1.6 11 steps to something better
by William Bickerstaff
Whilst a strong strategic vision is important for any organisation wanting to respond to the environmental agenda, practical steps are also important in terms of design and communications. Here OPX Creative Director William Bickerstaff provides some thoughts on sustainable design, green ink and being brave…
Twenty years after the internet and the paperless office, print is still a primary method of communicating your company's messages to its audiences. But even in a more sustainable world commissioning print still can mean the destruction of forests, chemical pollution, landfill and added transportation impact. Accepting this fundamental conflict (and before you just accept that there is nothing you can do so why bother), you could do worse than consider these 11 points to help you deliver something better…
1. Do you need a printed item at all?
In many instances the answer will be yes. Print is physical, confrontational, convenient, and understood by your audiences. The web requires you to go and find it. However, splitting content (some on-paper, some on-line) can mean less emphasis, cost and production spent on the printed item, and drive people to that website you spent all that money on!
2. Make green a part of the brief
Make sure that your agency knows that sustainability is important to your organisation, and that you expect green to be an integral part of the solution, not a last minute add-on.
3. Don't be the one…
Don't be the client who only sees a designer complicating things by trying to find a solution that is greener. Recycled paper or waterless printing can cost a little more but that difference is becoming smaller all the time, as clients and designers demand more sustainable products and processes. Printing sustainably really is an 'easy-win' if good environmental practice is important to you.
4. Change expectations
Smooth and shiny no longer necessarily means professional. If we all insist on this unrealistic and outdated interpretation of 'quality' then we are doomed to keep specifying high white, ultra smooth papers produced with high levels of chemicals and covered in plastic laminates and varnishes. A new professional aesthetic will allow us all to avoid these 'environmental car crashes' and deliver something more appropriate for a post-Stern Report age.
5. Less is more (and cheaper)
Say it with less colours, lighter paper and fewer pages. It will be cheaper to design, produce and deliver. It may also save a woodpecker or two.
6. Improving attitudes
Print production will almost certainly have the biggest environmental impact on your marketing activities. However, in the government's Envirowise Attitudes 2000 survey, the print industry came bottom of the list in terms of the number of firms which had adopted environmental policies (although we believe that's changing). Help improve this figure by only using printers with ISO 14001, EMAS, Green Mark, BPIF Environmental Assessment Scheme, or the FSC Chain of Custody accreditation. If they haven't got any of these, shop elsewhere.
7. Green plant
Look for waterless or low-alcohol presses that use less solvents. Also aim to print on a press that can run your job in one pass, avoiding more 'make-ready' waste, more energy and more chemicals. Vegetable-oil based inks (usually soya) are a must and should be insisted on (they shouldn't add cost). The very best printers are starting to run their presses using renewable energy – hopefully more will follow.
8. Say it with digital
Digital print is very efficient for smaller quantities with less paper waste and no resource-depleting aluminum plates. Digital also enables individual brochures to be tailored to, say, include a persons name. Given that direct mail with this personal touch get a 60% higher response rate than without, it means you can print less in the first place.
9. Paper is a tree. Duh.
Forget what you may have heard or read, all major environmental agencies agree that using recycled paper is preferable to paper that is created from pure 'virgin-pulp'. Quality and choice of recycled papers is improving all the time. Paper that is part-recycled is also a strong option, particularly if the recycled source is post-consumer waste. Insist that paper is 'Elemental Chloride Free' and if it contains virgin pulp, demand that it is from a FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) source.
10. Buy local
Just as you shouldn't buy a strawberry in mid-winter that has been jetted half way round the world, don't print materials in Bristol if you need them in Glasgow – it could help save the planet and save you sitting in traffic on the M6 next week!
11. Be brave
Change is by its very nature uncomfortable, but anybody who expects a different result by doing the same thing every time is foolish. We all admire the brave work that we see – the stuff that pushes boundaries and wins awards. That could be you and thinking green could be the catalyst.