Green Printing

News about Hotcards' green printing strategies, as well as reviews of environmentally friendly initiatives in the world of advertising, design, and printing.

Top Ten Green Printing Practices

As much as possible the use of recycled paper and ink for printing should be strictly followed. Although recycled paper may not be always available in all the possible sizes, renewable inks are readily available in the market.

FSC Certified and Recycled Paper - Which is Better to Use?

Millions of trees are cut every year to make paper. Deforestation poses a threat to the environment in several ways. Rise in temperature, increase in levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and soil erosion are some of the more evident effects.

Frequent flooding due to the lack of trees to absorb excess rain water is also a real possibility. We cannot stop using paper despite the usage of electronic tools and devices having become popular but we can surely work towards minimizing the damage. You can contribute by using recycled paper. In addition, you also have the option of using FSC certified paper when not using the recycled one.

Does Earth Day Need A Lesson In Branding?

Looking back on 40 years of green thinking.

The world celebrated Earth Day last week, on April 22nd, and I noticed that a lot of printers ran special green printing promotions, or blogged about sustainable printing. But I hesitated to post about the day because, for printers, every day is Earth Day.

In our industry, we don't have the luxury to ever stop thinking about our environmental impact, to stop learning about how we can reduce that impact, or to ignore our role as environmental stewards.

That being said, an interesting question might be: what can printers do to improve the experience of Earth Day in their communities? It's a great day to hold events like community cleanups, and to share knowledge about environmental issues, but an even more interesting suggestion was implied by an Earth Day article on the AIGA website this year, in which author Phil Patton posed the question: "Why is there no simple single symbol or badge of environmentalism, like the peace sign?"

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Gallery of GREEN

Design inspiration for a green planet.

What is it about the color green that is so inspiring? Yes, it comes out in green beer and even dyed green rivers on St. Patrick's Day, but it's more than that. It is the ultimate color representative of the natural world, and the descriptive word itself has also become synonymous with ecological stewardship.

Nowadays, green printing and green design are everywhere. They can even start to feel a bit played out. But before you succumb to ennui, and in honor of St. Patrick's Day, have a look at this gorgeous gallery of green textures, backgrounds, landscapes, flashes of brilliance, sharp contrasts, and natural wonders, and remember what makes green so inspiring in the first place!

Are New Green Press Plants the Solution?

Pros and cons.

As a printer, it's possible to come at sustainable printing strategies from many angles. Using green materials, employing ecologically mindful design sensibilities, recycling, cutting down on waste, and even encouraging employees to lead greener lifestyles are all parts of the puzzle.

But the point when printers really step their game up comes when they begin to consider infrastructure. Using alternative energy sources, like wind or solar power, is one consideration. Building a facility, from the ground up, designed around environmentally sound architectural philosophies, is another.

Green Printing Practices: Direct Mailing List Management

Be green! Scrub that list!

For a long time, list management has been an important part of the direct mailing process. List management means to carefully oversee and thoughtfully edit the list of recipients for a piece of direct mail. The process was created to make sure that mailings were targeted, relevant, and easy for USPS to deliver.

Now list management has a new responsibility: environmental stewardship. For too long, direct mail has been listed as 'junk' because poor list management leads to the wrong people receiving mailers, mailers being delivered to out-of-date addresses, and too many mailers being thrown out, unread. And that's a recipe for waste paper disaster.

According to the Direct Marketing Association, these practices are no longer acceptable, particularly from an environmental perspective. However, the alternative is not necessarily to stop printing direct mail, but to maintain rigorous list management practices. Keeping clean mailing lists is an eco-must, because it ensures that campaigns do not get overprinted, and hit the right people.

FSC, FSI Battle It Out Over Sustainable Forests

Is this the end of sustainable forestry initiatives?

Wow, I didn't think I'd be posting about green printing again so soon, but here we go! There's trouble brewing in the old sustainable forest…

As you might know – being the loyal printing blog reader that you are – one of the biggest priorities that a green printer focuses on is achieving tri-certification. Tri-certification is all about preserving our country's - and our planet's - forests. (Yup, this all comes back to sustainability).

