Green Printing Options Grow Even In A Recession

  • Oct 20, 2009

A recent survey in Print Solutions magazine and Appleton Papers shows surprising growth in eco-friendly printing over the past year. Among the unexpected materials used is chipboard to make presentation folders. Not long ago, that would have been a joke. But companies wishing to enhance their environmental image are taking bold steps. If an item looks recycled, it gets first consideration for these folks. The once-small green niche has grown up, and print buyers can be separated into two categories: fad-conscious companies and truly committed eco-buyers.

“Successful business owners excel at understanding and meeting their customers’ expectations. Those expectations now often include a concern for the environment and business sustainability,” says Bill Van Den Brandt, manager of corporate communications for Appleton. “That’s why more and more businesses consider a ‘green perspective’ to be an important element of their business plan.” Truly green buyers are still a minority, but they’re dedicated, unlikely to give up on an environmental plan just because of a tight budget. However, they aren’t fooled by mere colors, labels or certifications. These people want to see ROI (return on investment) results, and they are concerned about the product’s life cycle from beginning to end, including who touched it, how it was transported and how it will be recycled. Typically, they’re younger buyers, and they work in health care, education, government or banking. Real estate still ranks near the bottom of industries interested in green, joined by the beleaguered travel industry.

Popularity of environmentally responsible printing is still growing

More than three-fourths of all consumers say the terms “recyclable, renewable and sustainable” are words that have strong impact on purchase intent, according to a fall 2008 survey. Sustainability Is the New “Green” The key to real green solutions may be in services and media type, not in green products. As saving money vies with saving the planet for everyone’s attention, savvy buyers are trying to have it all with “sustainability.”

“The easiest way to define sustainability is to contrast it to green,” says Aaris Sherin, a professor of graphic design/environment at St. Johns University in New York City. She is also the author of SustainAble, a guide to green projects and sourcing for graphic designers. “Green is primarily about the environment. Sustainability looks at the balanced use of environmental, social and economic factors, and how they impact future generations.”

The idea encompasses green products, but it’s more firmly grounded in practices and services, rather than items. A recycled brochure might be “green,” but cleaning up a database in order to launch a targeted campaign is “sustainable.” Sustainable efforts can also reduce risk, lower costs and boost skills, strategy and brand reputation, in addition to environmental benefits.

Increasingly, corporate sustainable responsibility has come to the forefront, mimicking the ’90s focus on social responsibility. “In fact, I think the recession has caused producers to become more innovative and creative about their offerings,” says Ken Loyd, co-principal of South Coast Paper, a Columbia, S.C.-based business. South Coast recently formed an alliance with Boise Paper to produce Aspen Diverse Earth, a paper that is both “green” and “sustainable.” While the product is new, it’s gotten a lot of attention from customers.