It’s been nothing short of a sea change in recent years, as communications tools have shifted from traditional printed modes to electronic means ranging from e-mail to sophisticated websites, to cell phones and PDAs, to wireless reading devices. One of the campus’s strategic priorities — made all the more important during difficult economic times — is being a responsible steward of our resources.

Given the many alternatives to traditional printed products, campus units are encouraged to carefully evaluate key goals, audiences, and distribution options before committing to a printed solution. Ask if a publication is really necessary and if your audience can be reached in some other way. Consider a group e-mail message, for example, or an e-newsletter. Although these alternatives still require staff time and expertise to produce, they do save costs related to paper, printing, and postage.

Here are some additional tips for reducing a project’s carbon footprint.

  • Reduce the physical size of the printed piece.
  • Decrease quantity, if possible. Ensure that you order the right quantity initially to avoid expensive reprints.
  • Use vegetable-based inks.
  • Avoid metallic and fluorescent inks, which contain toxic heavy metal.
  • Design publications using fewer varnishes and coatings.
  • Use paper with at least 30 percent recycled content; Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper and printing are preferred.
  • Use digital printing when printing smaller quantities — generally 2,000 or fewer pieces. Digital printing uses non-toxic dry inks and generates lower emissions than offset printers.
  • Work with printers who have obtained third-party environmental certification such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Certification or Sustainable Forestry Initiative. These certifications ensure that paper originates from well-managed forests and complies with a certified organization’s rigorous standards.
  • Review distribution and mailing lists regularly to avoid overproducing materials.
  • Update databases regularly to ensure that addresses are current.