What exactly is green? Great question, because in this age of marketing, almost everything has a “green component” that makes the product more appealing or makes a product appear to be more environmentally conscious. This may or may not be true. Being “Green” for a lot of businesses is a serious business. The term is generally used when significantly more money or time has been spent advertising being green (that is, operating with consideration for the environment), rather than spending resources on environmentally sound practices. This is often depicted by changing the name, or label of a product to suggest nature or nature—for example, putting an image of a forest on a bottle containing harmful chemicals. This is not to generalize any industry, there are an ever increasing number of companies who are working hard to remove harmful chemicals, decrease waste, purchase raw materials locally, and increase the use of recyclable materials in their product lines.
In the realm of digital products that are out there in the market place I urge buyers to make sure, via documentation, that product claims are backed up by facts. Here are some of the current claims:
Recyclable, or fully recyclable, contains recycled material, and biodegradable.
If a product is recyclable, where is the recycling to be done? Is it recyclable after the product has been covered in digital solvent or UV curable ink? Are there approved recycling centers for the product around the country, or just in one location?
When purchasing this type of product, ask for specifics from the company as to how and where this can be accomplished. If you can tell your clients specifically how to accomplish this, you will be seen as being pro-active versus leaving it all up to the client.
Biodegradable-If the product has claims of biodegradability then you must as a company perform due diligence and ask for fact sheets and test data that back up that claim. Under what conditions does it biodegrade? Will it still degrade after being covered with digital ink? Will the landfill meet the test parameters and render the material, as did the tests? Again. Ask for all of the test data available and make a sound judgment.
Contains recycled product-This claim needs documentation as well as, to know where the recycled content comes from and to verify if possible the recycled content percentage in the finished product. Can this product be recycled itself? Is there any documentation to back that up? Good question to ask for all of the green conditions.
A great deal of digital imaging media comes from Asia and the near east. Documentation for these products as to their content and green claims is slim, unsubstantiated or non-existent at best. Claims without documentation and/or test data to backup those claims, will put you in a bad light, if clients ask for such documentation.
Speaking along the lines of “earth friendly”, are you buying products that have been manufactured in your own country? If the answer to this is no, you might want to think about how that material got transported to your doorstep and the consequences of global shipping. Container ships burn an enormous amount of fuel, with pollutants going into both the air and surrounding ocean. In this age of buying food locally, why not support US industries by buying other goods locally as well.
Actions have consequences (as parents, we’re always saying this), but to the specialty imaging community, I really mean it!