infrastructure system. This infrastructure consumes electricity, creates greenhouse gases and sends electronic waste to landfills and even oceans. 

What does it mean to be sustainable in commercial printing?

The word sustainable, in general, is defined as the capability of being maintained at a steady level without exhausting natural resources.

Popular perception is that you must forgo business printing entirely to be environmentally friendly. But realistically speaking printing is a tremendous communication vehicle in many integrated marketing campaigns. That doesn’t mean you can’t strike a balance between being ecologically friendly and bottom-line conscious. There is no doubt that paper consumption can tax our natural resources. Nature contributes so much to the print and paper industries that many industry leaders are taking the necessary steps to promote environmental stewardship. This is in response to dramatic effects to our forests, air, and oceans.

Due to Chain-of-Custody [CoC] certifications and new printing industry standards, the number of trees preserved in the United States has increased by 49% between 1953 and 2006. The US paper industry also recycles enough paper everyday to fill a 15-mile-long train. And many printing and paper companies have implemented stringent sustainability policies and practices that filter through purchasing, production and even product development. A great example of how the printing industry is becoming more eco-responsible is Hearst Publishing. Hearst Publishing earned the US Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environment Design Gold certification - the first building to earn the certification in New York City. The building is managed and operated to meet the highest sustainability standards. Companies like Hearst Publishing show a defining element of the industry’s culture: the greener, the better.

Still, how does that translate to you and your customer? Most customers prefer to buy eco-friendly products. The number varies from 50% or more depending on which study is cited. It is widely noted that more people are becoming concerned with protecting the environment, driving eco-friendly demand for items like solar candles, reusable water bottles, biodegradable pots for the garden, and as far as recycled cutting boards. These examples prove that marketers should pay more attention to social changes to align with new customer preferences.

So what has driven change towards more eco-friendly printing?

Fortunately, over the years printing companies have made advances to lessen the impact on the world we live in.

Environmentally Friendly Paper

More than 63% of paper is recovered in the US. Because papers may contain virgin fiber or a mix with pre-and/or post-consumer waste, recycling does more than save trees. It minimizes landfills too. Ecopaper are recycled papers with one or more of the following environmental characteristics:


  • High levels of postconsumer recycled content,
  • Any remaining virgin fiber is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, and 
  • Mills employ the cleanest possible production methods).

Ecopaper products are available in a wide variety of brightness, opacity, and smoothness levels, satisfying all publishers’ needs. Just about all paper companies produce some papers with post-consumer recycled content. The quality of recycled paper and environmentally preferable printing processes has improved dramatically in recent years. Modern deinking technology produces high performance recycled paper that meets the same technical specifications as virgin papers. Regrowing forests, harvesting responsibly, and using alternative materials are major concerns for paper companies today. Many paper manufacturers run on alternative energy and purchase energy credits to support greener initiatives. These companies have implemented extensive educational and awareness programs that filter through the core of their foundations.

Environmentally Friendly Ink

Like consumers, most print companies re-blend and recycle used ink to make reusable black ink.

Agri-based or vegetable-based ink is replacing petroleum-based ink. Because the oils used in vegetable-based ink are much lighter and cleaner, they tend to produce more vibrant colors. The cleaner the ink is, the milder the chemicals can be to bleach papers during the recycling process so that printed materials that end up in landfills are not as harmful to the environment. Cleaner inks emit fewer pollutants such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air during production. This can help create a better place for industry workers.

Environmentally Friendly Process

Many paper manufacturers like Gmund and Neenah produce their own energy from renewable sources such as solar and wind. Cleaner process means cleaner waste that can be used in other industries such as farming, landscaping, or even cabinetry. Paper mills make sure all parts of a tree are completely consumed.

Method is as important as material in the quest for greener pastures. Making sure the right tool is used for the job is good production proactive. Technology has provided new production alternatives that can reduce errors and waste when printing. Regular inspections and preventative maintenance ensure equipment is running at optimal performance. Even the plant-manufacturing layout can contribute to leaner production, increasing energy efficiency.