One of the most important things being done to green our industry has been a commitment to using paper made from trees that were logged by companies who take provable steps to replace what they harvest. There is an entire chain of custody that must be entirely transparent in order to prove that the paper coming out of our printers can be traced back to a tree that was harvested from a certifiably sustainable forestry project.

Tri-certification, for a printer, means that the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), the SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative), and the PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) have all approved a facility's printing practices as being in line with an ecologically mindful approach to preserving the world's forests. Not surprising, this tri-certification is tough to get, and it sure ain't cheap.

That being the case, it's been hard to watch the organizations that we're supposed to be taking our lead from being torn apart by controversy over the last few months. First, ForestEthics filed complaints against SFI for greenwashing and tax fraud. Now, the Coalition for Fair Forest Certification (which is rumored to count SFI amongst its members) has filed similar complaints against the FSC.

Speculation is that forest sustainability initiatives have been losing momentum over the last few years, and that this fallout is the result. Of course, as much as this affects the printing industry, the construction, architecture, and publishing sectors are hit just as hard. And as disappointing as all this infighting is, it's even worse to imagine that the complaints are true, and that all this certification business has been nothing more than another cashgrab disguised as concern for the environment.

What do you think? Are sustainable forestry initiatives just a bunch of greenhouse gas? And if so, how should the printing industry respond?

Green Printing: Defining Sustainability for Print

A survival skill for successful printers.

When the mid-00s' brought 'green' everything into vogue, one of the buzzwords du jour was 'sustainability.' And it's a term that still gets thrown around a lot, but it's rarely properly defined.

People first started to talk about sustainability in regards to environmentalism in the 1950s and 60s. It was that long ago when experts in ecology started to say, "hey, we can't consume as much as we do, and create as much waste as we do, and continue to live comfortably on planet Earth."

Sustainability, then, became the core of an idea that we had to manage our resources in such a way that life could go one, so that future generations could have a good – or ideally, better – quality of life than we have today. As Wikipedia says in one of its more poetic moments, "Sustainability, in a broad sense, is the capacity to endure."

While sustainable living isn't entirely about adopting practices that are good for the environment, the two are very closely linked. We can succeed – as people, as business, as nations – only insofar as we can continue to supply ourselves with the resources we need to maintain our health and livelihood. Even those who most firmly reject the claims of environmental alarmists should be able to agree that a growing population and diminishing resource pool requires some planning and action on our part.

How do all these lofty ideas apply to the printing industry? It's simple. For the last fifty years, printing, and pulp and paper, in particular, has been under serious fire for being one of the most environmentally taxing industries on the planet. The chemicals used in, and waste created by, printing has heavy environmental consequences, and the more we print, the more severe those consequences become.

And so the industry had to ask itself: how can we transform ourselves into the kind of business that's going to be a vital part of the new millennium?

Green Printing: More Than Just a 00' Trend

And not as pricey as the 'trend' tag implies…

Ever since the economy has been in the proverbial toilet, experts throughout the printing industry have been saying the same thing: nobody cares about the environment anymore.

But what's really being said here? I think it's: nobody is willing to pay more for a 'green' brand or product anymore. Fair 'nuff. Too bad for businesses that were hoping to capitalize on environmentalism as a trend. However, those businesses for whom environmental stewardship is more than a buzz word should not give up on consumers so quickly.

The root of the problem is that somehow, 'green' became a trend, and the difficulty with trends is always the same. They fly into popularity, a lot of chic terminology gets thrown around, generalizations and misconceptions abound, people buy a bunch of junk, and in the end, little of substance is gained from the collective cultural experience.

However, in this case, it's different. Here at Hotcards, we refuse to allow eco-critical thinking and environmental initiatives to fade into something that will be remembered as "so 2006." Over the next week, we'll be looking at some of the key terms and concepts surrounding 'green' thinking as it applies to the print industry, and hopefully, we can begin to discuss why these remains relevant, important, vital despite all that has happened in the past year.

