Saturday, October 18, 2008

Smarter Design Choices for the Environment

Okay so sustainability is totally hip right now. Everyone cares about the environment. Green is the new black. Al Gore's film was the most watched documentary ever. Yes, yes, yes and yes, but what can designers do to help the environment?

Not many designers know how to properly design with the environment in mind, and us designers are some of the world's greatest polluters. Packaging, printing, recycling, paper-making, inks, foil stamping, binding... All this and more is what we are putting out there in terms of energy (ab)use. According to the Environment Protection Agency, as much as a third of the developing world's non-industrial solid waste streams consists of packaging.

There are some myths out there that the energy needed to recycle minimizes any savings in the use of recycled papers versus virgin paper (paper directly from trees), but by using recycled papers there is less energy consumption, fewer greenhouse gases, less waste paper and less solid waste.

So designers. What can we do? Turns out we can do a lot. Here are some ideas.

Plan ahead
Consider 100% PCW uncoated paper, or elemental chlorine free or totally chlorine free paper.
For long shelf life, choose a paper that meets the American National Standards Institute standards for product longevity.
Plan ahead to avoid air shipping, and use targeted, updated mailing lists.
If designing packaging, design it to last, can it be used for something else?
Design packaging closest to the product's size, and at a most efficient size for shipping. As much as 50% of packaging waste is from the outer packaging that the consumer will never see.

Use the fewest materials necessary to be effective.
Consider standard paper sizes to maximize positioning and bleeds (4up? 6up?).
Design with multipurpose use in mind (can an invitation also be self-mailer?).
If the printed piece isn't reusable, ensure that it is recyclable.
Use digital photography when possible.
Use PDF digital proofs instead of paper printouts.

Inks & Finishing
Consider vegetable-based inks.
Use fewer ink colors, consider 2 color jobs over 4 color jobs (less inks are also cheaper for the client, and can have amazing graphic impact).
Consider less ink coverage.
Avoid metallic and fluorescent inks when possible.
Consider using aqueous varnishes and coatings instead of UV coatings and laminates.
Consider alternatives to foil stamping.
Consider water-based glues.

Choose an FSC-certified printer.
Consider filmless and plateless digital printing for small runs over off-set printing.
Send artwork to printer electronically.

Then lastly there is that old myth that recycled papers always look, well, recycled, and that 2 color jobs miss out on the graphic impact. I couldn't disagree more. Here's a self-mailer I designed that was printed on recycled paper and made by only using 2 inks (purple and black).

Can you tell it was designed with the environment in mind?

No comments: