ECO Print Awards: Dissing Digital?

By | May 8, 2012

This morning at drupa, Heidelberg announced its third Heidelberg ECO Printing Award, the only international environmental award for sustainable printing in the sheetfed offset sector. The award focuses on the usual —  sustainable use of resources and energy, climate protection, and environmentally aware management practices — all of which are really, really important. Awesome.

However, as I read about the award (entries can be submitted from May 8 to November 30, 2012 and the award be presented in June 2013), I once again felt a level of frustration with the focus on traditional offset. While it’s certainly true that offset deals with environmental issues in terms of process that digital does not (press chemicals and powders, higher levels of emissions), digital provides environmental benefits that traditional offset does not. Why don’t people talk about that more?

This is a drum I’ve been banging for years, and I’m going to continue to bang it. We think about “green” printing in terms of process — substrates, chemicals, alternative energy, and so on.  But how about things like volume reduction through targeting, cleaner databases, and page reduction through personalization? These have real, tangible environmental benefits, too.

When you target using a portion of your database, when you reduce the number of pages in a mailing to only those relevant to the recipient, when you clean and streamline your database to be more effective in your 1:1 efforts,  you are reducing your environmental impact through lower consumables use, lower energy use, and reduction in the use of fossil fuels in the process of transport and mailing at the same time.

As I’ve written in  Greening Print Marketing, these are real environmental benefits. They are immediate environmental benefits. We don’t measure their impact in how much less the environment is suffering down the road. We see it immediately in fewer consumables ordered, less gas purchased, less volume going into a landfill. And while we can certainly do higher volume targeting with sheetfed, these benefits are largely digital.

When will the environmental awards start to reward targeting and personalization as part of the larger move toward sustainability? Hey, Heidelberg! It’s not to late to tweak your criteria!

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One thought on “ECO Print Awards: Dissing Digital?

  1. Marc Zazeela


    The environmental impact of digital versus analog has been, and will be, debated for years. Based on the evidence that I am aware of, neither is blameless for causing environmental damage.

    Of course it depends on whose side you are listening to. I also agree with your ideas about narrow target markets that will reduce paper and ink usage.

    I also think that while saving the environment is a noble cause, one needs to be mindful of the reasons behind your marketing campaign in the first place. So, if your direct mail campaign has a greater impact and produces more revenue and higher profits, would you still opt for something that is perceived as better for the environment?

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