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Greening Print Marketing: Eco-Printing — A Nice Bonus to Digital Printing

Image courtesty of The Stock Exchange (photographer ericortner)The trash can…or not. Although many marketers consider the today’s applications driven by dry toner, liquid toner, and inkjet digital printing to be the technology’s greatest asset, the “green-ness” of the technology is a nice bonus, too.

This is important to marketers because environmental printing is no longer just good social responsibility. It’s good marketing. Companies with “green” programs have a marketing advantage through positive association. By utilizing environmentally responsible printing practices, this gives you a nice plug for your business.

How is digital printing “green”?

1. The output technology is socially responsible. 1:1 printing is output from digital presses. These presses use no process chemicals (although liquid ink presses and inkjet presses may use solvents in their ink formulations; dry toner presses do not). They use no film or plates. Start-up waste is minimal—10 sheets or less, compared to 100 or more sheets for most offset presses.

Although conventional wisdom is that digital inks are difficult to remove during the recycling process, this is outdated. An increasing number of digital press manufacturers are now promoting the de-inkability of their toners, even from recycled paper. This is true even of HP, whose liquid toner “ElectroInk” produces at or near offset-quality photographic quality but is suspended in a mild solvent, and even of high-speed inkjet presses like Kodak Versamark.

2. Digital printing produces less waste. By printing in smaller volumes more frequently, marketers are minimizing print obsolescence. While we normally think of this as a production benefit, it’s a marketing benefit, too. It means fewer trees cut. Less ink wasted. Less fuel used for transportation. Less energy used to store and manage documents in a warehouse. This means a “greener” print workflow.

3. It reduces overall print volume. Marketers who switch to digital production generally switch more than printing process. They switch document management models, too. They print in smaller batches, reducing print waste from obsolescence. They switch to smaller, more personalized booklets, minimizing the number of pages printed. If they are doing 1:1 personalization, this often starts with culling the database for the most likely respondents. This reduces the number of documents that get printed, mailed, and delivered.

4. It reduces postal waste. According to conventional wisdom in the commercial printing industry, one third of all printed mailers are undeliverable as addressed (it’s said to be a U.S. Postal Service statistic, but I can’t find it). That’s serious waste. The nature of digital print mailings means they generally use more qualified databases and more up-to-date lists. Thus, the UAA percentage for digital press applications is lower than for “junk” mail. And we all know how good junk mail is for the environment.

We will look more deeply at the variety of potential print applications—with all of their various benefits—in subsequent posts.

(The content of this post is drawn from Heidi Tolliver-Nigro’s report “Digital Printing: Transforming Business and Marketing Models,” part of the Marketer’s Primer Series.)

Want to read more on this topic? Try these articles:

“Greener Printing”

“Save a Tree: Go Green”

Written by Heidi Tolliver-Walker

Heidi Tolliver-Walker has been a commercial and digital printing industry analyst, feature writer, columnist, editor, and author for nearly 20 years. She is known for her meticulous research and no-nonsense perspective. In addition to having written thousands of industry articles for top industry publications, she and Richard Romano have been the face of the well-respected industry research firm The Industry Measure (TrendWatch Graphic Arts) for many years. In her more than 13-year tenure with the firm, she has written countless reports on digital printing, 1:1 (personalized) printing, Web-to-print, personalized URLs, and other hot industry applications. She is also a long-time contributing editor and columnist for Printing News, for which she writes two monthly columns, including "Personal Effects," which features monthly analysis of 1:1 (personalized) printing case studies. She is also the author of three titles for the National Association of Printing Leadership: Designer's Printing Companion, Ink & Color: A Printer's Guide, and Diversifying Via Value-Added Services. As a small, niche publisher (Strong Tower Publishing), she is active in utilizing these technologies in her own business, as well.

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