When Printing, Every Design Choice Matters

When Printing, Every Design Choice Matters

The paperless office, or even the paperless business, is a long way away for most companies. But when you need to do printing outside of the typical in-office printing, such as creating materials for conferences or products, there are plenty of ways to use smarter design to reduce materials and enegy as well as ensure that what you've printed can be recycled.

Debra Rizzi from Rizco Design spoke with GreenBiz Radio about good and bad printing options, and Rizco's Beleaf report card, which scores the environmental impact of client projects, rating their design and printing choices.

Jonathan Bardelline: You developed a report card rating the greenness of products, taking into account both your office practices at Rizco and the design and print choices that go into the projects. What decisions in there matter the most?

Debra Rizzi: There is definitely several of them. Looking at the way that our office operates and knowing that in the creative industry that decisions that designers make really affect water, energy and timber from trees that are made into paper.

I would say first of all switching over to green power is definitely a route of the future that you see not only internally at Rizco Design, but with other manufacturers and other corporate suppliers. So currently at Rizco Design we switched over to a 50 percent wind, 50 percent hydro platform, and have seen really great results in being able to play a part with the Environmental Protection Agency's Green Power Partnership and more recently as the first design firm to join Climate Leaders. We show our commitment to purchasing and investing in green power.

The other thing I would definitely say is recycling, and switching and specifying paper stocks that are either Forest Stewardship Council certified, which is FSC, or have a high level of recycled content. Through our research there was a statistic that was put out by the Environmental Paper Network that listed that 16 million tons of high-grade fiber from offices and printers go into landfills annually that could have been recovered. So we as designers knowing that if we're specifying papers that have a high recycled content or are made through suppliers that are being monitored like they are through the chain of custody with FSC, and then furthermore making sure that they're being recycled. In the big scheme of things that is definitely gonna make a long-term impact.

JB: The report card covers a lot of different options in terms of design and printing choices with different weights given to different issues. How did you determine which issues to give more or less weight to when determining how much of an impact those choices have on the greenness of a project?

DR: We did a lot of research to come up with key components that, first of all, when you're looking at reviewing the way that we approach a design, what are the key items that you think about? And some of those include your colorization, your size, your resources. How do you show your comps or even your initial design directions? What are the printing processes that you're selecting? Is your end product recyclable and are you also advising your clients about the recycling process?

Those were the seven key criteria that we came up with just in the design phase that our designers think about. And also too within that we did a lot of research to see how would making a positive change in one of those areas create a long-term success rate in helping the environment. Secondly, too, with green printing if you look at paper stock for example, we have different layers in there of giving percentages. Something that has a high content, high recycled content gets more of a point value than something that does not.

FSC certified stock is second in line. Treeless paper is also. Looking at those items and seeing what uses the most resources and not just from a fiber content relationship, but also energy and water. You know, you're really trying to eliminate the pressure that we're putting on resources. So within there even looking at green printing, we're looking at the colors, the paper stock, printing processes, FSC certified printers, codings and bindery. And we have applied different percentages based upon worst to best.

And it really creates a grading system so that not only are you grading a project, but in one fell swoop you can actually showcase to your client how many decisions go into a job and what those decisions have and what kind of impact they have on the environment.

JB: Could you give me a few examples from both of the extremes - what are some of the best decisions to make versus what are some of the things that just should be avoided at all costs?

DR: One of the best case studies I can talk about is gang running. We recently finished a project for the Art Director's Club of New Jersey gang run printArt Director's Club of New Jersey. We donated our time for their annual awards show. And within that there were four to five pieces that needed to be developed. First being a cover of the awards booklet, a call for entries postcard, an invitation, two other pieces of solicitation. And by planning in advance we were able to print all of those components up on one press form versus doing five individual press forms.

So you see that by gang running and thinking in advance you can size each of your projects accordingly and make sure that you're minimizing the amount of resources that you need. Also too within that thought process we minimized inks and the paper stock that was selected was carbon neutral, 100 percent recycled, FSC certified and Green-e certified as well. So that is a really good case study of things to definitely take into consideration.

The things to definitely avoid are laminates. There is one product that is currently on the market by Dikeman Laminating. It's called Nature's Choice, which sounds like a cereal. But it is biodegradable, which is good. But it's only limited to offset printing. Mostly nine times out of 10 anything with a laminate is going to go into a landfill. It's very difficult to pull it off of or separate it from the fibers. Therefore, you're ending the lifecycle of that piece.

