Is it all it’s cracked up to be?
There is no doubt that sustainability holds an important place in discussions within the print industry. As an industry and members of our society, it is important that we discuss sustainability to better understand, develop and employ strategies that enable us to preserve our environment without sacrificing on service and quality.
However, there aren’t always perfect solutions and there are most certainly challenges to be faced.
What are the challenges?
Cost for the business – Using sustainable substrates, inks and methods are more expensive for printers than less eco-friendly options, and can therefore make sustainable options less viable as it increases the cost of production and therefore the prices of the products for the consumer.
Cost for the Consumer – Consequently the consumer has to pay more for the sustainable options and this can make them less attractive and less budget-friendly. Often printers find that when quoting sustainable media vs standard media, consumers will frequently choose standard to save their budget. Ultimately, from both sides, the cost element can result in companies needing to offer cheaper, less sustainable alternatives to satisfy consumer budgets.
Sadly, it all comes down to the bottom dollar.
2. AESTHETIC Often sustainable medias (ie. Paper or cardboard) don’t always have the same aesthetic as less eco-friendly options. Sometimes customer will be deterred by this as the sustainable options don’t satisfy brand requirements or their desired aesthetics. Sustainable packaging options often involve re-purposing boxes & packaging materials on hand, rather than wasting old packaging and buying new packaging. However, we have encountered circumstances in which customers have complained about the aesthetic of re-purposed packaging as it doesn’t have the clean, unbranded aesthetic that they desire.
Aesthetic matters to companies and brands.
3. LONGEVITY Many ‘sustainable’ print products won’t have the same lifespan or longevity as less environmentally friendly options. This is often because, in order to make the substrates environmentally friendly they have to have different qualities that allow them to biodegrade or have less impact on the environment. However, these qualities don’t always suit the needs of customers.
What would you rather? A sign that will last you 3 months and be environmentally friendly? Or, a sign that is cheaper and will last you 3 years, but not have the same sustainable qualities? This brings us to our second challenge with longevity… In the long run, which one is more sustainable – buying lots and lots of new environmentally friendly signs each time they deteriorate, OR, buying one less environmentally friendly sign that will last a lot longer and result in less frequent purchases of signs. Hence, reduce the media used and the volume of processes performed to produce it.
We all want the products we invest our money in to last.
4. NOT EVERYTHING IS AS IT SEEMS Sometimes companies will advertise sustainable solutions or practices, however, not always follow through on them. Consumers can fall into the trap of thinking that they are entering into a fully eco-friendly lifecycle when that may not be the reality. Just because items can be recycled, doesn’t mean they end up getting recycled. The best term to describe this is ‘greenwashing’, where customers are fed misinformation about the environmentally friendly nature of products and services and therefore, purchase thinking they are making an environmentally responsible decision when they may not be. It is important to put it into perspective. Likewise, prices for eco-friendly options can often end up inflated. Consumers feel the peace of mind of knowing that they paid a premium price, so it must be sustainable or eco-friendly, but the exuberant price may simply be a business tactic. So, is it all it’s cracked up to be?
At the end of the day, sustainability is an important topic to be addressed, acknowledged, and collectively worked towards. Preserving our beautiful environment by engaging in eco-friendly business and consumer practices is important.
As a business we care about ensuring that we do our part to preserve our environment, however, we also acknowledge the challenges, with the hopes that transparency towards them will result in our industry and consumers of the print industry, working towards innovative solutions.
Let’s work towards an eco-friendly future!