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Green Printing

The only colour you really need to worry about…

You know about cyan, magenta, yellow and black, but what about that all-important fifth?  It’s long past time we started making steps towards reversing the damage that we’ve already done.  That doesn’t mean we have to sell our cars and become environmentalists, but there are simple things we can change and make a real difference.

firstpoint illustration green

The Design

This is where you need to start thinking green, believe it or not.  There are some simple steps that can be taken before anything is even printed.

Make it pretty!

The first suggestion is to design your work (or let us design it) so that people will see it as something to keep, rather than something immediately disposable.  People will have more respect for something professionally designed and will feel bad about simply throwing it away – when they should be feeling bad about the waste of paper!

Use internationally-recognised A-series sizes.

The A series, such as A4, A3, etc., are designed to fit together like a puzzle (e.g. two A4s together = A3).  By using these print industry sizes we are able to get more copies onto each sheet of paper which goes through the machine, then cut them down to size in one go.  This saves on wasted paper.  A page a little bigger than A4 means printing it one-up, with lots of wasted area around it.

Use fewer pages

This one has obvious benefits and can be achieved by simple measures such as printing on the inside of the cover, rather than leaving it blank.  Such methods may be detrimental to the aesthetics of the design, but you have to decide what your priorities for the project are.

Booklets are in pages divisible in number by four – you’ve reached five pages and have to add three more to make it an eight-page booklet.  Are you sure you can’t reduce it by one instead?  It will cost you less to print and it will use half the paper.

Print on both sides of the paper where possible.  Presentations are often printed single-sided for clarity and aesthetics, but perhaps your client will be more impressed by your green thinking!

Avoid full coverage

More coverage means more toner, which means more waste in the printing stage and more energy used to produce and fuse it.  As often as not, good use of white space can be more effective than a full-page photo or overpowering graphics.  People tend to fill every square centimetre of space just because it’s there.

Think before using special finishes

Certain finishes (some varnishes or laminations, for example) may reduce the ability to recycle paper.  Conversely, a special finish may encourage someone to hold onto the work rather than immediately throw it away, and a lamination may serve to protect a document which would otherwise need to be reprinted much sooner.

Remind people to recycle

A little, green recycle icon or a short message on the back will help people remember which colour bin it goes into!

The Project

You can save paper and energy resources by simply printing fewer copies.  It’s tempting to print far more than you need, ‘just in case’, but try to think realistically about how many are actually necessary.  Don’t forget that with digital printing it’s easy to print more later if you need them.

How about a controversial one?  Does the project even need to be printed at all?  An odd thing for a printing company to suggest, but we’re also a design house.  Can people be directed to an online version of your project or have a PDF emailed to them?  We often design work for people in full knowledge that it is intended as online-only work.  PDFs are extremely tree-friendly!

The Paper

The easiest eco step is to choose recycled or semi-recycled stock for your printing project.  All of our paper is at least 20% recycled, but we also stock Revive 100 paper, which is 100% recycled from post-consumer waste.

Recycled paper is beneficial for obvious reasons, but there’s more to it than the obvious.  All of the processes and technology that produces the paper we recognise has already been done – it’s much easier to do it a second time to the same material.  Recycling paper uses less water, less energy and less landfill space than making it from scratch.  The result meets all the technical criteria and specifications as new paper and it works just fine in modern printers.

Of course, the most important thing is that recycling paper doesn’t use up more trees!  Forests are being destroyed at a scary rate, though thankfully we are using more and more sustainable methods in tree farming.  Still, every little helps!


  • Make it pretty!
  • Use A-size pages
  • Use fewer pages
  • Print double sided
  • Don’t be afraid of white space
  • Consider a digital-only design
  • Don’t print more than you need
  • Use recycled stocks
  • Think carefully about special finishes
  • Remind them to recycle