Archive for the ‘Green Design’ Category

There has been an in-flux of new experiemental papers lately in an effort to come up with a treeless solution. Some of the tree-free papers I’ve seen feel more like plastic or vinyl, and are made of petroleum-based substances. I’ve recently come across an interesting solution, actual made with fine ground up particles of limestone, left over waste from the mining process.

These papers have more of a “paper” appearance and touch, but have the benefit of being super durable, water-proof, bleach-free, and, of course, tree-free.

FiberStone
made from the left-over limestone from the mining process

ViaStone
also made from the left-over limestone from the mining process

In researching these “rock papers” I’ve also come across a number of additional innovative tree-free papers:

The Sugar Cane Paper Company
made from the waste resulting from processing sugar cane

Treeless Products
made from fast-growing bamboo

Mr. Eliie Pooh
made from recycled elephant poop

VisionPaper
made from kanaf, a plant related to hibiscus

Are these tree less papers actually saving our natural resources? Well there are tons of debates out there in cyberspace. Each one of these tree-free papers appears to have it’s own unique qualities, and I’ll definitely be looking deeper into our options on our next project!


The need for water conservation, even in developed countries, is critical. The United Nations warns that over 2.7 billion people will be facing severe water shortages within 15 years if we keep on using water at our current rate.

There are many ways to conserve water, but for designers, one of the most appealing is to find a well-trained printer operating a waterless press.

Done traditionally, printing consumes vast amounts water. One large press will go through hundreds of thousands of liters of water each year.

It doesn’t have to, though.

Waterless printing, an alternative to offset lithographic printing that’s proved successful in Japan, simply takes the need for water out of the question altogether. How is that possible? Well, where conventional printing is a chemical process that uses water to control hydrophobic ink, waterless printing works mechanically. Instead of needing to fine-tune the balance between ink and water, a waterless press uses silicon plates with a deep etch structure and temperature to control the ink. No water needed. It’s a delicate process and it requires a talented printer, but such a printer can get excellent results.

Because waterless presses eliminate the need for fountain solutions, they also significantly reduce the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs cause an array of health issues for press operators, from eye irritation to leukemia.

The other green perk of waterless printing comes in the form of less wasted paper. Waterless presses come up to color and register faster than traditional presses and this can increase paper savings up to 40%.

If you thought you’d have to trade image quality for these benefits, you’re mistaken. Waterless presses deliver better color consistency, color saturation, detail reproduction, and overall sharpness, plus there’s less prep time needed.

Pretty cool, huh?

Waterless presses are currently much harder to find than traditional presses, but with their selling points, they are growing in popularity. You can help boost their viability with your business.


As environmentally consious designers, Double 6 understands that we need to do more than just opt for recycled paper. We also need to prefer inks that don’t leave an ugly stain on the world.

Printing inks can contain three main types of ingredients that threaten the environment:

1. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) come from inks that depend on petroleum-based solvents to disperse pigment and accelerate drying. When used, these inks emit VOCs in vapor form. VOC vapor harms print shop workers and contributes to the formation of smog.

2. Certain colors of ink contain heavy metals that are associated with various health hazards, such as cadmium, barium, copper, and zinc. These elements leach into groundwater and contaminate the soil.

3. Petroleum use isn’t sustainable and you don’t need us to tell you that. Petroleum-based inks also require more water to remove from paper you’re trying to recycle.

The good news is that vegetable-based inks either avoid or vastly decrease our dependence on these ingredients.

As an added benefit, vegetable-based inks are also naturally clearer. This clarity makes it easier to produce bright colors with less pigment (and so we need less heavy metal use). Some printers report that vegetable-based inks spread farther than petroleum inks, further reducing the amount of ink required for a job.

Still not convinced? Consider this, then. When the Los Angeles Times switched to soy-based ink, their VOC emissions went down by 200 tons per year.
We’re glad you see the light!

Now that you’re with us, you’re probably wondering how to compare the various vegetable-based inks. Is soy better than other vegetable oils for ink? The short answer is that different vegetable oils are better for different things.

Linseed (flax), tung (Chinawood), castor, canola, safflower, and soy are all used as bases for inks. Many ink manufacturers like soy for its stability, but most inks are made of a blend of oils, taking advantage of the specific benefits of each type.

When possible, using a vegetable-based ink of any variety is better than using a petroleum-based ink. However, because they lack evaporative solvents (VOCs), these inks dry slowly, and this can create issues when you print on coated paper. We recommend talking with your printer, letting them know your preferences, and doing what you can to create the best possible product using the most environmentally friendly ink.

Next up in our Green Series: find out how refreshing waterless printing can be!


So far in our Green Series, we’ve talked about the different types of recycled paper and about why it’s important to choose chlorine free paper. But what does it mean when paper is certified by an organization like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)?

These days, a lot of the products we see in stores are stamped with labels certifying them as “organic” or “free-trade.” Sometimes these labels are straightforward, but sometimes not. While an FSC certification sounds appealing, how much weight should we give it? If the paper we’re buying is recycled and chlorine free, isn’t that enough?

No. Not if you want to help shift the whole paper production industry away from destructive logging.

Forest Stewardship Council is an international non-profit organization working to promote responsible forest management. This association of forest owners, timber industries, social groups, and environmental organizations has set themselves an impressive mandate; they strive to eliminate habitat destruction, water pollution, displacement of indigenous peoples, and the violence against people and wildlife that often accompanies logging.

