Monday, June 28, 2010

I love when designers use their talents to speak their minds

The website My Logo My Way  is running a contest for a bp logo redesign. We all know they will need an image revamp after the disastrous mess they have created... and the designing minds around the world have come up with some good solutions.  

Vista Print responds to 100% recycled option requests !

Chances are, if you are a designer working online then you have sent work to Vista Print. This online service does the printing using uploaded files, then sends the finals off to clients.

I stopped using Vista Print a few years ago because they didn't have recycled options, and they have made the switch to green requests ! (I wonder how many they had before deciding to go that route ?)

It's great news to see his sort of change happen at such a rapid rate.
Their greener cards are made with 100% Post Consumer Waste fibers, and 500 cards printed on recycled paper with full colour bleed on each side costs $45 Canadian. Not bad at all !

Now we need to see if they can ship using a biker, a horse, or using a really big stork.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Turning garbage into landscapes - CD art by Bruce Munroe

Artist Bruce Munroe has created a shimmering sea of polycarbonate wonder - the over 600,000 discarded disks are placed on the ground to create this unusual art installation. The disks reflect the sun and the moonlight from the 10-acre display at Long Knoll Field in Wiltshire.
The "CD Sea" will be on public view for a full two months, after which the the cds will be sent to the recycling plant and given a new life.

The eerie yet strangely beautiful scene really proves the old adage - one man's garbage is another man's treasure. 

Posted by Anupam

Um Purses made with recycled organic felt to carry it all

Josh Jakus' Um Bags are made of one flat piece of dense wool felt (organic leftovers from industrial processes) and the unique design makes the most of the materials.

Strategically placed zippers create the form of the bags, when zipped closed, and the line lies competely flat when opened up. Great design to hold all the doo-dads that designers tend to carry around. (Make sure your exactos are locked shut)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Green Printers

In my search to find a local green printer that I can work with I have on a regular basis I have compiled a list of great responsible printers (with great prices !) These are companies devoted to great printing services with vegetable inks, 100% recycled paper and lots of environmental love. Enjoy my list as it grows !

Toronto area:
Warren's waterless in Toronto

Green Printer Online in Brampton.
1.800.737.4308 x104

BC En Masse Media

United States:
San Franscisco Greener Printer

How to Offset Carbon

So your office is sort of green- you use the right printers, buy 100% recycled paper, but you would like to offset your carbon emissions that you produce by getting to work in a car, or maybe your business is an energy guzzler and want to reduce carbon through carbon credits. Here's a basic overview of what it means to purchase carbon credits. Stay tuned for the next post on where to purchase, and how much they cost.

What is a carbon credit ? What does it mean to offset carbon ?

When people reduce their environmental footprint by buying carbon credits, they may not be actually decreasing their own wastes and carbon footprint at their immediate location. What they are doing is putting money into clean, responsible, and sustainable carbon reduction somewhere on the planet, (and perhaps not really changing the way that they do business at all. ) Now, I am all for carbon reduction, and I am a firm believer in the carbon credits industry as long as it is run responsibly.

If you think about carbon reduction at the individual level or business level, putting money into a sustainable project in another country might seem like an easy way to make your company look greener. If you, however, start to think of the earth as one entity, interconnected and dependant - then purchasing carbon reduction credits in South America does affect the overall state of the planet and, indeed, the less carbon we produce as a UNIT the better off we all are.

When a company offsets their carbon, what they are doing is making a reduction elsewhere, in order to bring their polluting practices down closer to neutral.

Carbon Reduction versus Carbon Offsetting: hypothetical situation 
(Let's substitute "number of trash bags" for "tonnes of carbon dioxide", and pretend that the number of bags of trash on the planet could affect our climate.)

If I, for example, make 100 bags of trash per week, and I want to reduce them, then I could look at my own spending and purchasing and examine my lifestyle to reduce my waste. I may recycle to become more sustainable, and in this way I reduce my weekly trash bag footprint.
(Reduction) Great. I am directly affecting how much trash bag waste I produce - in my own home or business.

If I then, realize, that even after doing my very best to reduce my trash bag footprint that I am still producing 20 trash bags a week, and I want to go "trashbag neutral."

I don't want to be responsible for changing the climate with my trash bags, but I can't exist (or keep my lifestyle) without have some trash bag emissions.

I can then pay to offset my trash bags. I can find a company, for example, that has a high production of trash bag waste. Every week they produce thousands of bags. I can pay them to change over their machines, and because of the machine I purchased, they now make 400 trash bags a week less. I have "gone trash bag neutral."

I have offset 400, and I only produce 20 - so my own trash bag waste is actually non-existant. (Not really, but the math works out that way if you add it all up, globally.)