To begin, let's confront the biggest myth of all:

Is Printing The End Of The World?


It's something we all learned in grade school: don't waste paper! Paper comes from trees. When you waste paper, you're single-handedly murdering our forests. Over the years, this hug-the-planet credo evolved into a full-fledged rallying cry against the print industry for decimating the earth's tree supply and flooding its rivers with chemical waste.

Point taken. Really.

The Ecofont

Impact on Green Printing

It was released late in 2008, but I've been waiting for the verdict on the Ecofont for a while. Based on Vera Sans, the font was created by SPRANQ, a creative communications agency in the Netherlands. It was designed and billed as an eco-friendly font because it uses less ink. National Geographic just featured it in their latest issue, so does that mean the Ecofont is catching on?

The Ecofont is full of holes, "like Dutch cheese," and because of all these holes, claims to use up to 20% less ink. At a small font size, the holes are almost invisible, with the ink bleeding through to fill the holes. As the website says, "the results vary depending on the software and the quality of your screen." So what do users and green print lovers have to say?

The opinion shared by those from Treehugger to Lifehacker seems to be that it's a great idea. A really super, clever, thoughtful idea. That being said, does the font save ink more than printing in greyscale or using a skinnier font? No. Does it look better than other ink-saving options? Not really. Does it have widespread commercial applications? On the contrary, it's really best suited to throwaway desktop printing needs.

However, all that being said, the Ecofont, having spent the last eight months out in the big, scary world, is still a great thing for the creative communications industry. Why? Because the future of what we do is all about innovation, and in particular, green innovation. Maybe all our ideas and prototypes won't be planet-savers, but hopefully, idealistically, like the Ecofont, they won't be hurting anyone either, and maybe, just maybe, these little gems of optimism and inventiveness will be enough to keep us talking, and keep us moving forward into a sustainable future.

That's the real success story of the Ecofont.

Small, Cool Design = Eco Friendly Printing

Good things come in less packaging.

One of my favorite design websites (print design aside) is the well-nigh-on-sublime Apartment Therapy. Want to spend hours blissfully browsing well-organized homes? Then check it out, especially during the time of year when they host their Small Cool Contest. Small Cool awards prizes to the smallest, most well-put-together living spaces on the planet. And all the contestants are inspiring.

The thing about Small Cool is that these little homes aren’t just well-organized, they’re great for the environment. When it comes to reducing our ecological footprint, going small in just about every way possible is the coolness. This goes for living space, and it goes for printing and print design, as well.

An eco-friendly print campaign can be built around a concept as simple as just reducing the amount of material you use. This might involve advertising with postcards instead of posters, or posters instead of billboards. Or it might mean finding ways to cut down the amount of packaging on a product.

Biking Beyond Eco-Friendly Printing

Bike-to-Work Week all year round!

As a green printer, you're always stuck in a bit of a paradox. On the one hand, you're probably thinking about environmentally sound solutions more than the average business, and you're trying to green your processes all the time. On the other hand, you're a printer. You put ink on paper for a living. In short, your business is never going to be particularly great for the environment.

And that's where environmental stewardship comes in. It's not just about "how can I make this ink-on-paper thing easier on the environment?" It's about finding ways to make every aspect of your life and business greener, in order to offset the burden your industry places on the earth's resources.

Our head boss-guy, Columbus Woodruff, has just changed things around Hotcards in a way that's a perfect example of this. Columbus, who is an avid cyclist, added five new bikes to the lobby of the Hotcards office. Why? So that employees can bike, instead of drive, to lunch, or so that we can spend our breaks just cruising the neighborhood. Ah, bicycles – fast, fun, good for your mood, good for your health, and of course, great for the environment.

See Columbus talking about the new additions, and about cycling in Cleveland, in this video:

Is the Print Industry Too Protective of its Secrets?

