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Claire Connelly runs Papercut, a graphic design studio in Canberra (Australia) with an interesting point of difference.
“We are conscious of keeping our studio carbon footprint to a minimum,” Claire explains. Every decision, from their lighting to the paper they use, is done with the impact on the environment in mind.
Winning the 2010 ACT Business Woman of the Year…
…and two environmental awards the previous year, PLUS working an ambassador for the 1 Million Women Campaign (which aims to inspire one million Australian women to take practical action on climate change), Claire will soon be speaking at Canberra schools on the potential to work as environmentally sustainable professionals. And she’s a mother.
Somehow, Claire found the time to talk to me about how we can make marketing greener:
What makes an ‘environmentally-aware’ graphic designer?
For a graphic designer to be environmentally aware they need to be thinking about the life cycle of the designed product. That means asking the question ‘ultimately where will this product end up, will it be in landfill, recycled or re-used’? Reduce, reuse and recycle is the key. Graphic designers need to be constantly researching innovative ways of creating with dual purpose and using material that is sustainable. I see it as more than just awareness – it’s a responsibility that all designers should embrace.
Does choosing to have environmentally-friendly promotional materials mean spending more money?
No it doesn’t, consumers have a greater awareness and a level of expectation that requires every industry to offer options. In fact most paper stock has recycled content or is 100% recycled, it is actually very difficult to order virgin paper these days. Most printers have (by law) had to clean up their act and most now use vegetable (soy) based inks, control their waste and print computer to plate. It really doesn’t cost any more to choose environmental options, in fact it should actually be more cost effective.
I remember in the early 1990’s there was a massive trend towards printing on brown recycled paper – then it stopped. Now society is more consciously ‘green’ again but I haven’t seen as much of that brown paper around. Care to comment?
I love that box board, brown paper look. I agree that it’s not so popular now, it was almost a statement back then that you wanted everyone to know you were ‘doing the right thing’. These days you can be more subtle about your green choices and still do the right thing. It is actually hard to tell the difference between a paper made from pure virgin pulp and one that is fully recycled. The process is more refined and the paper stock is less obviously ‘recycled’.We’ve come along way from the old brown paper look. Now in various parts of the world trees are grown in a sustainable way for the purpose of milling. This system is called the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and means that the wood can be traced from the certified forest – to the mill – to the paper merchant – to the printer and right into the hands of the end user through a chain of custody.
When we think of printed marketing materials we generally think of paper and cardboard, but I have a notebook where the cover is made from recycled tyres. Have you had much to do with using other environmental materials beyond paper-based products?
Yes, last year we printed our desk calendars on stock made from sugar cane waste. There are many ‘tree free’ papers available such as: hemp, bamboo, cotton, and stone. Plus papers manufactured from agricultural residues such as coffee, banana, rice, wheat, corn and rye.We’ve also found a plastic product called ‘Polyart’ that is water resistant, extremely durable and accepts printing ink.I’ve noticed all manner of things coming onto the market like pens made from the outer shell of old fridges, and furniture made from recycled car parts. I love that designers in general are embracing the fact that we need to creatively reuse and design smarter and stop producing non-environmental products that end up in landfill.
Many people think that marketing via the internet rather than printing is environmentally-friendly – and, in many ways, this is true – but computers aren’t totally environmentally friendly either, are they?
I guess I’m going to sit on the fence on this topic. I believe we are seeing a shift back to printing due to the over saturation of electronic media. Printing is not dead it is evolving and by creating awareness of eco-friendly practices, we can change print design for the better. I personally love my collection of printed books, brochures and postcards and can’t imagine only using the internet for marketing.But I also have a healthy respect for internet marketing and the many options available to produce videos, e-books, blogs and websites quickly, easily and cheaply.To be more environmental, simply turning computers off when not in use and/or contributing to the grid are green practices that everyone can do.
I think that environmentally there is not a lesser of the two evils, we need computers and we need print and by being responsible and considered designers, then marketing through both mediums is smart marketing.
What are the key things you recommend to clients when it comes to having an environmentally-aware approach to marketing?
My advice is to start designing backwards, meaning we should carefully consider the destiny of the product. With this approach to marketing, the life span of the product from conception to end will be considered and the most sustainable product will be produced. My key recommendations are:1. Choose a quality printer who will support your request for an environmentally responsible print job and has sustainable values and practices.2. Look at paper stock samples and select the best environmental option that won’t compromise the design.
3. ‘Less is more’ and two or three colour printing can look very classy and save you money.
4. Print only the quantity you need, don’t print 1000’s of brochures just because it seems cheaper at the time, often your brochure will need updating before you manage to distribute them all, and then all you’ve done is create waste.
5. Avoid unnecessary finishes like Spot UV and cello glazing, these finishes are toxic for the environment and cannot be recycled. Ask about alternatives that are ‘green’ like water based aqueous varnish.
6. Engage a ‘green’ graphic designer, because they will have your environmental concerns at heart, and be able to print manage your job and help you make the right choices along the way.
This post was written by Megan Hills (with the help of Claire, of course). Megan is a writer, cartoonist and marketing consultant who finds herself turning off lights more these days…and nights. Find out more about candle-lit Megan