While to some, this type of offsetting seems like "not really going neutral" - it is a great way to make an industry of a "step in the right direction." Carbon offsetting all of a sudden becomes "chargeable", and we all know that it's the money-green and not the planet-green that makes the world turn. Carbon offsetting is a unique marriage of the two worlds.

While the first company is still producing 20 bags of trash - they have also made a drastic reduction elsewhere, and if we begin to think of the earth as a globally connected entity with one atmosphere and one climate, this sort of offsetting begins to make sense. It's not so much about the "individual business" and the change that they have made, it's more about the "greater good" and the overall change.

Who can argue with a motivating factor like that ?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Eco Audit your Paper project with Mohawk Papers Free Tool

Mohawk Papers,  one of the industry leaders in in environmentally friendly papers for the print industry offers an eco-audit tool that allows you to check your carbon footprint and resources used / saved depending on your paper & printing choices. The tool is amazingly helpful if you want to see first hand how the impact of smarter choices affects the environment on many different levels.

For designers, Mohawk's tool is invaluable if you want to convince clients to go green. In a visual chart set up in easy to understand format - Mohawk calculates how post consumer waste papers made with wind power can save trees, cut down energy usage and solid waste production amongst other things. Definitely a tool worth bookmarking ! (Thanks Mohawk!) ♥

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Top Six Reasons to Print with Soy Based Ink

Soy based inks have garnered a lot of attention lately, and with due reason.
The printing industry has long been motored on petroleum-based inks, and with the move towards soy and vegetable based alternatives at an all time high, I decided a list of benefits was in order.
What are the Benefits of Soy Based Ink for Printing ? We have listed out top 6...

It's Soy ! 
I am usually not  a fan of accentuating the obvious, but basing an ink on soy is so much better for the environment than basing it on petroleum, that I could't resist.

Soy based inks are brighter than standard offset inks. More vibrancy, more pop, who would complain ?

When papers are recycled they have togo through a process called "de-inking." Soy inks respond better to the de-inking process than traditional inks, resulting in less paper fibre damage. The end result of this is a brighter, whiter recycled paper, making the entire process quicker, and greener.

Contrary to their ease in de-inking, soy based inks do not rub off of papers as easily as traditional inks (especially on newsprint.)

Low in Volatile Organic Compounds
Soy based inks are naturally low in VOCs, and thus give off less harmful, nasty chemicals. Using soy inks reduces pollution, and

Renewable Resource
Soy is a renewable resource - petroleum is not.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

DIY Upcycled Pendant Lampshade (One more reason to love Threadbanger)

Threadbanger, we love you. Your amazing eco-deco tips, your inspiration, your creative flair for turning junk into faux-couture. Here is a DIY video that shows us how to use chicken wire, galvanized steel wire and bit of used, found, or discarded items (a.k.a. one man's garbage) and turn it into an amazingly chic upcycled lamp shade. (a.k.a. another man's treasure.)

Thanks for the wonderful ideas !
5 minute life videopedia

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Upcycled Repurposed Clothes hangers

Organelle Design has this fantastic set of repurposed clothes hangers... If you have extra - instead of throwing them away, why not "upcycle" or repurpose - and join the thousands of design savvy eco-conscious creators that are swinging the art of recycling to new heights. These awesome hanging lamps can be purchased in Organelle's etsy shop .

As seen on Curbly

Monday, June 14, 2010

Greenwashing - BIC wins our Unethical Marketing Award of the Month

Who hasn't heard of BIC ? The company that brought us the disposable pens and razors.... you know, the clear ones with with blue lid that have long been a staple in our North American homes... That's right, we all know who they are. Unfortunately, their brand is so established that even with very irresponsible claims on their packaging, we aren't all aware of what they are doing.

With consumers deciding to purchase environmentally friendly products in unprecedented numbers, companies that simply don't measure up to consumer demands for smarter solutions are simply not earning consumer loyalty (translation: consumer dollars.) While more consumers are looking for environmentally responsible products, like refillable pens, many companies are feeling the pressure to make definite changes in the way that they do business.

Some companies rise to the occasion, while others (ahem - like BIC) decide to take the low-road and create elaborate marketing campaigns that look very "caring and green" without significantly changing the way that they do business. Instead of offering real solutions to non-biodegradable disposable razors and pens, and producing products that really walk the walk, they instead decided to fake the talk with fancy green packaging. Their claims that are, at best, deceptive.

"Made with 62% Pre-Consumer Recycled Plastic."

