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Friday, April 13, 2007

Is Your Stationery Killing The Environment?

Remember when we last talked about sustainable marketing we looked at how PlanetArk and the Direct Marketing Association in the UK are publicising the message of sustainability. And we also noted the conflict of interest that arises with direct mail.

Now I'd like to look at how stationery and how you use it affects the enviroment.

4 Ways Your Stationery Hits The Environment

Marketing and marketing related activities consume a vast amount of ink and paper. There are at least 4 ways. These include business cards, letters, bills and brochures which all affect the environment:

  • Forests themselves
  • Printer Inks
  • Dampening solutions
  • Chlorine

The Forests Themselves

Paper production has a major environmental impact on forests when paper fibre is produced from trees cut from virgin forest without replanting.  The good news is that you can encourage sustainable paper use by choosing printers who only use paper from European forests where more trees are planted than felled.

Printer Inks

The most common inks are petroleum-based.  Using these can creates large quantities of volatile organic compounds. (VOC).

Vegetable dye inks are more sustainable. They’re cleaner and brighter and more rub resistant than petroleum-based inks. They produce much less of the volatile organic compounds. And they’re the same cost as petroleum based inks. 

Dampening Solutions

Many printers use a dampening solution with high levels of a solvent called isopropyl alcohol (IPA). IPA contributes to the Volatile Organic Compound emissions.

Again there is an environmentally friendly alternative. The printer can use a waterless printing process. That means a dampening solution isn’t required and therefore no IPA is released.


Chlorine is used to bleach paper to make it white. The side‑effect is that carcinogenic organic compounds are produced that are toxic to life.

Of course there are plenty of chlorine-free papers that can be used instead.

Why Doesn’t Everyone Use Sustainable Printing?

The problem of course is that historically printing presses have been a major capital investment. That means the printer is not going to scrap or sell the press until they’ve had their money’s worth out of it. Any other way is commercial suicide. That means unless you search out environmentally friendly printers you’re constrained by the machinery and printing process of the printer you’ve chosen

Next time I'll look at exactly how you can improve your marketing sustainability with little or no effort and with a considerable cost saving! Until then.


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