Go Green: Buy a Coke! – Lessons for Wide Format Printers

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Jul 1, 2011

“Going Green” took on a whole new meaning last week when Coca-Cola and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) unveiled a new billboard designed to absorb air pollution. The billboard, located in Philippines, is covered in 3,600 Fukien tea plants which are said to absorb up to 13 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. In fact, the entire billboard is environmentally friendly. The plants are housed in pots made from old coke bottles, the potting mixture is made from industrial byproducts and organic fertilizers, and a drip irrigation system saves on water and fertilizer. “This billboard helps alleviate air pollution within its proximate areas as it can absorb a total of 46,800 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, on estimate,” says botanist Anthony Gao.

Coke billboard

While the Coca-Cola billboard is an extreme example of sustainability, it is indicative of a trend toward creating more environmentally-friendly outdoor signage. Over the last few years, one of the most discussed trends in the wide format signage and graphics printing market has been the push toward more sustainable or environmentally-friendly businesses and solutions. From more energy-efficient curing methods and expanded recycling programs to new ink formulations and “green” media, print service providers have a lot to consider when it comes to implementing sustainable solutions within their businesses. Signage and graphics printers are even more acutely impacted by sustainability initiatives than other types of printers because so much of the output is on substrates or gets mounted to substrates that are difficult and/or expensive to recycle.

“Green” printing definitely took a step back during the economic downturn, but now that the wide format digital graphics printing market is recovering, InfoTrends believes the trend toward “green” wide format printing will see some resurgence. When asked in a recent survey, 45% of print service providers indicated that they were getting more customer requests for “green” printing, or printing using more environmentally-friendly practices. In response to customer demands, almost 50% of service providers indicated that they have or are going to take steps to produce wide format digital graphics in a more environmentally-friendlier way. Using “green” media was the top way in which print service providers are transforming print shops. This was followed by reductions in solvent based inks (in favor of UV, aqueous or latex), the reduction or elimination of waste material, developing a more robust recycling program, and buying energy from a different source (such as solar).  

Figure 1: What types of changes have you made in your wide format print production practices to become more environmentally-friendly?

Environmentally-friendly changes

Equipment manufacturers and dealers are also taking note of the push towards “green” and are responding with new products that are engineered to enable more environmentally-friendly wide format printing. According to the survey, 59% of respondents are adding new inks, 53% are making media easier to recycle, and 37% are creating lighter weight substrates.

Figure 2: What types of products have you added?

Products added

Manufacturers can make “green” printers, “green” ink, and “green” materials and PSPs can produce “green” graphics, but the key question when it comes to “green” wide format signage and graphics is: will signage and graphics buyers pay a premium for it? In our most recent wide format print buyer study we found that, as you’d expect, the answer is generally “No” and even if they are willing to pay a premium, it is less than 10%, which means the aforementioned resurgence is going to be a slow one.

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