Three Huggers aren’t the only ones embracing sustainability. Two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies issue a separate non-financial sustainability report to its stakeholders. Companies like Nike, General Mills, and Procter & Gamble recognize the impact of declining natural resources and the need to move to a low-carbon economy. Finch Paper employs their own team of certified foresters that remain involved with the long-term health of forests.

Here are three questions to ask your printing company when scoping a marketing project with a more eco-friendly mindset:

1. Can my project be printed on paper that contains a high percentage of post-consumer recycled fiber?

Their answer will determine whether the printing company has practical knowledge about the characteristics and advantages of different types of recycled paper. Don’t just accept “Sure, we can use recycled!” as an answer. Specify paper with at least 50 percent post-consumer content to really make an impact. Be sure ask to see which paper options carry green paper certifications, so you know your paper is coming from an environmentally sustainable supply chain. 

2. Can it be printed with low-polluting inks?

In most printing jobs, soy- or vegetable-based inks work just fine (90 percent of daily newspapers use them routinely for color printing). Avoid inks containing heavy metals like lead, cadmium, and mercury, which are commonly used to produce some bright colors. Most printing companies have the ability to switch heavy-metal inks for more sustainable ink alternatives instead.

3. What is being done to improve the recyclability of my print job?

Coatings, laminates, inks, foils, adhesives, labels, and paper selection can all affect the recyclability of a printed document. A printing company should be able to find alternative ways to get the desired effect — through innovative paper sizes and newer glues that won’t inhibit recycling, for example.


Here's how sustainability looks at Rex 3.

We’ve always expressed a genuine interest in using the most eco-friendly processes and materials. Our consistent use of vegetable-based inks and growing selection of green paper products, keep customers actively involve in one way or another.

Rex 3’s ongoing corporate initiative to support strict forest vigilance and sustainability around the world shines in our green certifications. Therefore, Rex 3’s print and mail facility encourages all customers to use the following logos in their marketing collateral when possible.

Image result for sfi logoSustainable Forestry Initiative Certification

Sustainable Forestry Initiative [SFI] sets standards for responsible forestry in the United States and certifies responsible Chain-of-Custody [CoC]. The SFI logo is a sign you are buying wood and paper products form a responsible source, backed by rigorous, third-party certification audit.

Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification

Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification [PEFC] is an international non-profit, non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) through independent third-party certification. PEFC certifies [CoC] worldwide and is the certification system of choice for small forest owners.

Forest Stewardship Council

Forest Stewardship Council [FSC] is an independent, non-governmental, not-for-profit organization established to promote responsible management of the world’s forests. FSC certified forest products are verified from the forest of origin through the supply chain. The FSC label ensures that the forest products used are from responsibly harvested and verified sources.

Please note that paper products available for green commercial printing are marked as having various recycled contents such as chlorine-free, carbon neutral, renewable credits, ISO 14001, and Green E labels.

Paper, Process and Waste Management, and Ink

Rex 3's print and mail facility in Fort Lauderdale has an aggressive recycling program that includes separating various papers and metal contents for optimal breakdown. When preparing presses for a print job, we've acquired effective techniques that lower the amount of paper and ink used to make our presses “press ready” for your project.

When quoting a printing project, our estimating team considers the best layout formats to get most of every print run. This allows customers to see immediate savings, while conserving energy, paper, and ink.

Rex 3 also repurposes left over inks to reproduce ink that can be used in future projects. Some of this ink is used to create black ink, a color that is used across the board.

In addition, we regularly use special cleaning cloths to dispose of hazardous chemicals that derive from cleaning our presses. And we maintain healthy relationships with our vendors to ensure we comply with the latest procedures when disposing hazardous waste.

A green commercial printer can connect you with a print specialist who can help you make greener decisions regarding paper, ink, processes, and design. Rex 3 stays up-to-date on environmental issues and technologies, and our print specialists will keep you informed with critical industry changes along the way. At Rex 3, we continue to raise both our standards, so when it comes choosing a printing company that is also green Rex 3 is your choice.