Every office and home is pretty much stacked with all sorts of papers, parchments and documents. As we all know, the paper itself is produced by using some of the most essential natural resources – wood, water and energy; while the process of printing additionally uses a wide array of inks, solvents, dyes, acids, varnishes and other solutions, which ultimately harm both our environment and our health. This exploitation and hazardous combination of ingredients for production has prompted many experts to find and implement ecologically sound alternatives in printing, so let’s delve a little deeper to understand how and why such conscientious changes should be made on a global level.

Methods of change

First off, we have recycled paper. It is one of the most common and standardized practices for sustaining our environment. This is what saves trees from being cut and processed, energy won’t be wasted on the production of new materials, and use of toxic chemicals for manufacture is reduced. That is why the paper manufacturing industry is diligently seeking ways to avoid processing pulps which are acquired from trees, which will consequently reduce the production of solid waste of non-recycled paper. The re-use of previously produced material will also give living trees more time to grow and become stronger, which will influence paper quality, too.

On the other hand, memorize the term ‘tree free paper’. It requires a lot less chemicals and energy to process. On top of that, no acids are required and it is most definitely recyclable. This paper is plant based (made usually out of wheat, cotton, soybean, etc.), however it is more expensive to produce than your regular virgin tree paper, which is primarily extracted from either hardwood (deciduous) or softwood (coniferous).

The paper industry should also aim to use renewable energy, like sunlight, wind, heat, tides and water (rain or river). This is no mere method of reducing the expenses for electricity and other sources of power, but it also keeps CO2 emissions in check and promotes environmental sustainability. According to an advocacy group, Environmental Defense, one tone of virgin uncoated paper consumes about 19,075 gallons of water, three tons of wood, and generates 2, 278 pounds of solid waste. This is proof enough that a greener solution has to be made if those digits are to drop, otherwise this rapid exploitation and consumption can in time cause irreversible damage.

Eco friendly printing

There is a huge list of inks, acids, dyes, driers, modifiers, solutions, chemicals, elements and whatnots that are extremely toxic, yet still used in paper printing. The scariest example is the use of chlorine for bleaching paper, which incredibly pollutes the water and increases the risk of cancer development. If we are to avoid such horrid and environmentally devastating experiences, vegetable-based inks are of the essence. They require much less petroleum, they are organic-based and they have the same functional properties as lead, mercury and cadmium.

Another excellent example of the green approach to printing is the use of remanufactured toner cartridges. These printing supplies actually reduce the need for new resources to produce the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) and drastically cut down the number of waste dumped on a daily basis. Nothing spells ‘eco-friendly’ better than that!

The benefits

So, green printing benefits us primarily in two ways: conserving/preserving the resources while sustaining the environment; and cutting down printing costs. If a complete changeover has been made from “regular” to “green”, an office, or even a home can decrease the overall expenses by up to 70%, depending on the implemented strategy, of course. If every consumer begins to support the paper recycling industry, it will influence more households, retailers and other businesses to go green, too. Recycle 100% of post-consumer waste and you have a recipe for the most environmentally sound approach to printing.