So if you see FSCcertification on a label, that means the paper you’re buying comes from only “well-managed forests that have met FSC’s high social and environmental standards.” What those standards are specifically can be found on their website.

In brief, FSC certification means you’re putting your investments towards those who source their wood from responsibly managed forests and away from companies that support illegal and unsustainable logging.

There are other certifications you might see when you shop for paper, such as Ancient Forest Friendly. Even more certifications apply the “green” label more generally to a business and its practices, attesting, for example, that it uses only carbon neutral shipping. In terms of paper production, though, the FSC mark is the one we look for.

Next up in our Green Series: what kind of mark can you make when you choose an ink?


Should you care about the paper you buy being chlorine free?

When you’re shopping for paper stock, you’ve likely noticed that many papers feature an acronym like PCF, or ECF, or TCF. But what do those acronyms mean? And what do they mean for the environment?

They’re all referring to the degree to which the paper production process avoids the use of chlorine. Chlorine gas is what paper mills traditionally use to bleach paper fibers. While it does the trick, it also creates highly toxic byproducts that leak into the environment. These dioxins and furans can, among other things, cause cancer and birth defects in humans.

So, simply put, keep out the chlorine! All those acronyms are good things to see on a ream of paper. More specifically, here’s what each means.

PCF / PROCESSED CHLORINE-FREE is paper that is produced without elemental chlorine or chlorine derivatives, but it is unknown whether any recycled content was originally processed using chlorine. So if you’re buying recycled paper (like you should) the mill didn’t use chlorine when they transformed the recycled fibers into new paper. They just can’t attest to how the fibers were treated before they were put in the recycling bin.

TCF / TOTALLY CHLORINE-FREE means that instead of using chlorine in the bleaching process, the mill used oxygen-based compounds. Why would this be less preferable than PCF? Because in order for paper to be certified as TCF, it has to come from 100% virgin fibers. Unfortunately, you either need to get TCF paper or recycled paper—you can’t have both.

ECF / ELEMENTAL CHLORINE-FREE is bleached using chlorine dioxide instead of elemental chlorine. This is better by a long ways than traditionally bleached paper; chlorine dioxide use reduces the production of dioxin byproducts by 94%!

There are, of course, two other options. The first is traditionally bleached paper. Although this is often selected for visual appearance, we can’t really recommend this when it comes to creating an earth friendly package. The second is to opt for an unbleached stock. When Double 6 Design designs packaging, for example, we recommend using a stock that’s been coated white on the outside, but which is unbleached kraft on the inside. If it’s not bleached, there’s no need for chlorine in the first place.

Next up in our Green Series: what does FSC certification mean anyway?


How do you choose an environmentally friendly paper stock? Choosing the right paper for a print job requires any designer to consider a whole slew of variables: texture, brightness, weight, size, finish, color, and—of course—how the paper was sourced.

Ninety percent of paper pulp comes from wood. In fact, about a third of the trees felled around the world today are cut down to produce paper. Buying recycled paper helps reduce this deforestation by decreasing demand for virgin fiber. Additionally, producing paper from recycled pulp requires up to 55% less water than if a mill uses virgin pulp. Because paper production uses more water than most other industries, this savings in water adds up quickly.

Buying recycled paper is not as simple as it sounds, though. If you’ve shopped around, you’ll know that there are a few different categories of recycled paper.

MILL BROKE comes from the scrap collected within a paper mill during paper production. Making paper from mill broke is like scraping the bowl after you make cookie dough, so you can make one more cookie with the leftovers. Mill broke makes more efficient use of felled trees by using what would otherwise be wasted.

PRE-CONSUMER WASTE comes from paper that left the mill, but which never reached consumers. For example, if a printer runs a large job and trims off the edges, those edges are pre-consumer waste. Like mill broke, pre-consumer waste makes efficient use of resources by reclaiming unused paper and putting it back into the production process.

POST-CONSUMER WASTE comes from you and people like you. When you put your newspaper or old reports or phone books into the recycling bin, that’s post-consumer waste. Paper that’s 100% made from post-consumer waste calls for no virgin fibers and no deforestation.

Now, often paper is produced as a blend of recycled and non-recycled fibers. For example, New Leaf Paper lists some of its stock as “80% recycled, 60% post-consumer waste.” That means 60% of the paper comes from post-consumer waste, 20% from pre-consumer waste and/or mill broke, and 20% from virgin fibers.

Choosing what type and percentage of recycled content you’re comfortable with is up to you and, to some degree, what’s available in the market. At Double 6 Design, we’ve been buying a lot of our paper from New Leaf. They use higher percentages of post-consumer waster content, plus their paper is good quality and affordable.

Stay tuned for the next post in our Green Series, on chlorine-free paper processing. In the future we’ll also cover different environmentally friendly certifications and what to consider when choosing inks.


One day, many years ago, it occured to me that as a designer of packaging and print, I was a large contributor to our landfills. What a depressing thought, that everything we create, at some point in it’s life cycle, is thrown away. For a while I struggled with this issue, but I then decided that I could still do my part to be a green designer.

We have quite a few clients these days who are willing to pay a little extra to be gentler on the earth. The increased demand for greener options has created a search for new innovative materials, ways to cut down on excessive packaging, and the creation of lower-impact processes. The good news is that there are more and more printers who are capable of green printing, and everyday we hear about new options.

Since we’re all still learning about how we can do our part and it’s such an ever-evolving issue, we have decided to do some research and write a series of blogs dedicated to Green Design. Stay tuned….