In the times that we’re in now, there’s really no excuse for printing that harms the environment. This article covers all you need to know about ethical printing including what questions to ask next time you take your campaign to print. 

We’ll take a brief look what’s involved in printing ethically including paper, inks, recycling, green energy and giving back. I’ll also provide a few links to some progressive ethical printers here in the UK. Enjoy 🙂 

Printing Today 

In 2019 you’d imagine with all the technological advancements we’ve made such as space travel, electric cars, satellite communications and regenerative development, that we’d be able to print ad material and design collateral that doesn’t harm the planet. And, in fact, you’re right. We’ve developed a myriad of new resources printing companies can use today to reduce their impact on the environment. By choosing printers that offer these alternative pathways, you’re basically supporting this movement by voting with your business. Let’s dive in. 

Paper 

roll of paper in newspaper factory. modern printing press. Printing house.

While efforts to act in environmentally friendly ways are much needed, it’s unlikely that the inclination towards using paper products will cease in the immediate future. Think about all the paper-based mediums out there like greeting cards, newspapers, magazines, paper products are necessary for everything from toilet tissue to boxes for shipping. 

However, a combination of technologies might be the best option as we become more conscious of our impact on the planet going forward. With e-ink tablets, holographics, plastic paper and so on, it’ll soon be possible to include various other mediums that will complement our paper use. Currently, it’s advised to make sure the paper being used for printing is either fully recycled or FSC certified sustainable. 

Ink 

From above shot of anonymous woman putting set of ink into plotter in printing office.

Environmentally friendly ink is one component of ethical printing. It’s good to know whether your printers are using petrol based or plant-based inks and it’s release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when determining if the ink is ethically sourced and sustainable. 

VOCs are carbon compounds which are involved in atmospheric photochemical reactions. In other words, they can evaporate at room temperatures and their greenhouse effect greatly contributes to global warming. The European Commission has recently reported that offset printing consumes around 3 million tons of petrol-based inks and chemicals per year. These inks release VOCs that contribute to global warming and can also be harmful to the health of print workers if the correct precautions aren’t taken. 

In short, check to see if your printers are using carbon or vegetable based inks before proceeding with your order. 

Green Energy 

Wind turbines on a mountain range.

Many commercial printers are now embracing renewable energy in a big way. They’re finding out that there’s also an awful lot of revenue to be made in a clean energy-powered economy. 

More and more businesses in the UK and abroad are embracing sustainable practices as they begin to feel the impacts of the climate crisis not only on their bottom lines but also in the health of their families and the nature around them. 

As wind, magnetic and solar energy are finally achieving cost competitiveness with fossil fuels and investors wake up to the long-term risks of continuing to power their businesses in ways that negatively impact the environment, addressing the climate crisis has become an economic imperative. 

And the great news is, you’re helping them do it when you choose to support them, and you might not even know it. 

So, when you’re shopping around for price, it may be wise to also consider whether your printers are making an effort to go above and beyond to revive the planet and promote a safe sustainable future. 

Recycling 

Eco-friendly person taking care of ecosystem by sorting paper to green container. Recycling concept

It’s a positive sign that we can take it for granted that print companies are recycling waste materials. It’s still worth checking out whether the company you’re going with has these systems in place. There are quite a lot of materials that need to be taken into account here including; Paper trimmings & waste sheets, cardboard, wooden pallets, aluminium litho plates, press and pre-press chemicals, ink tins and tubes, inks, soft and hard plastics, packet wraps and computer and electronic equipment. 

Most ethical printing companies will have arrangements with certified waste contractors that deal with these in a responsible way. 

Giving Back 

They say no matter how hard we try, we’ll never be able to fully repay what our parents have done for us. All the years of raising us up and giving us what we need to be the people we are today. The same applies to our mother earth. All the metals, plastics, inks, paper – everything – we get from the earth so it makes sense that we at least try to give something back, even though we’ll probably never be able to fully pay back the debt we owe to her constant giving abundance. 

Whether it’s giving to a local charity or supporting a green initiative in the community. It may be a good idea to check out what your printers do to give back in some way. 

2 Ethical Printing Companies in the UK

The list below highlights ethical printers here in the UK. All of them to a certain extent have taken the conscious approach and considered all the aspects mentioned in this post. Here are five we think are doing an especially great job of powering the economy with affordable ethical printing. 

Whitehall Printing | Bristol City, Bristol 

Here’s a company that ticks all the boxes mentioned in this article. From low-energy facilities to supporting local charities. Whitehall Printing have definitely taken a considered and environmentally conscious approach to setting up their business. 

From the website: In recent decades the print industry has made huge advances to become one of the only sustainable sectors on the planet, planting swathes of new forest across Europe. Whitehall Printing was an early crusader of sustainable print, achieving FSC® Certification over ten years ago. 

Whitehall lead by example when it comes to eco-friendly printing. They demonstrate an excellent track record in their care for the planet and encourage customers to do so as well. They provide a variety of product options and solutions that help clients keep their footprint down to a minimum. 

Visit Whitehall Printing: whitehallprinting.co.uk 

Big Sky Print | Findhorn, Scotland


Big Sky Print claim to be the only printing company in the UK powered by 100% wind power. They are first to admit that printing isn’t the most eco-friendly industry. Most efforts to be ‘environmentally friendly’ are often invisible in the final product. However, it is the effort that counts and Big Sky are making some big efforts in this front.
From the website: We’ve been taking our environmental responsibility seriously since we started up in 1990! We’re working on contributing to the quality of the human environment locally. We use 100% local renewable energy and we continue to work on reducing our energy consumption. We don’t think customers should pay a premium for sound environmental practice… we don’t charge extra for our extra care!

Big Sky are clear that making environmentally sound decisions shouldn’t be penalized by paying higher premiums. They support buyers in opting for recycled paper by making it cost-effective. With the wind behind their backs, Big Sky paving the way in making eco-friendly printing accessible, high-quality and affordable.



So there you have it. The advancements in ink and printer technology coupled with the prevalence of responsibly sourced paper means that ethical printing is now an accessible option. The prevalence of more and more companies moving down this path makes this option not only accessible but economically viable as well.

There is clearly no reason why printing needs to harm the planet by draining resources and polluting the environment. I hope this guide will help you in making your decision about where you’ll take your next print campaign.

If you know of any other companies making strides in this area, please send me an e-mail, I’ll check it out and may include them in next years updated version.

Tree in and open plain.


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