How to Manage Greener Business Print Jobs

printMost businesses, including newspapers, don’t produce the printed matter that they consume. The supply chain that a business uses to order print supplies needs to be scrutinized to realize the potential for change.

Although environmental standards for “green printing” don’t exist, you can learn more about how to reduce waste around your office. You can begin by using our Green Labels, which are made from 100 percent post-consumer waste. Then, the following list will help businesses understand the questions to ask to find a printer who uses green printing processes. Additionally a few ideas have been peppered throughout this list to illustrate how a business can handle its printed matter in an environmentally friendly way.


  • The terms, “Virgin Paper” or “Virgin Fibers” are applied to papers produced from trees and that use enormous amounts of chemicals and energy to process. Alternatives to consider include recycled or other tree-free papers.
  • Alternative papers have become very creative, such as paper created from 100-percent reclaimed blue jean cotton and synthetic papers produced for durability and that can be used in packaging materials or for identification papers. New green papers can bring attention to your company in more ways than one as you use specific alternatives that suit your company’s branding efforts.
  • If you want to use recycled papers, avoid papers that state that they are 100-percent recycled, with a smaller percentage of post-consumer waste. This means that the paper is recycled only to the smaller percentage, not 100-percent recycled. Only 100-percent post-consumer waste content can make a sheet 100-percent recyclable. Try to use 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper that is 100% processed chlorine free to achieve the greenest current recycled paper standard.
  • Paper size does make a difference! For print runs of 5,000 or more, consider ordering a custom-size sheet of paper that meets exact design specifications versus a standard-size sheet that requires significant trimming. This choice minimizes paper, chemical and energy waste and could translate into dollar savings. Your printer can help you make these choices.
  • When a business tries to save money on print jobs, it may save the environment as well. Anytime a company can save on ink, paper, or mailing use, this savings can translate into saving paper, print, and recycling processes. On the other hand, using green products may cost a bit more at this time, but as the demand for more environmentally friendly print processes and products increases, those costs may decrease.


  • Many print jobs still use inks that contain heavy metals like lead, cadmium, and mercury to produce bright colors. Ask instead for soy- or vegetable-based inks for your print jobs. When over 90 percent of daily newspapers routinely use these low-impact inks for color printing, your business can use them as well.
  • Avoid inks that use the term, VOC (Volatile organic compounds), as these inks contain petroleum-based products or other harmful matter that cause cancer and birth defects. This ink is leached into the soil when printed papers end up in landfills.
  • Digital printing is used in short-run, four-color work for business cards, stationery, promotional pieces and in most print work that is less than 1,000 sheets of 14 x 20 inches. Although this type of printing has been touted as environmentally friendly, this discussion remains debatable. When possible, stay on top of printing industry news and blogs to learn more.
  • Special effects that are environmentally friendly include embossing and die-cutting. Embossing can be one-level, multi-level, registered with inks, and/or sculpted, which is especially beautiful on secondary packaging to add texture and shelf appeal. Die-cutting ads a dimension of depth to any printed piece, and this effect is accomplished with a minimum of effort and energy.


  • If you’ve ever tried to recycle coated or laminated paper, you already may know that many recyclers will reject these papers. Add certain lead-based inks, foils, adhesives, labels, and other special processes, and your recycling efforts will be futile. But newer alternatives to most processes are arriving on the market constantly. Check you’re your printer to see how you can find alternatives for these special effects (such as soy-based coatings).
  • If a package isn’t reusable, make sure it’s recyclable. This way you put the onus of recycling in the hands of the consumer, but only if you make the consumer aware that your package is, indeed, 100-percent recyclable.
  • Paper recycling is a cost-intensive business that can fail if stringent guidelines to organization and time aren’t followed. Therefore, you may not have the advantage of a waste-paper recycling business in your area. Use the lists at Recycler’s World to learn more about waste-paper recycling in your area and whether or not you can take advantage of this possibility.

What You Can Do

  • Businesses, especially larger concerns, often need corporate-level and board agreement to make even slight changes, such as stationary or business card paper. But, a decision to change to recycled or tree-free papers can become a talking point for a press release that showcases that business’s willingness to go green.
  • Every green print move your business makes could be documented for public awareness. Your business then becomes a leader in green business education and a source for new customers who are environmentally aware.
  • Use both sides of the paper for information purposes. For instance, the backside of a business card can be used as an appointment reminder or to list a group of Websites that operate under one umbrella corporation. This latter option can eliminate the need for thousands of extra business cards.
  • Remember that your advertising or public relations firm, your graphic designer, and your printer may not know about some of these design and print issues. Share this list and provide it to your print supply chain so they know your goals for a greener environment.
  • Finally, you might want to share this list electronically, as you don’t want to use your Virgin paper with VOC ink stationery to spread the news about your company’s new green efforts!

2 thoughts on “How to Manage Greener Business Print Jobs

  1. Melanie Turner

    I believe you made an error in one of your bullets. In the 3rd point under paper, you say:

    “Only 100-percent post-consumer waste content can make a sheet 100-percent recyclable.”

    The term “recyclable” means that it can be recycled, not that it was already recycled. Paper made completely of virgin fiber is recyclable (with few exceptions).

    I also disagree with you in that only 100% post-consumer waste paper is 100% recycled. Even if manufacturers are recycling their waste before it hits a consumer, I still consider that recycling. Virgin fiber has already been processed into a finished product by that point even if it was never used.

    I do believe paper should have a high recycled content and that a PCW percentage should be high too. However, if the PCW is low, but it still has recycled content, then this is still a step in the right direction.

  2. Pingback: Blog » How to Conserve Ink and Toner

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