Any time you see pre-consumer waste claims on any packaging, your guard should go up. Using pre-consumer plastic is not really recycling at all. Scrap raw materials (left over cuts from other industrial processes) have always been used to make other things... this is frugal use of costly materials, not recycling in the traditional sense of the word. Pre-consumer recyclables have never been used in any product. They have never been purchased, and never discarded.  Instead of pre-consumer look for post-consumer.  Post consumer waste is, as it sounds, used after its first round of use. Post-consumer makes use of USED materials; materials that have been placed in the blue-box and picked up for recycling.

While I love the idea of eco-friendly pens, BIC has totally missed the mark with their ecolutions stationary line. Something with 100% recycled materials would work for me- something with refillable ink barrels and a perhaps a new type of ink that has no petroleum by-products. Something to that tune would warrant a "eco-solution" label like eco-lutions.

Their current campaign reeks of greenwashing (a type of unethical advertising campaign that attempts to convince consumers that the company is green and good, when they are not.)

For all of the above, BIC wins my greenwashing wah-wah award of the month - their "ecolutions" line wins an honourable mention for it's well designed and creatively worded eco-logo, and their package claims would entice any earth-conscious consumer to pick it up to purchase it, until reading the fine print and thinking critically about what they are really offering.

Recycled Wall Planters Breathe Green and Seethe Style

First shown at the 2009 Milan Furniture Fair, Maruja Fuentes "green pockets" are made of recycled ceramic and they literally bring life to functional green design. The pockets, when many are used, serve as an air filter as the plants release oxygen into the air. At the same time, the stylish fish scale shape allows interlocking and unique placement so that each person that uses the pockets can tailor the look to their tastes and create a unique pattern with plant and tile. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Eco-Conscious Design that counts trees

This amazingly simple tissue box design by Korean designer Lukas Koh makes a bold statement by simply being. Every time you pull a tissue out of this box, it challenges you to rethink your consumption habits.
As you see those tissues declining, the filled in area of the tree decreases, and it forces one to remember where the tissues came from and what the environmental cost of those paper hankies really is.

Bold, simple, and eco-aware.

Instructions here:

Puma's Clever Bag Packaging Makes me Swoon. (Eco-Awe)

Fantastic and creative environmentally-friendlier packaging is hitting the mainstream retail world by a storm. Puma's Clever Little Bag (by Yves Behar and fuse project) cuts out extra tissues, laminated printing, and instead of using a full box inside of a big bag, the box has become the bag. Or, ehh... the bag has become a plastic box- sort of. The outer bag itself is 100% recyclable, and it has been heat fused rather than stitched. (It uses less materials in its production.) I love this bag. It's a huge step in the right direction for mainstream retail.
The box-bag gives us both things in one, and for the consumer that forgets to carry an organic cotton shopping tote, it cuts waste in half.

Colourful, thoughtful, hip - when a package makes you want to run out and buy a pair of shoes you know the company is doing something right. Inspiring !


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What is a V.O.C. ? (Volatile Organic Compounds and the Printing Industry)

These days, it's fairly easy to source a printer who promotes recycled, post-consumer-waste papers. I have often curbed my guilt about sending off thousands upon thousands of copies to the printers because the paper was, afterall, recycled.  Lately, however, I have decided to take another small step towards full-sustainability and begin to probe my printers for answers on their ink choices.

Conventional offset prints are created with petroleum-based inks. These inks contain a plethora of heavy metals and they emit Volatile Organic Compounds into the environment A volatile organic compound (VOC) is a carbon-based chemical compound that, under normal conditions, evaporates at room temperature. You can literally smell this process at work when you pump gasoline, and when your oil-based paint is drying. These compounds are a health and environmental concern - not only are they harmful pollutants to our ground water and soil, but they can also cause cancer and birth defects.

Employees at printing presses often complain of dizziness, headaches, and respiratory problems directly related to the raw materials used in the printing process. The great news is that there are better, safer alternatives to printing with conventional oil/petroleum based inks. Soy and vegetable based inks have lower VOC emissions and the quality is equally as crisp as traditional CMYK printing. Ask your printer if they offer low VOC printing, and if they don't, there are many other printers out there that do !

Monday, June 7, 2010

Printing Local vs. Printing Sustainable

There is a movement afoot to only shop close to home and to buy local whenever one can. It's a wonderful idea - to support community businesses and to help ensure survival of the local farm communities.  I love it - right up to the point that it means supporting less responsible companies, strictly on the basis that they have the right zip code. 

Some designers only use local printers based entirely on geography. Some will only support local printers who offer paper that has been processed in the country, because of the environmental impact of shipping and sending papers and finished printed pieces - and while I agree completely that shipping = lots of extra carbon dioxide in the air  I am not of the opinion that local trumps an environmentally responsible company unless they are also working towards more sustainable practices.

