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.
The graphics industry is at the heart of the recycling industry, but when it comes to environmental accountability, how solid are its credentials? This is an impossible question to answer, but that doesn’t mean we should all give up on trying to answer it or on pursuing a green agenda.
Processless platesetting, makes for more efficient and sustainable production, because it removes the need to chemically remove unexposed plate coatings. It’s a big step forward in making print media production more environmentally friendly, but it has taken a while to gain traction. Early iterations were not entirely processless and the plates were not much use after a few thousand impressions. But over time the technology has improved and now it is finally starting to come into its own, even for long runs and with aggressive inks.
We’ve presented at countless industry events around the world where environmental impact and the graphics industry are on the programme. But unfortunately, for the most part the addition of the topic to the agendas has been more about box ticking than intentions to make any real difference. Nothing ever comes out of these sessions, beyond individual interests for help with ISO 14001 compliance, or a pre-audit or a sustainability training session. From a business point of view for us this is fine, but from the point of view of making a tangible difference for the industry as a whole, this is far from fine. We need major players to take a much more active environmental leadership role.