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Checklist: Sustainability in graphic and web design

Reduce environmental impact without sacrificing creativity.

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  • Reduce your impact on the environment in your work

The graphic and web design industry draws on energy, water, paper, inks, solvents and packaging. Designers make decisions that 'lock-in' potential environmental impacts associated with the life cycle of their designs.

One of the most significant environmental issues associated with the design industry is the use of paper. Additional impacts also occur during the printing process through the use of inks and solvents, and the packaging of the final product.

Web and graphic design work consumes large amounts of energy and contribute to climate change. Switching a proportion of your electricity to green power - even if it's only 20 per cent - will reduce your carbon footprint.

Use our checklist to make informed desisions to incorporate sustainble practices in your graphic and web design work

Identify key design outcomes in the brief and concept

Decisions made here impact on the entire design process and the environmental impacts of the job. Ask client to identify in the brief the most important to the least important items so you can accommodate these with eco preferences. In responding to a brief provide the client with an eco-design option to consider.

Produce drafts sustainably

Consider formatting, aesthetic style and impacts equally - use space efficiently and effectively to minimise resources required. Encourage your designers to design with minimise offcuts and paper waste at the printers. Some inks create Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) which contribute to air pollution and climate change. Think about whether you could get the desired visual impact with the least amount of colour and ink. You could also use 100 per cent post-consumer waste recycled paper (PCW) approved by a certifying agency such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Send proofs digitally to clients for editing and approval.

In terms of energy consumption, switch equipment off at the wall when not in use. Look for energy-efficient appliances and products for the office.


Reduce inefficiencies in printing, post-press and packaging

Printing produces VOCs and other emissions and uses energy and water. The main environmental impacts occur through inefficiencies and waste. Use a printer that is certified or environmentally-conscious and use low or non-VOC based inks. Water, vegetable and soy based inks and recycled inks have less environmental impacts.

Many post-press processes, such as laminating and spiral binding, prevent finished design jobs from being recycled. Explore the best post-press operations such as using water-based glues for binding and labels to avoid VOCs. Think about ways to minimise packaging or recycling them.