And how, maybe, this recession could turn into a good thing…

WhatTheyThink just held their Environmental Innovation Awards, in which printers could apply to be recognized for their eco-mindful changes and contributions. As a follow-up, this week GoingGreen is interviewing each of the winners. Although the focus is eco-friendly printing, what these folks have to say has applications throughout the printing and print design industry.

But I'm not actually talking about green printing, per se.

What struck me as I listened to these interviews is how interviewees across the board expressed a frustration at the lack of communication between members of our industry. To move forward in terms of green innovation, they said, we have to share ideas and communicate!

Could it be?Are printers secretive?

The Politics of Choice in Information Publication, Online and in Print

Does free-flowing data come at a price?

As you probably know by now, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer printed its last issue yesterday. After almost 150 years in print, the paper is now entirely online, and struggling for survival.

For many people, the loss of our local newspapers is a natural progression, a sign of the times, and for environmentally conscious thinkers, it's a step in the right direction for the planet. Curbing our paper consumption is vital to the sustainability of human life in relation to the natural world.

And after all, it's not as if we're losing our news with the closing of newspapers. In fact, we have more access to information than ever before, thanks to the bottomless wellspring of knowledge that is the enviro-friendly internet.

Uh, wait.

Who ever said anything about the internet being environmentally friendly?

A recent article in the Times Online points out that every Google search we conduct, and every Tweet we post, carries an environmental footprint. And sure, this footprint is tiny, but even tiny things, compounded millions and billions of times, begin to add up, in this case into significant energy consumption.

The fact is that because the web seems so limitless, so bottomless, we tend to thoughtlessly overwhelm it with unedited, stream-of-conscious content, that is often repeated, over and over and over again, creating a system that is essentially bloated, and potentially more environmentally harmful than need be.

Wind Powered Printing

It's catching on.

Thusfar in its short history, sustainable printing or green printing has been largely the territory of smaller, boutique printing houses. But all that is changing.

It just goes to show the power of the little guy. What starts as a niche trend quickly becomes a standard of excellent demanded throughout the industry.

Recently, Digital Nirvana posted a list of all the green printers out there run on 100% wind power in the U.S. Currently, the list stands at just thirteen. Doesn’t seem like a lot, does it?

But it's enough to grab the attention of industry giants.

This week, Fujifilm inked a deal to develop a corporate wind farm in Tilburg, Netherlands. For all those not in the know, the Netherlands is one of the world's leaders in wind farming, and no, I'm not talking about windmills. In recent decades, the Dutch landscape has become dotted with massive, white wind turbines that can be seen from an enormous distance as you drive or train across the countryside.

Fujifilm is expected to have 3 to 5 wind turbines built, which will provide 10-20% of the energy needed to power its Bilburg plant.

Obviously, Fujifilm won't be bragging about being 100% wind powered any time soon, but hey, it's a start. And it's all thanks to small sustainable printers who invested in making a difference, and created an unstoppable trend.

Hotcards Interviews Bacchus Press

Green printers!

One of the coolest things about being a green printer. is that there’s a great sense of community. Sharing ideas, developing new technologies, and discussing how we can push our environmental commitments to the limit is all part of this printing community.

This week, I had a chance to talk to the good folks over at Bacchus Press in San Francisco. Guy from Business Development told me all about what they’re doing to help create a more sustainable printing industry:

Greatest Green Printing Initiatives of 2008

Guest post on What They Think – Going Green

It’s the time of year for looking back on what we’ve accomplished over the last twelve months, which is how I found myself writing a guest post for Going Green – a new section of printing heavyweight website, WhatTheyThink.

If you’re interested in reading about the leaps forward we’ve made in the green printing industry over the last year, check it out. Or even if you just want to see a picture of my grinning mug.

WhatTheyThink’s Going Green section is run by the awesome Gail Nickel-Kailing. Check it out whenever you’re starting to feel like it ain’t easy being a green printer.

Celebrity Christmas Cards 2008

Design decisions of the rich and famous.

Over the last couple of months, we've been doing just a little, tiny bit of greeting card printing. Businesses, charities, and even the occasional family send out, oh, bazillions of cards during the holiday season, some designed by spirited individuals, some carefully assembled by crack design teams.

