Print & Packaging Design

Design in the era of 400 ppm (parts per million) of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere means that we are working against the clock. To create going forward means that we have to reduce our impact and also design to renourish our planet. It means improving our air, water, and land, and then sustaining that progress.

We can make big impacts by making responsible choices, but we’re discovering that small changes become large when multiplied by thousands of other designers making similar decisions. This is where we all come in. We create messaging, awareness, and love through beauty and we can use these skills to make a difference.

Here’s an example: given a typically tight budget to produce a catalog, two University of Illinois design students assumed that 100% post-consumer paper would be cost prohibitive. But by using the Re-nourish Project Calculator, the students discovered that if they trimmed just 1″ off the book height they would save around 1,000 press sheets. This saved $3,000, allowing them to specify a high quality, 100% recycled, FSC-certified paper. With a little design thinking, they saved 9,717 gallons of water, 13 million BTUs of energy, 942 pounds of solid waste and avoided 2,255 pounds of greenhouse gases. This is a great start, but using agri-fiber paper (wheat straw for example) is better.

Practical Strategies to Lower Your Impact

  • Reduce the amount of paper and other materials used overall by designing smaller and more efficient pieces.
  • Avoid additives or excess finishing like foil stamps, varnishes, and laminates.
  • Create pieces to be as light as possible without sacrificing durability (also known as lightweighting).
  • Stick to digital printing for shorter runs.
Reuse & Design for Durability
  • Design the piece for extended use, or intentional reuse.
  • Know the user and co-design whenever possible. This ensures they are truly invested and will use it for a long time
  • Aim for 100% post-consumer waste (PCW) recycled content paper.
  • Be easily disassembled for appropriate disposal channels
Material Substitution & Localization
  • Better yet, replace wood fiber papers with agri-fiber papers (wheat straw for example) when doing so is regionally and environmentally preferable.
  • Avoid polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
  • Select a local certified greener printer, (use the SGP database), for production.
  • Use vegetable-based, low-VOC inks on press.
  • Manufacture and transport using renewable energy.
  • Employ cradle-cradle thinking. Create to improve (compost for example) our soil.

You can also visit our standards to learn more and go into greater details with your design choices.

For further help with your sustainable print or packaging project, you can visit the:

Paper, Printing, and Ink Worksheet

A quick reference guide for sustainable print design best practices.

Learn more

Materials Worksheet

A quick reference guide for choosing greener materials.

Learn more