Tips for More Sustainable Design

As a designer I often feel guilty about the amount of paper wasted during the design process due to inevitable revisions, rewrites and test prints. Our office makes sure to recycle paper and other products, but sustainability really relates to much more than that. It should encompass everything we consume and produce. Green design is a step toward more sustainable solutions.  Of course, the ultimate goal of a green designer is to minimize his/her environmental footprint with their final product. Consider the following tips to make your projects more eco-friendly.


1. Greener Paper

  • Make sure you are using FSC Certified or Recycled paper. FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) is a certification organization that assesses those who manage the care of forests. They ensure those managing a forest are complying with federal law and international agreements relating to the rights of indigenous peoples, as well as enhancing the social and economic well being of workers, surrounding communities and the ecosystems surrounding the forest. The management of the forest must meet all FSC criteria before being certified by the organization.
  • Know what your paper is made of. Recycled paper is made from either 100% discarded (post-consumer) paper, a mix of post-consumer and pre-consumer paper, or a mix of post-consumer and either FSC Certified or just regular, non-certified paper. This is how recycled papers get their percentage rating.
  • What's the best paper to use? I always go with using recycled paper because it means no new trees are cut down and also helps prevent waste from going into landfills. Also, try to select a paper that has a minimum of 30% post-consumer waste (PCW) content, is processed chlorine free (PCF) and is uncoated. If purchasing office copy paper, find one that is made with 100% PCW and is PCF.

2. Eco-Type

  • If you want to cut down on toner costs and help protect the environment, try using Eco-Font. The Eco-Font software prints fonts with tiny holes, undistinguishable to the human eye, which can cut back on toner use by up to 50%. The software requires no change to the fonts you are already using and works with your existing documents without any modifications.


3. Smart Design

  • Limit your color pallet and use ink and solid blocks of color in your design sparingly. The more ink on the page, the more solvents are needed on press, ultimately resulting in more waste. Stick to standard paper sizes and die-cutting options to reduce paper waste per printed sheet.
  • Proof your files on screen as much as possible and send pdf's of presentations and documents instead of printed copies whenever possible.
  • When sourcing materials for packaging, make sure they are nontoxic, have recycled content, and that material extraction does not require destruction of ecosystems and is produced under fair and safe working conditions.


4. Green Your Printing

  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. While still in the reviewing and finalizing process, make sure to print double sided to minimize paper use and print only when necessary. Also, recycle empty ink and toner cartridges.
  • In order to cut shipping costs and reduce your carbon footprint, try to select a printer within 100 miles of where the printed piece will be delivered.
  • Use soy ink. It maintains its lithographic quality throughout the entire print job thereby reducing the number of rejected copies due to inferior quality. Soy ink also provides a more intense color, allowing printers to use less ink on press.  Created from a renewable resource, therefore eco-friendly, soy inks also differ from traditional inks in that they do not use petroleum.
  • Make your print piece FSC certified. If your printer is FSC certified, they can add a special FSC logo to your project, officially registering it as a sustainable piece printed on FSC paper in a certified facility.

To move toward truly sustainable design we must start making conscious decisions throughout the design process and in our working environments. Helping make our planet a little greener just takes a little thought and effort.


By, Stephanie Silvera  |  @Steph_Silvera

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