101 Things Designers Can Do to Save The Earth

117. Forget ink. Use seawater.
May 11, 2009, 9:41 pm
Filed under: Ink, Project Concepts

Curb is a media agency in the U.K. that specializes in using natural materials to build awareness for clients’ products and services. They’ve made “ads” out of cut turf, snow, and sand sculptures, among other healthy things. They’re masters of guerilla advertising — the latest example being their stenciled ads for a London aquarium. Because salt water evaporates more slowly than fresh water, the ads have a lifetime of about 20 minutes, leaving nothing behind but a light dusting of natural sea salt.

Sea Tagging

Sea Tagging

115. Use ecofont for business printing
February 9, 2009, 4:58 pm
Filed under: Ink, Studio Practices

Of course, you’re doing more business with PDFs than paper, right? But for those times when only a written document will do, change from Times Roman or Arial over to ecofont. It’s a free, multi-platform font based on Verdana, that’s full of holes — the Swiss cheese of type — to save around 20% of the toner you’re currently wasting. Ecofont isn’t Swiss, though, it’s Dutch; brought to you as a public service by the Utrecht-based design firm, SPRANQ.



95. Look for printers who do waterless printing
June 30, 2007, 12:32 am
Filed under: Classes & Resources, Ink, Paper, Printing

The waterless process eliminates the fountain solution used in offset lithography, and instead of conventional metal printing plates, you use a silicone rubber plate and special ink. It’s a faster, cleaner process that reduces the amount of paper required for make-ready and thus, uses less energy. To learn more about it, download this terrific resource from Monadnock Papers, A Field Guide to Eco-Friendly, Efficient and Effective Print.

Monadnock Papers

93. Ask your printer to keep it green
June 30, 2007, 12:30 am
Filed under: Ink, Paper, Printing

There’s all kinds of stuff involved with printing that goes well beyond what paper and ink you’ve spec’d. Some if it is rather esoteric. But here’s a wonderful little checklist you can use to spur your favorite printers on to a greener lifestyle, courtesy of the excellent web site, greenbiz.com.

55. Use the Design Can Change checklist
May 31, 2007, 5:34 pm
Filed under: Classes & Resources, Ink, Paper, Printing, Project Concepts, Studio Practices

Here’s a handy checklist from Design Can Change that will tell you at a glance if a project you’re developing for a client is meeting the tests for a more sustainable end product.

44. Avoid using heavy ink coverage
May 27, 2007, 5:10 am
Filed under: Ink

Heavy ink coverage uses more resources and creates more waste. Heavy ink coverage also may impact the recycling opportunities by increasing the amount of sludge created in the recycling process.

This tip is from the excellent Minnesota Environmental Initiative’s Print Buyer’s Guide. 

43. Ask your printer about reused inks
May 27, 2007, 5:07 am
Filed under: Ink

Some printers are now able to capture old ink and reuse parts of the ink. This saves the earth’s natural resources and reduces the amount of ink requiring disposal.Reused “black” inks will not hinder the quality of your published piece, depending on the process your printer uses. Talk with your printer about the options that exist.

This tip is from the excellent Minnesota Environmental Initiative’s Print Buyer’s Guide.

41. Use inks made with renewable resources
May 27, 2007, 4:59 am
Filed under: Ink

Vegetable based inks such as soy based inks are made with a certain amount of vegetable oil rather than petroleum oil. These inks are better for the environment because they are partially made with renewable resources such as soy, linseed, and corn, and use less non-renewable resources, such as petroleum oil. In order for the inks to work well and dry efficiently, vegetable based inks still contain some amount of petroleum oil. If no petroleum oil were used, the energy use in the print shop would increase because more heat would be needed to dry the inks, thus counteracting the environmental benefit of using vegetables instead of petroleum.

This tip is from the excellent Minnesota Environmental Initiative’s Print Buyer’s Guide.

40. Use low VOC-content inks
May 27, 2007, 4:55 am
Filed under: Ink

Ask your printer what percent of Volatile Organic Compounds are emitted when the ink dries, and how that compares to other inks. The amount of VOCs emitted will depend on the type of printing (for example, sheetfed or web off-set), but the following can serve as a recommended guide: less than 10% VOCs for sheetfed printing and less than 30% for heatset printing.

This tip is from the excellent Minnesota Environmental Initiative’s Print Buyer’s Guide.

19. Spec corn-derivative shopping bags instead of plastic
May 26, 2007, 2:53 am
Filed under: Ink, Paper, Printing

If you do design work for retailers, why not suggest that their shopping bags go green? 100% biodegradable shopping bags are available, imprintable with soy-based inks, that are made from non-genetically modified starch. The look just like plastic bags, but you can throw them on the compost pile and make them part of next spring’s vegetable garden.

Biodegradable shopping bags


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.