Do you automatically rule out green printing, or environmentally-friendly printing, for your nonprofit because you think it is too expensive?
As a green building, Third Sector New England’s NonProfit Center has researched best practices for using eco-friendly commercial printing. Read on, and learn how you, too, can make green printing as affordable for your nonprofit as it is beneficial for our environment.
Changing Practices and Green Printing
The threat of global warming is changing the way in which the corporate, government and nonprofit sectors are doing business. Recycling office paper and printer cartridges, buying from locally-based vendors and reducing energy use are eco-friendly practices that most nonprofits have adopted.
However, many nonprofit organizations are still hesitant to make the leap to working only with green printers for fear that production costs will skyrocket. But with a bit of planning and the right production partners, green printing is easy and economical. Finding Green Partners
So, where do you begin? First, find a local printer that uses environmentally-responsible printing techniques. In Boston, we use Red Sun Press, the worker-owned cooperative that has received awards from the city and state for its use of green technology and practices.
For a list of green printers across the country, visit the following web resources:
- renourish, developed initially as a resource for the graphic design industry: List of Printers
- Waterless Printing Association: Find a Waterless Printer
Once you’ve found the right printing partner, make sure that your designer connects with the print vendor early in the project’s genesis. Problems can arise when the designer moves forward on a project without a clear understanding of what parameters need to be followed to facilitate an eco-friendly print job.
Plan Wisely for Green Printing
Next, you will want to develop your Green Printing Action Plan. Sound management practices will help you to minimize the use of chemicals and use raw products efficiently in the printing process. The following points should be part of your action plan:
- Choose environmentally-preferable paper and inks – and clearly mark your documents to illustrate this – to publicly demonstrate your nonprofit's environmental commitment.
- Choose chlorine-free paper with post-consumer fiber. Greening a print job starts before the ink hits the paper. Find out if your printer offers environmentally preferable paper.
- Think green ink. Ask your printer about the possibility of using low- polluting (with a VOC content of less than five  percent) or recycled inks. Also, vegetable-based inks contain considerably lower VOCs than petroleum-based ones.
- Use paper wisely.
- Avoid non-standard sizes for your print project. Since papers are produced in standard sheet sizes, you can save paper (and money) by getting the maximum number of copies from each sheet.
- Turn a publication into a "self-mailer.” Include your cover letter within the printed document.
- Use both sides of each sheet.
- Minimize your print project’s ink coverage. Less ink needs less "press ready" time and less paper.
- Look for a printer that uses a waterless printing system which eliminates the water or dampening system used in conventional printing.
- Work with vendors that use renewable energy sources like wind power to take the next step in green printing.
- Avoid varnishes and other coatings that may keep you from being able to recycle the piece later. However, if coating your printed piece will add significantly to its shelf life, then go ahead, as this will cut paper use over the long term.
- Don’t render paper unrecyclable during the finishing and packaging phase by using certain binding adhesives, foils and plastic bags commonly used in printing and packaging.
- Consider publishing your document online. The most environmentally-friendly publication doesn’t exist on paper at all.
Further Considerations for Green Printing
- Not all environmentally-preferable options work with all printing processes. Ask your printer which inks and which papers will meet your needs.
- While the options are out there, sometimes the information is not. Finding the greenest printer for the specific job may take some self-education and research.
Third Sector New England is a nonprofit organization that provides capacity building support and resources to help nonprofits work more effectively. Its NonProfit Center, developed using sustainable design and construction practices, offers affordable, predictable rents for nonprofit organizations and community meeting space for all area nonprofits.