Skip to content

Surprisingly Sustainable: Seven Eco-Friendly Elements Of The Print Industry

In a world increasingly dominated by digital screens and virtual communications, it's easy to overlook the sustainable charm of the print industry. Or, worse still, mistakenly tar it with an ‘unsustainable’ brush.

Because, let’s face it, print tends to get an (undeserved!) bad rap, especially when pitted against digital. People are led to believe that paper equals deforestation and waste, while screens are clean, green and consumption-guilt-free, right? Wrong!

Amidst the pixels and power cord saturation, print shines through as an eco-friendly industry with a far smaller carbon footprint than what you might think.

Naturally, as passionate print pros, we’re keen to spread the ‘sustainable print’ message far and wide via our own channels and alongside others. In particular, supporting the eye-opening work of Two Sides, a not-for-profit, global initiative promoting print's unique, sustainable attributes whilst busting common misconceptions about the industry.

And so, in an age where resources are scarce and being eco-conscious is essential, we’re highlighting some of the surprising elements that make print products renewable, recyclable and sustainable.

Why Print Is Sustainable

A Natural Beauty

Believe it or not, paper is one of the few genuinely sustainable natural products at our disposal. Unlike the complex, artificial components that make up digital devices, paper comes from trees - a renewable resource that can be replenished and regrown. Granted, not all print elements are natural, but progress is constantly being made in this area. For example, the amount of harmful chemicals in print has dramatically reduced (we’re now using vegetable inks!), and greener modes of transportation and delivery are available. And the best news of all? Once a paper product’s use ends, it can be recycled, giving its tree roots a whole new lease of life.

Recycling Time & Time Again

Paper's green cred doesn't stop at being sourced from trees. It’s also one of the most recycled products in the world. According to the European Paper Recycling Council’s 2020 Monitoring Report, 56 million tonnes of paper were collected and recycled in Europe in 2020 – a recycling rate of 74% and fast approaching the estimated practical maximum of 78%. The recycling rate for paper and cardboard packaging in Europe is even higher, at 83%. Unfortunately, paper cannot go on being recycled forever due to the process shrinking its fibres, but it gets a life expectancy of around seven cycles. It’s also true that fresh production cannot come from recycled fibres alone; some new, strong trees must be put into the mix. All that said, in a world of fleeting emails and vanishing messages, the longevity of paper really does stand out.

Embracing The Sustainable Evolution

You might think that print and technology are locked in an eternal standoff, but as we’ve highlighted multiple times before, they actually make a pretty dynamic duo working effortlessly side by side. Advances in printing technology, like the rise of digital printers, have transformed the industry landscape. This plate-less printing method reduces power usage and ink waste whilst enabling us to do the same job but in a quicker, more cost-effective and, most importantly, greener manner. As avid innovators, we're constantly exploring exciting opportunities to up our sustainable print game through new tech, showing that digital and print go together like a horse and carriage!

Check out our post on Why Digital Loves Print - The Ultimate Marketing BFFs

Waste Not, Print Not

Remember the days when colossal print runs led to mountains of unused documents, marketing materials, and brochures cluttering the office? Well, thanks once again to smart digital advances, we can kiss goodbye to that wasteful era with the ingenious concept of print on demand. Companies are no longer shackled by excessive print quantities; instead, they can print purely what they need when needed! This mindful approach is an absolute game-changer in reducing emissions, eliminating waste and driving down costs, making it a winner for companies and the climate alike.

The Carbon Footprint Dance

It's time to clear the air…literally! Everything we do leaves a carbon footprint, digital communications included. So, while on the surface, ‘going paperless’ might appear a greener option (save the trees, right?!), those digital docs are far from footprint-free. The energy used to power servers, transmit data and manufacture devices all adds up…and very little of it is recyclable, unlike our good old friend paper. As Two Sides highlights here, we’re facing a colossal electronic waste issue with the ICT industry accounting for 5-9% of electricity use, which is more than 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions (as much as all air traffic!). By contrast, the pulp, print and paper industry accounts for 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, making the sector one of the lowest industrial emitters. Ultimately, this serves as a reminder that the path to sustainability involves a carefully choreographed dance between inevitable carbon footprints and conscientious choices.

A Forest-Friendly Industry

Now to debunk the biggie - the print industry isn't the baddie behind deforestation. Granted, the paper we use is taken from the land, but as an FSC-certified print company, our materials are sourced from sustainably managed forests. These forests follow a thoughtful cycle of planting, growing, and logging, meticulously controlled to help fight climate change, protect biodiversity and support communities. And while we’re dispelling myths, we support Two Sides’ efforts to inform people that European forests aren’t shrinking; in fact, the opposite is true! They report that between 2005 and 2020, European forests grew by 58,390 square kilometres - equating to more than 1,500 football pitches every single day.

Getting Our Offsetting Game On

Finally, with all the recycling and repurposing power (and will!) in the world, we know we can’t stamp out our carbon footprint entirely. What we can do, however, is offset it. We work with the World Land Trust via its ‘Carbon Balanced’ and ‘Plant a Tree’ programmes to offset unavoidable emissions by supporting their efforts to protect carbon-rich habitats and enable the reforestation of previously lost areas.

Partnering With A Sustainable Print Company

From its natural roots to its recycled resilience, print is kinder to Mother Nature than what many think. And by harnessing the latest eco-friendly technology and industry-responsible practices, we’re getting greener all the time.

In our ongoing pursuit of total planet positivity, we’re excited to release our first Impact Report. Outlining our eco-conscious efforts to reduce our impact on the earth, one page at a time, it highlights the steps we’ve taken to become a sustainable print company and where the journey to a greater, greener future will take us next.

So, if you’re looking for an innovative, eco-conscious print partner that aligns with your company values and can help you reach your sustainability goals, we’re here for it!

Ready to chat? Simply give us a buzz on 0114 272 8888 or drop us a line via to discuss how we can ace your print production AND reduce your environmental impact.