Print Powers Environmental Sustainability

Research indicates that printers and consumers are increasingly cognizant of the need for environmental stewardship in printing, paper, and packaging. Luckily, print's primary substrate, paper, is made from a renewable resource like trees, and paper recovery and recycling are at an all-time high.


Sustainable printing has emerged to define a socially, environmentally, and resource-responsible approach to manufacturing. This encompasses more than just using recycled paper and ink or the other input materials used to produce a given printed product.

In the printing industry, sustainability is a continuous improvement process that requires companies to take a holistic approach to the entire manufacturing operation.

Sustainable manufacturing for the printing industry embodies three principal concepts:

  • Product--The design, input materials used to make it, and the ultimate fate of the finished goods.
  • Process-- The actual manufacturing process involving prepress, press, and postpress.
  • Envelope--The support activities that occur at a printing operation such as the building, grounds, maintenance, transportation, and employees.

In terms of carbon outlay, printing is the only communications media with a one-time carbon footprint; all other media require energy every time they are viewed. Print also does its part as a renewable resource; once a product has served its purpose, it continues its life cycle as material for a new product. Print inks are also continuously evolving into more environmentally-responsible materials with an increase in plant-based inputs, such as soy and linseed oil.

Finally, thanks in part to print's demand in a market for responsibly grown wood fiber, the U.S. paper industry encourages forestland owners to engage in well-managed, sustainable forestry practices. Forest ecosystems remove nearly one-third of human produced carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere.

In fact, the Food and Agricultural Organization estimates that there are now more healthy trees planted and thriving in the U.S. than there were 100 years ago!

In need of sustainability resources for your printing company? Visit PIA's Environmental, Health, and Safety Department (EHS).