But, of course, the most important cards sent out every year are those sent by celebrities. In 2007, we showcased the best, and the worst, of celebrity greeting card printing, and it was such a hit we're doing it again in 2008.

Best Sites For Learning About Sustainable Printing And Design

I showed you my list, now you show me yours.

I’m a big believe in the wise old saying, “the more we get together, the happier we’ll be.” When it comes to any type of creative project, the best results are borne from an effective collaborative process. Websites are better when designers and programmers work together. And print is better when printers and designers work together.

Luckily, over the last year or so, the amazing surge of interest in sustainable design and printing has led to the interesting side effect of printers and designers working together more closely to achieve an ideally satisfying result.

That being said, check out some of my favorite sites from around the world created by graphic designers who are thinking green in the most amazing ways:

5 Ways To Celebrate Like A Green Printer

The holidays are the best time to save paper.

Being a green printer is tough. And one of the hardest things about it is that no matter where we find places to reduce, reuse, and recycle, the fact is that we go through paper – a ton of paper – all the time. No matter how green we get, that’s still the nature of the business, and it’s the single biggest contributor to the size of our environmental footprint.

In order to offset this somewhat unavoidable negative impact, many printers and designers take steps in other areas of their lives to be extra EXTRA eco-friendly. And one of the best times of year to make a difference – especially in terms of paper – is during the holiday season.

Here are a few easy things anyone can do over the holidays to save paper and reduce waste, green printer-style:

Green Printing = Green Jobs = Strong Economy

Eco advocate Van Jones does the math.

Before this whole credit crisis and economic downswing took hold, I remember thinking that the final stretch of the White House race was going to be all about the environment. Remember when John McCain first received the nomination to run? His campaign came out with an elaborate array of green print advertising meant to peg him as an 'eco' Republican.

Of course, everybody forgot about that once the economy took center stage, and now the big question launching Obama's Presidency is "How are we going to heal our economy?"

For the answer, Obama's new team of problem-solvers should take a look at the printing industry, and in particular, the green printing industry. With the advent of IT and the dream of the paperless office, many people once said that the printing industry might disappear altogether. But it hasn't disappeared. In fact, it's stronger than ever because the industry adapted, and began working with the environment, instead of against it.

Apply this philosophy to the larger problems of the economic crisis and the eco-crisis. The solution to both, as green printers know, is to solve the economic crisis by solving the eco-crisis. This concept is explored very eloquently by Van Jones in his book "The Green Collar Economy," and on his website Green For All.

Foster the growth of green business, create green jobs, because an environmentally friendly economy is a sound economy.

Take it from an eco-conscious printer – people love to buy green, and they love to work in environments that care about the planet and that make a difference everyday.

Green printing has had and continues to have a great impact on the entire printing and design industry. Green job creation can do the same thing for this whole country. Now that’s printing red, white, blue, AND GREEN!

Eco-Friendly Direct Mail Printing

How to send a green message.

As the printing industry gets greener, one of the main areas where tensions arise is direct mail printing. How can it remain an effective advertising medium as consumers become more eco-conscious?

An interesting study conducted by market research agency CCB Fast.MAP, in the UK, has come up with some answers. CCB found that un-personalized direct mail – stuff like flyers handed out by kids on the weekends – is perceived as being bad for the environment by almost 50% of consumers.

On the other hand, addressed, targeted direct mail – the kind brought by the postman – is seen as environmentally harmful by only 20% of consumers polled.

It also seems that people are more inclined to view poorly printed, black and white leaflets, flyers, and brochures as 'junk,' as opposed to nicely designed, full color direct mail printing.

If an advertiser makes the effort to design a nice mailer, and has it sorted, addressed, and targeted by direct mail specialists, it has far less chance of being perceived as 'junk,' and hence, harmful to the environment.

It's also a great idea to include a small mission statement on a piece of direct mail printing that informs consumers of your environmental policies, or even just lets them know that the mail they're holding was printed by a green printer. In this way, environmental concerns can be addressed before they start.