I don't believe it has to be one or the other - local or sustainable.  We should call our local printers and ask them if they can print with safer inks every time we send something to print. Let them know what you are looking for, how many pieces you want to order, and what it means to them as far as a lost sale. Really, you are giving them market research each time you talk to them, and if they don't hear petitions for change then they won't feel that pressure to invest in greener technology.

I am sure that your local printing company wouldn't take very long to change their system if they heard from each environmentally minded designer every time they lost a sale. :) And no, of course I don't mean to hound them. Be nice ! Be friendly - and maybe you will be the first person they call when they offer a new type of printing. They might even give you a discount in the future because of all the new business their greener initiatives are churning up. To remain competitive in the future, all printers will be pushed to change from petroleum based inks - and especially now, in the wake of the BP environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico - they can generate great PR and look like printing heroes by moving towards inks that require less crude oil and use more veggies.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Eco-font cuts ink down by up to 25%

Eco font is, quite literally, a font that cuts ink usage down by 20 - 25%. It was created by SPRANQ creative communications, a design agency based in Utrecht.
The font has holes in it, and reduces the amount of ink needed to print the basic sans serif letters.

When I first saw eco font my first impression was that I would probably save even more ink and have a better looking typeface by using a hairline font such as Helvetica thin. This is true if we are talking about a display size printout, but we all know how difficult thin-and-skinny-sans-serif fonts are to read at smaller sizes. The lines become so thin that they are hard to see.

The beauty of eco font is that when it's printed between 8 and 11 pt. size the holes are not noticeable. The font passes as a regular type face, and saves expensive toner along the way. Of course when it's blown up to a display size the circles become noticeable, but that's where the skinny-sans saves the day.
Download eco font for free from

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Recycled - a tricky word to figure out

"Recycled" - we can all agree that re-use, reduce, and recycle is the right way to go. Most of us revel in a tiny little twinge of good-for-me when we purchase something that says recycled, and the people who are working in marketing, sales and advertising know that all too well. Take a look at the papers that are for sale the next time you need a ream for your printer. Almost all the packages have the recycled symbol printed on their packaging. But those triple triangles, unfortunately, can be misleading and deceiving; and we too often fall prey to a slick marketing campaign that takes advantage of our green intentions. When it comes to those little looping arrows - not all of them are created equal.

Yesterday I was looking at sticker labels, and when I flipped over the packaging, I was greeted by the happy little revolving arrow recycled symbol and teeny tiny 3 point type that said, "This package can be recycled. Please take care of the environment."

The alarms should be going off right about now - the greenwashing horror of it all. No recycled material in the actual product, but the package could be recycled (where facilities exist, of course.) So there are, quite obviously, no rules surrounding the use of the recycle symbol. We can, however, make informed paper purchases that make a big difference in the end.

Let's take a closer look at what recycled means.

Something labeled as recycled could have as much as 100% never-before-used material. (Yes, you read that right.) Mill scraps, leftovers from other processes, can be used to make "recycled paper." The paper could be 95% new tree and 5% mill scrap.

This sort of "scrap" is also called pre-consumer waste, and it has always been used in production of papers. It is left over materials from the production of another product and it is not considered recycling in the traditional sense of the word. It's hardly a step forward for the environment, just a step forward in marketing things to the would-be responsible consumer.

Is pre-consumer waste really something that can be "recycled" ?

Not really. Put yourself in the shoes of the owner of the paper company. If you had access to a mill, and access to scraps, wouldn't you use those for paper making and save yourself money instead of cutting another few trees ? This is not recycling at all, but simply frugal use of purchased/cut resources. So the first thing to look for when purchasing paper is its Post Consumer Waste content.

What is the post consumer waste used in paper ?

Post Consumer waste (PCW) is material that has already been purchased, used, and then discarded. Types of post consumer waste include product packages, paper left in the recycling bin, old newspapers, last week's grocery list, etc.

When you are buying your recycled paper and choosing a higher % of Post Consumer waste you will make your purchase as helpful and harmless as the package claims it to be. There are 100% PCW papers readily available, (even Walmart is selling the 100% Post Consumer Waste Boise Aspen Series) , though they are more expensive than their 30% PCW counterparts.

This is recycling in the traditional sense, and this is the process that we tend to envision when we read "recycled" on the package. If you buy PCW papers you are putting your dollars where your greener heart is, and saving trees along the way.

*There are certification bodies out there, to ensure that PCW claims are true. One of the most trustworthy is the 100% Recycled FSC designation.