These days, print has a hard enough time competing with electronic media on everything from interactivity to inventory to cost. The issue of “greening” and sustainability gives us one more area to compete. Thus, the rush to show that print is green, the process is green, and that even the components of the process, from ink to press components, are green, too.
But are we over-selling? I’m not saying that we are (and in some areas, we aren’t selling hard enough), but it is a question we want to keep in mind. After all, printers, marketers, and end consumers are embracing environmental sustainability, but they are getting shy of greenwashing, too.
On the Inspired Economist this morning, I posted “Pre-Cycling: A Contrarian’s View,” which poses this very question.
Recently, a new term has been coined in the green socioverse — “precycling.” While defined different ways, the term basically refers to a change in customer thinking toward the reduction in waste and a predisposition toward recyclable packaging and packaging or manufacturing components that make products easier to recycle.
There are some great trends coming out of precycling: purchasing products in bulk to reduce packaging; creative re-use of products (re-filling of plastic water bottles with filtered water, re-using plastic coffee containers to store unused paint); use of canvas shopping bags; growth of “do not mail” lists that reduce unwanted catalogs and junk mail; and so on.
These trends provide real, measurable environmental benefits. But it’s easy to oversell precycling, too. In the hype, the danger is that we can end up working against true sustainability.
In the printing industry, we need to understand the true environmental impact of print, the printing process, and its components so that we can position ourselves accurately in the marketplace. This often means looking past the initial marketing hype and understanding what the true environmental impact of these initiatives is. Sometimes it’s less — and sometimes it’s greater — than it may appear on the surface. It’s important that we know the difference.