JB: Could you walk me through how you interact with clients regarding the report card?

DR: The first step is that when our clients receive an estimate from us it clearly states what the Beleaf program is, and states our commitment to educating our end clients about how our office operates, how the piece is going to be designed and then how it's going to be printed. If it's a new client that hasn't experienced this yet, they are advised that they're going to receive this electronic report card at the end of their project. It is - it's not a voluntary thing. We wind up just sending it to them at the end of each project along with recycling guidelines, which stipulate what that product has to go through in order to continue the lifecycle of that piece.

They receive it via email and it clearly states in three different tiers all the decisions that went into their project and it gives a final score at the end. From our experience there's three different reactions. The first one is no reaction at all. It's just become a way of thinking, the way that we do business.

The second one is is that it's a positive response and the end client wants to learn more about what we're doing and what they can do internally. And the third one is almost a challenge of, “I want to make sure that my score is better next time.” So in retrospect we've only seen a positive response from it. And clients really feel that they're being educated through the process.

JB: With some of the greener design and printing choices that you've found, has there been any conflict where making the better choice hinders creativity or what clients want to do?

DR: We haven't found a situation where it actually hinders creativity. Since honestly we've seen that the paper industry has really stepped up to the plate in providing a wide variety of choices. Recycled paper is no longer thought of as just browned text weight stock. You're seeing rich reds and browns and blacks. So with the use of paper you can really stretch the limits of what you want to do and then just making smart printing choices to make sure that your end product is recyclable.

As I mentioned, staying away from laminates. Another one is foil stamping has been proven to now be removable, but not proven to be completely biodegradable. But more so you run into a situation where a brand has been established already by a previous agency and the specified paper stock and process is not environmentally friendly whatsoever. So the role that you have to take is educating the client and giving them the necessary tools so that when they reevaluate that brand, hopefully in the next year, they will make smarter choices that will have less of an impact on the environment.

JB: Obviously not all design firms offer this report card. So what advice do you have for companies that are interested in making better choices with their designs and printing, but they aren't getting this report card? What should be the things they're asking their design firms or their printers?

DR: It's different for everybody. We really - we're here as an educational resource. So we welcome everybody to go to our website, which is RizcoDesign.com/beleaf. Where you can actually review the platform and view the report card. There's a sample there that we welcome to individuals to use as a basis for talking point internally.

Depending upon where you are in the decision-making chain of command within your company or what you can afford, there are various things that you can do. Looking at your office, once again, recycling is very important. Number two I would say is go digital. Try to reduce your printouts as much as possible.

Number three is donate. Give some of your old computers to high schools or art departments. Number four is really look at your supply chain. Not just within your printers and your paper suppliers, but look at your everyday usable, tangible items such as your cleaning products. Pick somebody like Method or Seventh Generation. Look at your copy paper. Is it 100 percent recycled? We recommend Cascades Enviro 100 copy paper.

But also too, as I mentioned, some of the other things that we consider to be valuable when you're going through the thought process of designing a project or printing a project, the individual designer or production manager has great decision-making power in their hands. And they are responsible for the lifecycle of the end product that they produce.

JB: You mentioned going digital in some of the office processes. How else in the design and printing phases does digital come into play? In what parts of it can you go digital instead of getting extra printouts?

DR: Digital can mean two different things to two different types of designers. There is the benefit of going digital meaning that you're not printing anything. You're developing websites or HTML emails or sending PDFs versus actually printing on a physical piece. There is still carbon that - CO2 levels that are emitted when you're dealing with electronic communications. But of course you are overall saving the strain on forests and fiber that needs to be made into paper. So we definitely recommend reduce print outs as much as you can. Share files electronically on your initial round. Another big thing that we always say is produce paperless paychecks.

But then there's also digital printing, which involves toner. And digital printing definitely is helpful in eliminating waste because you're able to first of all order exactly what you need. It's faster so you have less make ready time and less waste. You're able to order exactly what you need so you're not having overruns or spoilage.

So those are some of the key things when you talk about going digital. You know, you have the benefit of being able to send some things electronically. But then also when you do have to print and it's a small amount, digital printing is definitely beneficial.

JB: Okay. Well, thank you for your time.

DR: No problem. Thank you for having us.