Sustainable printing

“Green printing” is gaining importance as companies recognize their responsibility to act sustainably. The power consumption of printers and the selection of consumable supplies impact printing’s carbon footprint. Recent innovations have made it possible to work with eco-friendly digital print and signage materials that demand no compromises in aesthetic appeal and print durability. In this article, we present four components of the printing process that you can make more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Environmentally friendly consumables

The selection of consumable supplies has a major impact on the sustainability of the printing process. What do films, fabric, cardboard, or panels have in common? You can print on all of them.

PVC-free films are, for instance, environmentally friendly printable films that are 100% free of PVC and softeners. They can be used in many ways for indoor and outdoor signage. “ImagePerfect Evergreen” is an example of a series of environmentally friendly self-adhesive films for plotting and digital printing applications. Films also have other properties that can be made more sustainable, aside from eliminating PVC. For one, you can use films that rely on water-based, solvent-free glue without sacrificing their adhesive properties. In addition, you can opt for films with 100 percent recycled backing paper.

When printing on fabric, it’s essential to ensure that the share of recycled material in the fabric is as high as possible. Even better: opt for fabrics that can be reused repeatedly. Upcycling old printed fabrics is also a good solution, as this keeps the material in the cycle. Another alternative is to print on panels, such as Forex, Kappa Plast, Dibond, and Acryl. Here, it’s vital to look for materials certified by schemes such as DISPA, which label sustainably produced panels. And what is the main advantage of printing on cardboard? Almost all of it can be recycled!

In addition to environmentally friendly paper, the choice of inks also helps assure a sustainable printing process. Inks like the latest generation of HP Latex inks stand out for their high image quality, consistent colors, and excellent durability. They also offer several advantages in terms of environmental impact. Like HP Latex inks, your inks should be water-based and odorless. Does the packaging have warning signs for dangerous ingredients, chemically reactive monomers, or air pollutants? Then you’re better off without it. As with cardboard, keep your eyes peeled for environmental certifications. If the ink is certified UL ECOLOGO, for example, you know that it meets strict health and environmental criteria.

Besides the ink itself, look for environmentally friendly ink cartridges. Already today, you can find ink cartridges made not of plastic but of cardboard. These cause far fewer CO2 emissions and can be recycled more easily and with fewer emissions when returned to the manufacturer.

Finally, ensure that all your consumables are packaged and protected using biologically degradable casings. These help reduce wear and tear. Here too, look out for FSC certifications such as FSC, PEFC, EU Ecolabel, or Der Blaue Engel, or use plastic-free packaging with unbleached cardboard. The latter is based on sustainable forestry and, through the certification, contributes to the protection and conservation of forests. Are the materials recyclable and easily disposable? Follow the instructions on the product on how to recycle or dispose of individual product components. Finally, pay attention to where the product was manufactured, and the raw materials were sourced. The shorter the transportation distances, the better the carbon footprint.


The key to sustainable printing is an efficient and environmentally friendly printer. The best devices stand out for their recyclable design, low-pollutant plastic components, and low-emission and quiet printing. Are you looking to purchase a new printer? Then pay attention to its power consumption. The energy classification of a device offers insight into its power requirements. Here, too, sustainability labels will help you navigate the vast offerings from individual manufacturers. Labels such as Energy Star, Blauer Engel, or TCO Certified let you know which devices are particularly tailored to sustainable production.

Once the printer is on-site, regular cleaning and maintenance are vital to increasing its longevity. Ideally, once a week. The better you care for your printer and the cleaner it is, the less likely it is to jam. It also makes sense financially. If you keep your device clean, you won’t need to call technicians as frequently. You’ll also need chemical agents less often to get your printer back into working order. And the printer isn’t the only thing that might need cleaning. Remember to clean the materials that you are printing on to keep dust out of the machine and dirt out of the image. If the material is dirty, you might need to print the product twice, which would be ecologically inefficient.

There are some guiding principles that you can follow to print efficiently and with foresight. To avoid mistakes ahead of time, start with a test run on a small surface. Whether it’s a panel, fabric, cardboard, or film, make maximum use of the surface when printing so that you throw away as little of the printing material as possible. Check the printing properties ahead of time to avoid mistakes in production.

Printing externally

When printing externally, for example, during a large project abroad, finding an ecological print shop is key. A lot has happened at print shops regarding climate awareness over the past years. Look for printing shops that use green energy, sustainable materials, energy-efficient approaches to run their business, and carbon offsetting to achieve climate neutrality. The route to the printer’s is important too. The closer it is, the shorter the delivery distance and the fewer emissions are caused.