Hotcards - The Green Printing Expert

It ain't easy being green, but great community sure does help!

Hey folks! Check it out! Your very own blog-mistress has got an article about green printing and design up over at the very cool Inspiration Bit! Are you a designer that wants to know more about green printing? A printer interested in how people are thinking about green design? Then have a look, post a comment, make me look cool and expert!

(And while you're at it, check out IBit's fabulous new site design. Great job, Vivien!)

Print Advertising That MAKES Us Care.

Can advertising give us an eco-conscience?

Last week, I was talking a lot about people getting 'bored' with environmentalism because of the OD they're getting from an overeager business world hyping a 'green' philosophy that's debatably sincere.

But print advertising isn't naturally the bane of environmentalism. In fact, advertising is probably one of the best mediums we've got for educating and generating enthusiasm about taking a different approach to how we interact with our planet.

After all, if advertising is known for anything, it's known for its ability to persuade. When it comes to environmentalism, the onus is on us to find ways to cut through 'the green fog.' How do we persist in creating communication innovative enough to keep people's eyes and ears open?

Becoming a Greener Printer

Everything you ever wanted to know about Earth series inks.

Going from regular printer ink to low-VOC ink can be tricky. You don't want to commit to an ink that is low quality, or that provides your customers with a different finished product than what they're used to.

The good news is that after extensive testing in the area of low-VOC inks, Hotcards has found the perfect fit: Kohl & Madden Earth series inks.

Printing With Low-VOC Inks

Sounds great, but what does it mean?

It's fun to brag about all the stuff we're doing around Hotcards to reduce our environmental footprint. Less fun is trying to figure out the meaning behind all the jargon.

For example, we're always telling customers about how we print with low-VOC inks. Low-VOC inks are vegetable or soy-based, as opposed to oil/petroleum based. Already that's sounding pretty 'green,' but personally, I wanted some details.

This is what I found out:

VOC stands for 'Volatile Organic Compound.' Volatile organic compounds are chemical compounds that naturally possess enough vapor pressure to evaporate under normal conditions. You can often smell this kind of thing happening with paints, household cleaners, and gasoline. They're constantly evaporating, and as they do, they release stinky fumes into the air.

Methane is also a VOC – one of the biggest, in fact. As it evaporates, the fumes created cause air pollution, smog and contribute significantly to global warming.

But the trouble with VOCs doesn't stop with the environment. Volatile organic compounds are also a major source of indoor air pollution and cause of Sick House Syndrome. Some homes and workplaces make people sick because there are so many toxic fumes leaching into the air from VOCs.

Unfortunately, VOCs like formaldehyde can be found in everything from carpets to cosmetics. That means that even our own homes have the potential to contain more air pollution than the outdoors. It also means that a workplace can be an extremely polluted area if employers aren't careful.

Printing has traditionally been a high-VOC process, but it doesn't have to stay that way. At Hotcards, we print with low-VOC inks to help the planet, and also to keep the Hotcards team healthy. After all, a low-VOC workplace means fewer sick days, and that's the way the boss likes it!

Deadly Print Advertising No-No: Greenwashing

How consumers – and advertisers – can protect themselves.

TerraChoice, an environmental marketing firm, has received a lot of attention for the work they’ve done defining that PR poison known as 'greenwashing.' Greenwashing is basically advertising that misleads consumers into thinking that a business is environmentally friendly when it is not.

Because the print industry is the bearer of a heavy environmental burden, and because we are closely tied with the world of advertising, greenwashing is a big deal to us.

TerraChoice put together a list called "The Six Sins of Greenwashing," which help to define exactly what that sinister ad technique is. I think they're so worth knowing that I've compiled them here:

"Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off" – Touting the eco-benefits of one aspect of a business to draw attention away or cover-up environmental crimes being committed in other areas.

This one really got my attention because the example given is that of paper, and how sustainable tree farms are promoted as the solution to all paper problems, while issues like milling and transportation are ignored.

