Green Printing for Your Promotional Materials

Do you automatically rule out green printing for your nonprofit organization because you think it is too expensive? If you said yes, then read on and learn how you can make green printing as affordable for your nonprofit as it is beneficial for our environment.

Do you automatically rule out green printing for your nonprofit organization because you think it is too expensive? If you said yes, then read on and learn how you can make green printing as affordable for your nonprofit as it is beneficial for our environment.

Finding Green Partners

Eric Johnson, sales representative at Red Sun Press and a recent presenter at a NonProfit Center forum on green marketing, suggests a couple ways to make green printing easier and more economical to execute.

First, he advocates finding a local printer that uses environmentally-responsible printing techniques.

For a list of green printers, visit the following web resources:

Then you will want to make sure that your designer and printer have conversations early in the project’s genesis to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Johnson warns that 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. “There are two main things that affect green printing,” Johnson explains. “One is paper and two is design.”

Print Buyer Action Plan

Behind every printed page is an array of chemicals, wastes and emissions – many of which can be avoided through informed choices and good management practices. Organizations concerned about their environmental footprint will want to select papers, inks and printing techniques that minimize the use of chemicals, use raw products efficiently, and operate their offices and presses with eco-friendly power sources.

  • Choose environmentally-preferable paper and inks – and clearly mark your documents to illustrate this – to publicly demonstrate your nonprofit organization'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 5 percent) or recycled inks. Also, vegetable-based inks are preferable to petroleum-based inks because they contain considerably lower VOCs. Co-op America recommends inks with vegetable-oil levels specified in the Vegetable Ink Printing Act of 1993 (S.716): 40 percent for news inks, 20 percent for sheet-fed inks, 20 percent for forms inks, and 10 percent for heat-set inks.
  • Use paper wisely. Use as few paper sheets as possible for your print project.
    • Avoid non-standard sizes for your print project. Papers are produced in standard sheet sizes. You can save paper by getting the maximum number of copies from those sheets.
    • See if you can turn a brochure or other document into a "self-mailer,” which will not require an envelope. Include your cover letter within the printed document, so you will not have to include extra pieces of paper. If a separate cover letter actually is more eco-friendly, use both sides, and keep the rest of the packaging to a minimum.
  • Package your document wisely when a self-mailer will not work. Bindings, adhesives, foils, and plastic bags commonly used in printing or packaging printed material can render paper unrecyclable at most facilities
  • Minimize your print project’s ink coverage. Less ink needs less "press ready" time and thus 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 take the next step in green printing, using renewable energy sources like wind power.
  • Avoid foil stamps, 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.
  • Consider publishing your document online. The most environmentally-friendly publication doesn’t exist on paper at all, and it is now possible to design and distribute a publication without ever printing it out on paper.

A Final Caution

  • 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.


Contact Info and Online Green Printing Resources:

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