Print – Peter Tielemans

Many designers are now acutely aware of the need to select materials that are created from sustainable sources, and this is where paper – and, indeed, good old-fashioned print – yet again become the relevant options

The year 2009 will arguably be remembered as the year when the world reeled from the effects of the global economic downturn and sustainability became more significant. This united change in consciousness will only become more apparent in 2010 and designers need to be ready with a knowledge and understanding of sustainable resources to meet this expectation.

The paper industry is still viewed by some as inherently unsustainable, but this misconception is fortunately changing. A UK initiative by the print and paper industry entitled Two Sides was launched in September 2009 with the support of almost 100 companies and associations spanning the graphic communications supply chain. Its aim is to not only challenge perceptions about the production and use of paper and print, but also champion its continued presence in the future media mix.

Paper is Green
The initiative is designed to wake people up to the fact that not only are print and paper powerful and eco-friendly media, but paper is one of the few inherently sustainable industries. For example, how many people know that more trees are planted every year than are harvested, that European forests have grown by more than 30 per cent since 1950 and that producing and reading a traditional newspaper can consume 20 per cent less energy than reading the news online for more than 30 minutes?

By equipping themselves with this knowledge, designers will strengthen the toolkit they use to approach every brief.

Alongside initiatives like Two Sides, standards such as the Forest Stewardship Council, Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification and many other certification schemes around the world have become critical in providing a guarantee of the sustainability of the resources and the supply chain that led to their production.

These seals of approval are crucial. From harvesting raw materials and paper production, through the design process to print, distribution and eventual recycling, there can be any number of hidden issues, which can catch the end-user out unless they are absolutely sure of the product heritage.

Know your stock
As a case in point, a recent study by the World Wildlife Fund found that traces of pulp from tropical forests had been used in the production of as many as 19 out of 51 children’s books in Germany, including many well-known titles. This merely serves to underline the importance of knowing the provenance of your materials and for having systems and standards in place which meet the current and future requirements of customers.

Sustainable luxury
Another widely held belief that is changing is that eco-friendliness and quality are not compatible. Where this may once have been true – particularly with some recycled paper – there is a sea change currently taking place in the Green market, and this was reflected in the success of the first Sustainable Luxury Fair, held in Paris in May 2009. Where once sustainable products were seen as the cheaper, lower-quality cousins of luxury goods, that belief is being turned on its head.

The same is now true for paper products. Sappi papers Era or Royal Roto Recycled, for example, look, feel and perform exactly like a virgin fibre paper does, yet they contain 50 per cent post-consumer waste.

In the world of product packaging, in individual cases paper is set to take over as the primary material. This is because coated papers can offer much improved packaging disposal solutions, which is not only environmentally friendly, but also a more effective option. This is certainly the case for Sappi’s innovative Algro Nature – although one-side coated, it is certified for complete biodegradation.

BlueGreen credentials
Today, most individuals in the design, print and paper industries seek to integrate the highest sustainable and eco-friendly standards in the whole printing chain.

To encourage awareness across the industry, last year we introduced the BlueGreen award in our European Printers of the Year competition. It recognises outstanding printed communication, highlighting a good cause while using ecofriendly techniques.

The environmental story of paper goes beyond recycling. Award-winning Tempo™ Silk enables printers to use fewer chemicals and energy in the print process, thanks to the paper’s special ink-absorption properties. The technology and innovation of Tempo™ supports sustainable strategies, while the efficiency gained by its surface enables printers to meet ever-challenging deadlines.

Looking ahead to the next 12 months it is becoming clear, to us at least, that only those committed in the long term to sustainability can prosper.

Latest articles

Upcoming design books to look out for

Spotlighting marginalised women designers, “heads on” design solutions to environmental issues and more – these are the anticipated design books we think you should read.