Green your printing: Inks

Inks and Sustainable Printing

Up until recently, the printing industry has used petroleum-based inks, which have two primary environmental drawbacks. First, they are made using a non-renewable resource (petroleum). Second, petroleum-based inks release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs); VOCs reduce indoor air quality and can have negative short- and long-term health effects. Fortunately, an environmentally responsible alternative is available: soy inks, which are derived from soy beans. This alternative was originally developed for use in newspaper printing, but has spread to the printing of other items, such as your business cards, marketing collateral, and product catalogs.

So what are the actual benefits of using soy inks instead of petroleum-based inks? And, how will it affect the colors on your printed piece?
  • Soy inks are more sustainable - they come from a renewable resource, unlike petroleum
  • Soy inks are more environmentally friendly - some actually release zero VOCs (this is what we use at Greenerprinter)
  • Paper printed with soy inks can be deinked more easily, making it easier to recycle
  • Spot colors are available, so you can still get the exact color you need in your logo
  • You actually get colors that are brighter and more vivid - and pop!

What does this mean for you? This is a simple but important step in greening your printing. Make sure that all of your printing is done using soy (or vegetable-based) inks. You'll still get the great color that you want (except for fluorescent and metallic colors, which are petroleum-based), but with twice the environmental benefit - fewer emissions during the production process, and the paper will be easier to recycle afterwards. Now, what can be easier than that?

This article originally appeared on the Greenerprinter blog.

Greenerprinter's Inks and the Environment

Greenerprinter uses soy and other vegetable-based inks which are less harmful to the environment than their petroleum-based counterparts. Soy and vegetable products are used in ink for their oils, which act as the vehicle for the ink pigments. There are several types of vegetable-based printing inks, including linseed (Flax), tung (Chinawood), castor, canola, and safflower. Soy is popular because it is a very stable material that exhibits excellent "wetting" properties which enhance its ability to carry solid pigments. Most manufacturers of soy and vegetable based inks today actually "blend" ingredients, much in the way a winemaker will blend grapes, in order to take advantage of the unique characteristics of each oil.
Soy and vegetable based inks are widely recognized as the environmentally friendly choice. But an ink's ingredients are only part of the story when measuring its environmental impact. Ink, like any other product manufactured by humans, impacts our planet before, during, and after it's manufactured.
Some portion of raw materials are emitted into the atmosphere during both the manufacture and printing of ink. The heightened environmental consciousness of recent years has resulted in a campaign to reduce VOC's (Volatile Organic Compounds) in inks. Greenerprinter uses soy and vegetable-based inks that have evolved to VOC levels of zero percent, down from conventional commercial sheetfed inks that measure VOC levels of 25-35 percent. As with any new or modified product, there were early failures and Soy-based inks came under attack in the pressroom because drying and adhesion suffered. But gradually, high performance inks have emerged, with vastly reduced VOC's. Printers, print buyers and environmentalists have learned that low VOC inks can be produced from a wide variety of vegetable oils, not just soy, and we at Greenerprinter adhere to our standard of using the lowest VOC rated inks available. And, as part of our Green Business Certification, we at Greenerprinter adhere to practices that minimize the release Volatile Organic Compounds from inks into the atmosphere.
Almost as important as the manufacture and use of vegetable inks is the recycle and reuse programs implemented by the printer. Anything a printer does to steer materials from landfills is of environmental benefit. In this area, Greenerprinter abides by the following criteria:
1. We tightly control our inventory and scheduling practices, ordering only the quantities of ink we need.

2. We recycle unused inks.

3. We specify "low VOC" or "vegetable based inks" rather than asking only for soy. Some non-soy vegetable inks are actually lower in VOC than soy.


To learn about some other considerations for greening your printing, click "NEXT" .

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