It’s All About Choosing Certified Paper and Using Soy Ink.

Whether it’s your marketing or meetings strategy, printing solutions don’t need to be perceived as wasteful or environmentally-unfriendly just because you’re printing brochures, business cards, conference materials and other publications – these are necessary. That’s why many have increased their interest in green printing solutions. And that’s how we help.

The basics of a sustainable print model is to use soy-based ink and environmentally-friendly print materials such as post-consumer recycled paper or coated paper from a sustainable forest whenever possible.

Guidelines by the Iowa Soybean Association indicate that inks should contain at least 20% soybean oil. The pigment (color) is actually the same as standard petroleum-based inks, and print industry experts say the print quality is actually superior.

And while some advocates of sustainability recommend using the maximum amount of recycled paper (30%), paper sources with less recycled paper are also acceptable if they are certified as sourced from sustainable forests and/or responsible manufacturing processes. Sustainability is achieved at the farm level, and it also puts more oxygen in the air.

Certified papers are critical to a green print solutions model, so look for one of three labels:

  • Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®)
    While a portion of a paper’s fiber may be sourced from a recycled product, SFI assures the remainder of material or packaging product is sourced from a legal and responsibly managed forest.
  • Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC)
    PEFC certification ensures that timber and non-timber forest products are produced with respect for ecological, social and ethical standards. It’s an eco-label that identifies products from a sustainably managed forests.
  • Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
    FSC establishes standards that represent well-managed forests toward sustainable outcomes in different geographic areas of the U.S. and 57 countries around the world.

The Rainforest Alliance promotes standards to protect soils, waterways and wildlife, and ensures that workers and neighboring communities are treated fairly. The Rainforest Alliance helps forestland retain its economic value over the long term.

So, what does this mean for organizations with meetings and other business priorities?

For example,* Comerica Securities, a financial services firm offering wealth and institutional management, wanted to provide marketing collateral for its brokers to use during meetings with potential investors.

Comerica wanted to demonstrate its commitment to using papers from well managed forests and other controlled sources. They chose an 80# gloss cover stock that received FSC mixed sources certification; the paper supplier also supports the work behind the Rainforest Initiative.

Another client, Northwestern University, produced a direct mail piece to showcase its dedication to learning and the environment. The brochure was produced on a stock that received both FSC and SFI certifications.

For its 2010 Sustainable Meetings Conference in Denver in February, the Green Meetings Industry Council (GMIC) established environmental responsibility guidelines for exhibitors, including the requirement of 30% recycled paper. Other criteria included avoiding large quantities of collateral, and to use recyclable, biodegradable shipping and packing materials (or environmentally responsible alternatives).

Of course, price is always a question that comes up. A misperception is that green printing solutions cost more. As for soy-based ink, the cost is comparable. And the fact is that price really depends on the quality of paper – not its certifications and/or recycled content. You can find both expensive and cost effective FSC and/or recycled papers.

* RHCI is a partner to RGCI, a certified Illinois Great Printer by the State of Illinois.

This article also appeared in the Spring 2010 issue of News & Views for the Chicago Chapter of Meeting Professionals International.

Contact Rob Hard at 1-312-663-4800 or email at for more information about how we deliver printing services for clients.