Big Picture - November/December 2017 - 32
INTERIOR DÉCOR & TEXTILES
Drivers that help determine the right media on your step toward going 'green.'
efore talking about sustainability, it's important
to start with its definition. Coming from the
perspective of the Sustainable Green Printing
Partnership (SGP) and SGIA, it's the triple bottom
line. This approach combines standard metrics of
financial achievement with those that measure environmental
stewardship and social issues. All three need to be considered
when judging the success of a sustainable business. When
discussing sustainability and digital textiles, we consider
overarching sustainability factors that often drive the
decisions of printers as well as customers. The three factors
that spring to mind are greenhouse gas emissions, the issue of
toxic chemicals, and recyclability or recycled content. All are
drivers for the use of digital textile printing.
But before we begin to look at this topic, a caution. There
are no certifications for digital textile materials that set one
above another. And, this article is not suggesting that if all
factors are considered, it becomes a "sustainable" or "green"
product. What we are seeking to offer is food for thought:
factors to be considered when debating the use of one
material or another. Ultimately, the decision regarding the use
of a substrate depends on the use of the final product, as well
as the need of the customer.
GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS
Greenhouse gas emissions lead one to calculate a carbon
footprint. The primary sources of these gases are generated
through production of electricity, transportation, and burning
of fossil fuels. A carbon footprint is often defined as the total
set of greenhouse gas emissions caused by an individual,
event, organization, or product, expressed as a carbon dioxide
equivalent. Once calculated, a lower carbon footprint indicates
a reduction in the emissions of greenhouse gases. Digital textiles
can be viewed as a pathway to a lower carbon footprint.
MARCI KINTER is VP of Government and Business
Information at SGIA, Chair of SGP Technical Committee,
member of SGP Board of Directors, and member of the
Women in Print Alliance.
Reduced weight in shipping the final printed product can lead
to lower shipping costs. If quantified, the production of the
printed textile with less energy can lead to a reduced carbon
footprint - both desirable outcomes.
The focus on chemicals found in all substrates that do not
contain toxins continues. This push is driven by both environmental and health concerns. The driver of building rating
systems continues to push the need for materials to be used
that do not contain identified toxins. The most often cited
standard, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
(LEED), is a certification program targeted primarily on new,
commercial-building projects and based upon a points
system. Well Building Standards, closely modeled on LEED,
focuses exclusively on occupant health, which is just one of
the numerous factors in LEED. Both standards provide higher
points for non-toxic materials.
Recyclability or recycled content is also a strong sustainability
driver when discussing digital textiles. When considering these
claims, PSPs need to understand the differences between
recycled content and recyclability. According to the Federal
Trade Commission, recycled content claims can only be made
for materials that have been recovered or otherwise diverted
from the waste stream, either during the manufacturing process
(pre-consumer) or after consumer use.
To make a claim of recyclability, it must be shown that the
product can be collected, separated, or otherwise recovered
from the waste stream for reuse, or in the manufacturing or
assembly of another package or product, through an established
recycling program that is available to 60 percent of consumers.
The use of any material that leads to a lower carbon
footprint, contains less (or zero) toxic materials, or has a good
story to tell regarding end of life - such as recycling - does
indeed exhibit sustainable attributes. But the use of such a
substrate by a printing company does not, on its own, create a
sustainable business. A sustainable print operation is one that
embraces and embeds sustainable practices into its entire
operation, thus considering the impacts on the planet and the
people that work in the facility while maintaining a strong
bottom line. For printing, sustainability is not just about the
product, but it's a good place to start.