Print with Purpose: Investing in Sustainable Printing

By Phase 3
October 19, 2023



Sustainability isn't a passing trend. Every business in every industry must do its part to preserve the environment by investing in equipment, technology, and processes that use fewer products and produce less waste. Recent innovations have led to meaningful changes in the printing industry, and Phase 3 has embraced many of these new practices. Our goal is to navigate a responsible and conscientious path forward.


The Future of Green Printing

In 2021, Smithers published a research report entitled "The Future of Green Printing to 2026". It stated that the print service providers that invest in sustainable business solutions by 2026 will grow their revenue and customer base. Their expert research identified several sustainable business practices that all printers should adopt. These include digital print systems, sustainable on-demand capabilities, bio-based solvent and water-based inks, sustainable substrates, and recycled paper and packaging.


Sustainable Print Methods

Sustainability in the printing process strikes a balance between business operations and the impact on the planet. The goal is to embrace eco-friendliness without compromising internal efficiency. It's about finding harmony between environmental responsibility and seamless print processes.


The future of printing is digital. Digital printing doesn't need a traditional printing plate. The ink sits on the top layer of the substrate, which means the process generates less waste than conventional methods because it uses less ink. The International Data Corporation has research that shows digital printing can reduce supply chain waste by up to 26% and cut the carbon footprint of printing by 65 to 80%. Using this method has traditionally been used for smaller print runs. Still, with recent technological improvements in speed and setup time, it is now a better option for larger runs. Without that setup time and materials, digital printing is usually faster than other methods. On-demand digital printing generates less waste, and the ordering and fulfillment system streamlines the process.


LED Ultra-Violet (UV) printing is a form of digital printing that harnesses ultraviolet light to cure and dry the ink quickly, resulting in a vibrant burst of color and a sharp, well-defined design. This technique differs from other digital printing methods. When used, it consumes less power and reduces energy usage when not in use, which lowers CO2 emissions. Additionally, quick drying saves time by eliminating the need for extra coats or sprays.


Sustainable Print Materials

Sustainable printing materials are eco-friendly products that minimize environmental impact and promote responsible resource use. These materials reduce waste, conserve resources, and support eco-conscious practices in the printing industry. Here are some examples of sustainable printing materials.


UV inks are a mixture of pigments, resins, and other additives suspended in a liquid base. When the UV ink is applied to a surface, light triggers a chemical reaction, causing it to harden and adhere to the substrate. Printers use UV inks on a wide range of materials, including paper, plastics, metals, glass, and more.


Process chlorine-free (PCF) paper is bleached with only natural compounds. Although some chlorine may remain, this chemical reduction is much easier on the environment. Recycled paper is made from post-consumer waste or recycled fibers, reduces the demand for virgin wood pulp, and lessens the impact of paper production.


Printers can use biodegradable or compostable plastics for packaging and promotional materials. This reduces plastic waste. They can also use cotton, bamboo, and hemp for textile printing. Stone paper or wood veneer can also reduce the need to print on paper. Phase 3 uses coatings and varnishes with low VOC content. They’re more earth-friendly because they have water-based formulations. There are also adhesives for labels and packaging that are non-toxic.


The choice of sustainable printing processes and materials depends on factors such as the intended use of the printed materials, the client's budget, and the project's goals. There are measurable benefits to making this choice.


The Benefits of Sustainable Printing

How will sustainable printing protect the environment, and how would printers and their customers benefit? Here are some advantages of incorporating sustainable digital printing into your business plan.

Reduce Emissions

Digital printers produce far less CO2 emissions than many traditional printing presses. Reducing emissions will improve air quality, clearer skies, and cleaner water, reducing climate-related health issues.

Reduce Waste

Sustainable printing encourages the efficient use of materials like plastics and other materials, which minimizes waste generation and results in less landfill-bound waste. Print-on-demand options also reduce the need to throw away obsolete output like marketing materials, signage, and packaging.

Reduce Energy Consumption

Many sustainable printing practices, such as using energy-efficient equipment and eco-friendly inks, reduce energy consumption, and lower operational costs and environmental impact.


Create Efficiencies and Save Money

With sustainable print-on-demand capabilities, printers and customers create a more efficient and simplified printing process that saves both time and money. Over time, sustainable printing practices can save costs through reduced resource consumption, energy efficiency, and streamlined processes.


Positive Brand Image

Adopting sustainable practices enhances your company's reputation and demonstrates a commitment to environmental responsibility, which will appeal to eco-conscious customers.


Regulatory Compliance

Sustainable printing often aligns with environmental regulations and standards, helping your company stay compliant with evolving laws.


Gain Competitive Edge

Using sustainable materials and practices can set your company apart in a competitive market. It will showcase your innovative business approach and commitment to a sustainable future.


Flexibility and Adaptability

Sustainable printing allows for flexibility in adapting to changing market demands. Also, digital printing and on-demand options reduce the need for large print runs and excess inventory.


Long-Term Viability

Businesses that adopt sustainable practices are better positioned to thrive as environmental awareness and needs increase and consumer preferences change.

Sustainable printing benefits the environment and contributes to business success, social responsibility, and positive contributions to a more sustainable world.


Phase 3's Investment in Sustainability

Phase 3 is committed to being environmentally aware now and into the future. Our strategic business plan includes strategies to reduce our impact and improve our performance in every facet of our operations. These strategies include investing in:


  1. Paper and PVC recycling services at all production facilities.
  2. EFI Vutek large-format printers, some of the most productive printers available. These printers print to both rigid and flexible substrates, eliminating time in the production process. This allows us to turn jobs faster with fewer steps, reducing our energy consumption by running fewer and/or shorter shifts.
  3. UV-curing inks which contain up to 50% monomers and oligomers. These elements are naturally derived from renewable resources, such as plants and biomass. UV-curing inks have less than .08% volatile organic compounds (VOC). VOCs are harmful gases. The inks don't have any harmful metals like antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, or selenium. In addition, certain countries do not classify them as hazardous waste.
  4. Printing directly on a wide range of substrates without requiring special coatings, which could be hazardous.


Introducing Media:Link

One of our primary investments in sustainability is Media:Link. Media:Link is Phase 3's proprietary and customizable web-to-print online storefront. It simplifies print ordering and fulfillment while offering cost-effective and sustainable print services. With Media:Link, customers take charge of their print orders. You can select, customize, proof, and order print materials in any quantity and ship them wherever needed.


Media:Link also reduces and/or eliminates print storage, warehousing expenses, and wasted print collateral that becomes outdated or incorrect. The digital printing system will allow printing on any substrate, including recycled papers and sustainable, rigid materials, all while using eco-friendly inks.


We hope you’re a little more educated about sustainable printing and how it benefits the future of our planet. Phase 3 is committed to staying current on the trends in sustainable printing and to passing that knowledge to our clients. If you’d like more information about Media:Link or Phase 3’s digital printing capabilities, please reach out today.