Best practices in green printing: quantifying the benefits of going green – part 2

I frequently encourage clients as well as readers of my blog to be transparent about the environmental savings derived from “going green” with their marketing and communications.

My firm works with the Massachusetts League of Environmental Voters (MLEV), whose mission is to advocate for sound environmental policies and to elect pro-environmental candidates who will adopt and implement such policies.   They are the state affiliate of the League of Conservation Voters.

MLEV publishes an annual Environmental Scorecard, which serves as a guide to how Massachusetts legislators voted on key environmental issues during the past legislative session (2007-2008).  On page 2 of the attached PDF, MLEV quantifies the environmental savings from having produced their piece using responsible materials, based on calculations from the Environmental Defense Paper Calculator.

In addition, MLEV included several clean and recgonizable eco-logos on the back of the scorecard, underneath their return address on the mail panel.

These two transparent approaches (specific savings calculated and described inside as well as easy-to-understand labels on the outside) serve as a best practice for anyone in the marketing communications space.

Please click here to view a PDF of the scorecard.

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Best practices in green printing: quantifying the benefits of going green

I have written on a number of occasions about the importance of green business practices – both because they are good for the world around us as well as because they can be profit drivers for an organization.

Once an organization has decided to adopt green practices, it is very important that they quantify the benefits to the environment.  In fact, according to Cone, a leading cause branding and marketing agency, the details matter a great deal.  Cone, in collaboration with The Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, conducted its 2008 Green Gap Survey, focusing on on consumers’ understanding of and attitudes toward corporate environmental marketing claims.  According to the survey, 70 percent of Americans indicated that quantifying the actual environmental impact influenced their decisions to purchase a product or service that has an environmental benefit.

Therefore, when my firm works with a client to produce a piece of marketing collateral that has environmentally-friendly elements, we strongly encourage them to devote some real estate to the numbers (i.e. when using 100% post-consumer recycled fiber, you can quantify, for example, energy, paper and water saved versus a non-recycled alternative).

A recent example of a best practice in green printing was the annual report for the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, which my firm produced.  Inside the back cover, the foundation devoted a half page to the environmental benefits of using a specific Mohawk paper that is made with 100% post-consumer recycled fiber.

Please click here to view the inside back cover of the report.

I have written in the past about resources available to quantify such environmental savings.  One great paper calculator is managed by Environmental Defense, a leading environmental organization.  I prefer it over other alternatives because it is a third-party tool and is not affiliated with the paper industry.  Research has shown that when certifications are independent and transparent, they resonate more with the end user.   Please click here to visit that post.

A focus on green printing

I work with a wide variety of clients to help them design and execute environmentally-friendly marketing campaigns. A principal component of these programs involves print (direct mail, sales literature, annual reports, etc).

Over the last year, I have tried to distill a lot of what I have read and learned into 5 simple steps to “greening” your print projects:

  1. Use renewable energy, such as wind-generated electricity, in the production process – manufacturing of all kinds, including the creation of collateral, requires large amounts of electricity, traditionally produced by fossil fuel-powered generators. The combustion of fossil fuels creates carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Therefore, one of most effective ways to address the environment with your marketing communications is to produce your materials with renewable energy, specifically wind power. Any number of third-party reports highlight that wind power resonates very well with end consumers. Every time you use wind power to print a marketing piece, you are demonstrating a commitment to reducing greenhouse gases. My company, Grossman Marketing Group, prints with 100% certified wind power, which allows our clients to print our “produced with certified wind power” logo on their collateral at no extra cost to their organizations. Not only does this resonate well with end recipients, but it also creates demand for more wind farms, which will help our country reduce our dependence on foreign oil (please see my previous post on this subject: Looking ahead at the promise of wind power).
  2. Choose papers made with a high degree of post-consumer recycled content – this is probably the best way to make your print pieces green, as using post-consumer fiber is significantly less resource intensive than using virgin fibers. Once you make the commitment to use papers with post-consumer content, it is important to translate the environmental benefits to your constituents. The best paper calculator is managed by Environmental Defense, a leading environmental organization. Here’s a link: http://www.edf.org/papercalculator/
  3. Choose papers with FSC-certified fiber to preserve forest lands – the Forest Stewardship Council certifies that papers came from trees that were planted specifically for paper production. Although FSC-certified papers may come from virgin fibers, FSC is a good stamp of approval for a printed piece (although unlike renewable energy, most end consumers do not know what FSC means, and thus it does not generally resonate well)
  4. Choose papers made with process chlorine free (PCF) or elemental chlorine free (ECF) pulps – when paper is bleached with elemental chlorine, there can be harmful byproducts. Therefore, some paper manufacturers, notably Mohawk, have made great strides to reduce the amount of chlorine used in the bleaching process. For more information, please visit the following link on Mohawk’s site: http://www.mohawkpaper.com/environment/water/chlorine-free-pulp/
  5. Use vegetable-based inksSoy inks (or, most accurately “Soy-based inks”) are made almost identically to regular printing inks, with the substitution of vegetable oil (predominately soybean oil) for traditional petroleum-based oil. Ink is composed of approximately 35% oil (varies a bit from ink to ink), so when referring to soy-based inks, that is the approximate percentage you should cite. Therefore, when using vegetable-based inks, you know that you are reducing the demand for petroleum-based products, and using oil products that almost certainly have been refined in the United States. The remaining 65% of ink, whether soy-based or traditional, is made up of waxes and resins (which hold the ink together), dryers (which enable the ink to dry), and pigments (which give ink the color).

Environmental Defense Paper Caluculator

Below is a link to a paper savings calculator that Environmental Defense, a leading environmental organization, has created.

This is a great tool to use on projects to determine the environmental benefits of a specific paper with post-consumer content, versus its virgin fiber alternative. I prefer using this tool over other tools because it is a third-party resource, not affiliated with the paper/print/marketing industries. It’s transparent and backed by an organization that is not-for-profit focused on “tackling the most serious environmental problems.”

http://www.edf.org/papercalculator/