Paper Insights

Why Digital Printing Is “Green”

By Heidi Tolliver-Nigro

Although all aspects of the printing industry are greener than they once were, there is a lot of discussion these days about digital printing.

green_digitalWhile both digital and offset printing have come a long way, digital printing, in particular, has some characteristics that endear it to environmentally conscious marketers.

1. Digital presses do not use offset plates or chemicals the way offset presses do.

This means they don’t require film, spray powders, cleaning solvents, or have the same solid waste disposal requirements as their offset counterparts.

2. Although liquid toner and inkjet presses do use “ink” that contains very mild solvent, these presses emit little or no VOCs.

In fact, most presses are so clean that they can be run in standard office environments.

3. Because digital presses don’t emit harmful emissions, they don’t require the ventilation or emissions capture required of offset presses.

This reduces their overall energy consumption.

4. Digital presses can print a wide range of recycled substrates.

While these presses once had the drawback of being restricted to a very limited number of substrates, this is no longer the case. The range of stocks for digital presses, including recycled and SFI-/FSC-certified papers, has exploded.

5. The applications driven by digital printing are inherently green(er).

While digital printing offers some environmentally appealing production benefits, the process really shines in its applications.

By making smarter use of your database, for example (say mailing only to the top 10 percent of your customer base), you reduce the amount of printed material you use. If you combine this with smart use of print personalization, including only relevant material, you reduce your environmental footprint even further.

Double Your Green
Not only this, but you can double your “green” by earning even greater revenues at the same time. Take, for example, the University of Toronto. It slashed its mailing database from 70,000 to around 35,000, and then sent out personalized communications to the remaining names.

Despite decreasing its mail volume, the university actually increased its donor base by 80 percent (through increased relevance of the contacts) and its revenue jumped by 30 percent. Meanwhile, the unintended greening consequence was that it placed 50 percent less print volume into the waste stream.

So whether you’re looking to production or applications benefits to green your print marketing, digital printing is a good place to start.
Heidi Tolliver-Nigro has been a commercial and digital printing industry analyst, feature writer, columnist, editor and author for nearly 20 years. Her industry commentary can regularly be found on What They Think’s Digital Nirvana and in top industry publications.

Copyright 2011 PaperSpecs. All Rights Reserved.  No part of this article may be reproduced by any means for any purposes without express written permission of the copyright holders.

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3 Responses to Why Digital Printing Is “Green”

  1. Lupi Robinson says:

    Yes, but…is anything that comes off a digital press recyclable? I think not. Also, let’s not pretend that all jobs can be printed digitally. And great strides have been made in the greenness of offset. I find it ironic that almost all our digital substrates are fsc certified yet almost none of our digital clients care about it. Greenness seems to be of far greater concern to our offset clients.

  2. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that just because it’s digitally printed that it can be recycled into high-quality paper. There were problems in Germany when a high percentage of liquid toner prints contaminated a batch at one of the de-inking plants. There are also problems with inkjet. So I don’t think anyone is saying that. Nor is anyone saying that digital is greener than offset. Just that it’s another place and another way that printing is more environmentally friendly than it used to be.

  3. Nani Paape says:

    Hi Heidi,

    There’s some great information here. Thanks for a thought-provoking article.

    I do not agree with your point about toxins in the air. I wouldn’t want to share an office environment with an HP Indigo press. The air in an HP press room has a definite hot, plasticky stench that surely is not good for humans to breathe at length, and most installations would benefit from venting, even if it is not required. The Canon, on the other hand, is a lot less stinky.

    I think it is misleading to contrast all digital with all offset where VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are concerned. I believe that VOCs only come into the picture on heat-set web presses, as VOCs are released when ink is HEAT dried. Offset presses do not heat dry their inks, so VOCs are not released. ~Nani

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