Sustainable Graphic Design

The graphic design industry draws heavily on resources. Designers make decisions that ‘lock-in’ potential environmental impacts associated with the life cycle of their designs. Eco design minimises these impacts.


Paper products remain an important commodity in today’s society. The life cycle of paper starts even before the felling of trees for pulp. Research the life cycle of your paper. Each stage uses valuable resources, and releases pollutants such as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and greenhouse gases into the environment.

Inks and solvents

Inks and solvents can contain pollutants and and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that create emissions that contribute to environmental pollution and climate change. Mixed with vehicle exhaust they can form photochemical smog. Some inks contain toxic heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and barium, which pose major health and environmental risks to the natural environment. During printing waste ink is produced through colour changes, press cleaning and poor ink management.


A significant concern with printers is emissions to air and water, and solid waste. Choose a printer that has environmental accreditation or a management system to consider emissions. When selecting a printing service, always ask the printer about how they deal with their waste and how they reduce their air and water emissions.

Design for the Web

Print styles in stylesheets can overcome wasting large amounts of ink when printing web pages and printing too many pages.
Another key issue with web design and development is the energy required to operate Internet and IT servers.

Office Energy Use

Utilise green power, turn off equipment that is not in use. Use power saving settings.

Tips for sustainable web and graphic design


do more with less, go for originality rather than size like an itty-bitty business card. Right size the job. Fill the white up, give product a second life. Don’t bleed to the edges.
Paper and printing:
Certify chlorine free, recycled and consider thickness. Use VOC free inks
Always use an alternative to printing where possible as this will drastically reduce the environmental impacts of your product. Choose a eco conscious printer.


Communicate your decisions to your clients and encourage them to include the information on their product. Always offer your clients an option that has been designed to reduce impacts.


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