Paperlight footprint? A Day in the Life of a Slick Brochure

6 06 2008

Image source: it all skyrocketed with Gutenberg‘s printing press…

A Green Printer dispatch.

Ever wondered how much energy and thought it took to produce that shiny brochure your marketing staff handed to you this week? And no, it’s not just the brand and visual design genius we’re talking about.

Let’s face it: making a few pieces of paper look pretty takes up some pretty hefty resources and the paper and pulp industry is there to meet our paper hungry needs (so much for the paperless office).

In fact, the OECD Environmental Outlooks calls the pulp and paper industry the single largest consumer of water and the third greatest industrial greenhouse gas emitter, right after the chemical and steel industries and the oil and gas industry.

And, that rank, as echoed by Co-op America is not set to go down anytime soon.

The Environmental Defense Fund further attests that paper use is on the rise with paper and packaging still making up one third of municipal landfill waste. And, producing all those nice brochures (or manuals or contracts or….) takes up a lot of energy. In fact,

• Producing paper uses 11.5 percent of all energy in the industrial sector.
• One third of all wood harvested in the U.S. goes into paper products.

Thus, on the bright side, paper use presents the potential for enormous environmental savings. Citigroup took up the challenge of using post-consumer waste paper and saved 43.8 billion BTU’s of energy, enough to supply 430 homes for a year.

But then, what about those cool, “a must” coloured graphs and charts on the company brochure?

More than likely, it was made using inks containing volatile organic compounds (VOCs). That’s short for those nasty major pollutants linked to the deterioration of the earth’s protective ozone layer and, consequently (some researchers suggest), to accelerating climate change.

So what are we to do?
Let’s begin with the water used to print those brochures. Waterless printers have been able to dramatically reduce water consumption. For example, a printer in Switzerland, operating one of the world’s first waterless web presses, eliminated the use of approximately 250,000 liters (about 66,000 gallons) of water in one year. That water would normally have come from a nearby lake, which is a source of drinking water for tens of thousands of people.

The invention of water-washable inks has allowed the waterless pressroom to be virtually VOC-free. Water-washable ink technology takes out the need for solvent-based press and blanket wash solutions, which typically account for a large portion of a printer’s VOC output.

So, have your cake and eat it too. We all love handing a cool looking brochure to a client. It just doesn’t need to cost the Earth.

More resources

  • No piece of paper is completely environmentally invisible, even the recycled kind, so choose check out these guidelines for environmentally preferable paper by the Environmental Paper Network.
  • Handy printable signs to encourage better office paper use by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).
  • Ever wondered where to even start to buy greener paper? The first step starts with asking the right questions and this Paper Supplier Evaluation PDF by the EDF is about as thorough as it gets.
  • Recycled paper purchasing article from

Get these brands and more, all while tracking how much CO2, trees and wastewater you’ll save with the Eco-Widget, at Green Printer.



2 responses to “Paperlight footprint? A Day in the Life of a Slick Brochure”

7 06 2008
Mr. Sustainable (15:05:02) :

In order for us to move to cleaner printing, it is imperative that people understand the full impact of the old methods.

Keep up the good work!

27 10 2008
Merry (08:01:54) :

Thanks for writing this.

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