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Greening Print Marketing: Does Saving Money Conflict With Environmental Stewardship?

In these tough economic times, everyone wants to save money. But what happens when money-saving options conflict with environmental stewardship?

One area of concern is paper.  As fuel costs have come down, publishers looking to save money on distribution are looking at heavier paper. Although the paper itself costs more than lightweight grades, the heavier stock allows them to take advantage of lower freight rates, which have come down significantly since last summer’s peak oil prices.

The Dead Tree Edition, for example, recently encouraged periodical publishers to consider this option in an article “Heavier Paper Can Save Money.”

But at what environmental cost? Heavier paper may cost less to ship, but it takes more fuel. You’ve got the same number of pages, carrying the same amount of information, but at a higher level of fuel consumption. Heavier paper also takes more energy to transport and ship before printing.

So is heavier paper really the right choice? Are there other design considerations you could make that could save money without going to freight?

  • Could you adjust the trim size so that you more efficiently use the sheet of paper (get more “up” on the sheet)?
  • Could you more tightly target your mailings so that you are sending fewer, but more relevant pages to recipients?
  • How about just cleaning up your list so that you are not producing catalogs or magazines that are sent to undeliverable addresses?

Moving to heavier basis weight paper might be one way to save money, but there are other ways to save money, too — ways that are more environmentally responsible. So before you take the easy way out, ask yourself, “Is it worth the environmental cost?”

Like this post? See all my “Greening Print Marketing” posts.

Image: courtesy of The Stock Xchange (magazines 2, uploaded by lusi)

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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  1. I agree. I encourage readers concerned about the environmental impact of their print marketing to click through the links to my archive to read about the environmental issues associated with toner-based printing, direct imaging, waterless printing, inkjet printing, and more. There are a lot of issues many people may not have thought about, so it’s worth a few clicks to check out.

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