That's exactly what I'm always talking about on this blog! It's not just about recycled paper. It's about working with FSC-certified mills, and buying locally to cut down on the environmental cost of shipping! If you're going to run a green business, no aspect can be ignored...

Is All Green, All The Time, Suddenly Too Much?

Consumers want to be sure that it's all about the green, not the green.

A recent series of studies indicate that consumers may be feeling overwhelmed by the sudden wave of green printing, advertising, and product placement that has flooded the market over the last couple of years.

The transition has been dramatic. Much of the push behind eco-conscious living is about making change NOW, instead of waiting for things to get really bad. The problem, according to the studies conducted by the Shelton Group and Porter Novelli, is that so many new products and options are being pushed. Consumers feel that they don’t have the time or the budget to do them all, so why bother?

Happy Fourth of July From Everybody at Hotcards!

Have a great long weekend! And keep it red, white, blue, and GREEN all year round!

Biker Brand Launches Rebel Ad Campaign

Not all print advertising has gone green

Green printing and green advertising tend to go hand in hand, which makes me think that Harley-Davidson probably wasn’t worried about finding an eco-friendly printer for their latest print ad campaign.

The campaign, which was launched both in print and online, is based around a philosophy that can roughly be summarized by the copy, "Fear sucks. Screw it, let’s ride."

Carmichael Lynch, the Minneapolis ad agency behind the campaign, conducted ‘road research’ in the development of the concept, hanging out with Harley owners and asking them what was on their minds.

The results are a campaign that confronts the issues of the day, such as economic downswing and political conflict, with the rebellious, defiant attitude that biker culture is famous for.

The campaign, which includes both traditional print media, and apparel printing, stands in stark contrast to the rest of the ultra-enlightened green advertising industry. Although Harley-Davidson doesn’t come right out and say it, the ads are obviously making a statement about rising fuel costs, encouraging riders to ignore the expense and environmental impact in favor of a screw-you rebel attitude.

It’s a smart move by Harley. After all, as fast as the green wave is rising, the backlash of eco-ennui is rising to meet it. It’s nice to imagine that everybody cares, but plenty of folks are sick of the buzz, and the average go-your-own-way road warrior probably falls into this category.

However, every ad campaign is a bottom line masquerading as a life philosophy, and Harley’s subversive, anti-green strategy is trenched as much in recovering from recent layoffs and a 12.8% drop in U.S. retail motorcycle sales, as it is in re-gifting a sense of freedom and fun to biker culture.

So, at a time when green advertising and green printing have become de rigeur, is an anti-green campaign suicide, or the perfect marketing plan? With the Harley ad scheme stretching on until June, it will be interesting to see what kind of numbers the bike company posts in the next quarter. Have they hit the nail on the head, or have they gambled on an outdated philosophy of un-mindful thinking?

Looking Back on Earth Day

Greenwash, or year-round commitment?

Another Earth Day, or “Earth Week” has come and gone. Begun in 1970, it represents the beginning of the modern environmental movement. When I was a kid, I can remember Earth Days at school being spent picking up litter in order to earn tickets to a lunchtime BBQ.

As I got older, I fell into the crowd of kids who felt generally cynical about the relative value of collecting cigarette butts from the teacher’s smoking area. However, in retrospect, I can see the importance of the yearly ritual. The banal futility of our schoolyard clean-up may not have staved off eco-crisis, but it instilled in me a very powerful sense that caring about the environment one day a year is really the LEAST we can do.

Today, all us little cigarette-butt picking kids are grown up, and that means that eco-consciousness has reached a near frenzy-point. It also means that Earth Day has become a paradise for companies eager to tout their green chops, hence the expansion of Earth Day into Earth Week. Earth Day might not be a major holiday, but this year, it sure got advertised like one.

Proceeds were donated, recycled products featured, and marketers recommended web campaigns over print advertising to save paper. What’s getting lost in the process? The fact that it’s not about selling our green efforts to the consumer, it’s about making those efforts.

