5 Areas to Consider for Making Your Print Business More Sustainable

July 5, 2021

There are many reasons to make your print and signage company more environmentally sustainable. Aside from the fact that signage and graphics are major contributors to global emissions, it’s also great for your business’s reputation and can save you money.

With the world waking up to the climate crisis, consumers are more likely to support a business with sustainability goals. This is especially true for clients in the print & signage industry as their support, in turn, can improve their reputation. While regular offsetting can help balance your carbon emissions, it is far more efficient and beneficial to incorporate your sustainability goals into your business’s operations.

An excellent place to start is by identifying areas where you can begin to make these changes. Here are five to consider.


Review your carbon footprint

To transform your large format print company, you first need to have a clear picture of your carbon footprint. 


Every single step in the production & installation process releases carbon emissions. However, the actual figures vary depending on your day-to-day operations, the materials you use and even the mode of transportation from your business to the graphics installations sites. Reviewing your carbon footprint will help you pinpoint which areas contribute the most to your emissions. 



6 steps to carbon reduction - by Carbon Quota

Some initiatives have emerged to simplify this task, with the signage & graphics industry actively trying to make the changes. One example is Carbon Quota, a UK-based company that calculates and analyses carbon measurements. Aside from providing valuable insight, your carbon footprint review is a great way to keep clients informed about your sustainability efforts. It is a tool that will keep you accountable and will enable you to assess your progress at each step of your journey. Once your carbon emissions have been calculated, you can create a plan to tackle the most urgent issues first. 


Limit energy waste


When we think of energy waste, our first thought goes to switching off electric lights when they aren’t in use. Of course, this makes a difference as lighting does use a lot of energy, but there are better ways to reduce your energy consumption and, in turn, reduce your carbon footprint.

Ensuring your lighting is energy efficient is a great place to start. Switching to LED lighting will save energy and go a long way towards reducing your bills. However, switching to renewable energy, like solar, and installing voltage optimisers, is the best way to reach your sustainability goals. In addition to the environmental benefits, you also gain a source of renewable energy that will save you money. According to EnergySage, the payback period varies depending on the cost of your solar panel system, annual savings, and other factors.



Use sustainable materials and packaging

From PVC banners to adhesive tape, unsustainable materials are still widely used for print and signage installations. Many of these materials are non-recyclable and eventually end up in landfills when no longer in use. Although the non-recyclable may be more widely known, there are several more sustainable options. 


  • Post-Consumer Waste paper is made from 100% recycled paper and is sturdy enough to be used for packaging and even some signage. 
  • Another example is recyclable polyethylene (PE) substrate, a quality signage material that is also fully recyclable


Smaller items used in your operations also contribute to pollution. Plastic tags, a popular choice for packaging, can also be replaced with a recyclable polyethylene alternative, while adhesive tape can be replaced with paper tape. Of course, you may not be in a position to change all your materials immediately. If you’re using materials that aren’t 100% recyclable, start with a specific plan for partially recycling, upcycling or disposing of them in the most environmentally friendly manner.


Eco-friendly Machinery, Ink and Technology

One advantage of starting your sustainability journey now is that other industry players are already making it easier for you to make these changes. Finding eco-friendly machinery and ink is quite easy these days as many manufacturers have begun to produce more sustainable equipment. One great example is HP who have created environmentally friendly latex printers and inks. Another is Fujifilm, whose Uvijet UV inks have been recognised for their sustainability.


Still, much of the industry’s go-to machinery and inks not only release a significant amount of carbon emissions but also harm the environment after their disposal. Popular industry inks contain solvents that release harmful chemicals into the atmosphere and cause ozone pollution. When they are incorrectly disposed of, they seep into the soil which affects fragile organisms living there.

Unfortunately, popular printing equipment is also unsustainable due to its high power consumption. Looking for alternatives might not always be easy, but it’s the way to a more sustainable industry future.


Staff education


There’s nothing better than knowing your team shares your principles and are willing to help reduce your carbon footprint. Your team is the biggest trump card you have for making your signage and large format print company more sustainable. Thus, it’s essential to educate them so they can actively work towards these goals.

Encouraging your staff to be more efficient decreases your energy usage and reduces carbon emissions. In addition, make sure to eliminate any miscommunication and production issues for more efficiency.


Consider setting educational sessions or training on eco-friendly operations to encourage live discussions and make sure everyone is on the same page. In addition, your team can familiarise themselves with the properties of used materials and their impact on the environment. Once they are more knowledgeable, they can, in turn, suggest other ways to make your business even more eco-friendly.



Conclusion

Creating an environmentally friendly graphics installation company is a long-term affair. But between saving money, improving your reputation and attracting like-minded clients, this effort is dwarfed by the payback. These five areas will provide you with some guidance on where to start. However, your sustainability transformation isn’t over once you’ve ticked everything off your list; it is a long-term journey that should be entrenched in your business principles and day-to-day operations.