These days interest in sustainability and reducing environmental impact appears to be high. At least it is amongst consumers and governments, but although lots of people talk the talk, the number of companies in the graphics industry actually doing anything real is pretty dismal. Even amongst big name manufacturers, there are few bespoke projects designed to help printers and publishers build more sustainable businesses.
Sitting here in the midst of the Brexit chaos, it is very easy to also get depressed about the slow pace of environmental impact mitigation in the graphics industry. Fortunately the deepening gloom of the Brexit shambles matters little beyond the UK, such is the smallness of our contributions in the broader context. And the even better news is that the rest of the world in general and Europe in particular can and will carry on with the new normal. And this includes a higher profile and further guidance for environmental impact management.
When we are out and about working with Digital Dots consulting clients, we spend an inordinate amount of time explaining workflow management. But rarely do clients ask about reducing environmental impact, which can be one of the major outcomes of a well-managed workflow. Not only does an efficient and automated workflow get jobs faster to press, it can also cut wasted time, materials, energy, whilst also improving capacity utilisation. All of this increases margins on jobs, which gives a positive boost to a printing company’s bottom line.
Proponents of pretty much all forms of digital communications sincerely believe that they are kinder to the planet than the printed equivalents. They believe it is more efficient and that it does a better job of communicating brand identity. They forget that print’s only carbon footprint is when it is produced. Instead they try to persuade the market that digital media are eco-friendly because they involve no tree felling or transportation emissions.
We worry a lot about the environmental impact of the graphics industry but the health of people working at the job of printing and publishing should also be of concern. Putting in long hours at a computer screen, reading and writing are all stressful and can lead to ailments such as repetitive strain injury, headaches, eye stress and back problems. But overusing a mouse and keyboard are far less likely to cause long term health problems than overexposure to chemicals used in print media production.