Already, many consumers are becoming skeptical of the ‘green’ label, and companies who overhype their contributions risk being accused of ‘greenwashing.’ Greenwashing refers to a business’s focus on advertising their eco-friendliness, as a way to cover up their polluting ways. Branding expert Steven Addis was quoted in Ad Age, saying, “I call it the 95-5 rule. Five percent of somebody's business is green, but 95% of their PR is green."


Few industries are more at risk of being accused of greenwashing than the printing industry. The service we offer is, by nature, heavily dependent on natural resources. As a printer, the onus is constantly on us to find new ways to do our job while taking our role as environmental stewards seriously. We might not be perfect, but we can make a consistent effort by running our business like every day is Earth Day.

Some days you feel like you’re saving the planet, and some days you feel like you’re just picking up cigarette butts, but the important thing is to never stop trying. That’s the only surefire way to avoid the stigma of greenwashing, and to make Earth Day into more than just a marketing ploy.

Printing Green, Red, White, and Blue

It’s all part of the same philosophy.

Right now, we’re not seeing the Presidential candidates talk about the environment too much, but you can bet that once the primaries are settled, it will become a major issue. After all, it’s great to see the printing industry thinking green. Now, our government needs to do the same thing. I think this would be a much more hot button issue if we weren’t so wrapped up in who the Democratic nominee will be.

In the coming years, some of the most political choices we make will be in terms of our relationship to the environment. It won’t just be about choosing a union printer, but a printshop that is reducing its ecological footprint. By the same token, even now, print buyers aren’t just looking at a printer’s recycled paper content, but at our ties to local businesses and suppliers.

That’s why I love this sweet new ad Hotcards’ designer Glen Infante put together for upcoming issues of HOW and Print magazines. One of the coolest things about the ad, I think, is that it makes the connection between politics and environmentalism. And not just that, but patriotism and environmentalism. To me, eco-friendliness and pride in one’s country are the same thing. Don’t you think?

Hotcards ad for Print and How

Pennsylvania Chooses Eco-Friendly Print Editing

Sometimes the best solutions are DIY

There’s no doubt that Barack Obama’s election campaign has got its eye on the ball when it comes to print design. Their branding is consistent, their market penetration is intense, and the team is clearly aware of what’s hot these days when it comes to print design. But sometimes, the slickest campaigns lack in a certain personal, down-to-earth quality. That’s why I was happy to see Obama campaigners in Pennsylvania advertising with these signs quite a bit lately:

DIY sign editing

I don’t know if this is an example of sign recycling from an earlier primary, or if a simple typo was made in the printing process. When I first saw the duct type, I thought, “ugh, how unsightly.” However, on reflection, the covered date seems not so much like an error, but like a wise move, and moreover, something to be proud of.

Why? Because campaigners in Pennsylvania could have had these giant signs reprinted. Instead, they saved campaign funds AND valuable resources by simply covering the error with some duct tape. I hope that when voters see these signs, they don’t look at the duct tape as a mistake, but as a choice to help the environment and avoid waste.

I believe in the importance of high quality election campaign print advertising, but ‘high quality’ doesn’t just mean nice design, it also means being mindful of our ecological footprint. Good on ya, Penn campaigners!

Direct Mail Comes in Leather Now?

The words ‘green advertising’ do not come to mind…

While the rest of the direct mail industry is scratching its head over what it can do to make direct mail campaigning more environmentally friendly, marketers for Mercedes-Benz aren’t worried. In fact, they’re taking their environmental footprint to a whole new level with their latest campaign, which embodies luxury in the form of a chrome message encased in an embossed leather envelop.

Something tells me that leather isn’t the alternative to paper that we’ve been searching for.

I’m proud to say that here at Hotcards, no animals are harmed in the making of our direct mail campaigns. In fact, we encourage businesses to choose mailers that don’t require envelops, such as postcards and magazines. Even a brochure or a single-sheet letter can be mailed without an envelop by sealing the folds with a sticker.

I guess that, unlike Honda, Mercedes-Benz is not looking for was to ‘green up’ its image.