Sunday, September 12, 2010

Greening Letterpress

Although many aspects of the long-standing craft of letterpress printing haven’t changed all that much — care, precision, and artistry — there are some that have. For instance, here at Letterary Press, we use soy-based ink and recycled paper. Because environmental responsibility is just a tad more important now than it was back when Johan Gutenberg and Benjamin Franklin were using letterpress.

When it comes to the essential components of stationery, ink and paper, there are options available at both ends of the sustainability spectrum. We tend toward the more sustainable end.

1. We print with soy ink because it doesn’t give off the nasty chemical emissions that petroleum-based inks do. These fumes, called volatile organic compounds, are harmful to workers and contribute to air pollution. Soy-printed products are also easier to recycle, compared to petroleum-printed products, because soy doesn’t turn into hazardous sludge during the “de-inking” process. In a nutshell, using soy ink lets us achieve high-quality results while minimizing environmental impact.

Fun fact: The National Soy Ink Information Center was established in 1993 by the Iowa Soybean Association to promote research and use of soy ink. The center closed down in 2005, with this parting comment: “In short, the soy ink industry is such a success that you don’t need us anymore!”

2. We print on paper that is certified as 100% post-consumer recycled by the international Forest Stewardship Council. This certification means that the FSC, an independent, not-for-profit organization, has verified that the paper manufacturer has followed production guidelines put in place to limit problems such as wildlife habitat destruction and water pollution.

Not-so-fun fact: The United States is the largest market for paper products in the world, producing 90 million tons of paper annually and, in-turn, consuming about 100 million tons.

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