Green Business Card Options

with 13 Comments

Portions of this blog post were contributed by Steve Feuss of PrintingResponsibly.com – especially the details about the printing process and green printing options. Thanks Steve.

As a follow up to my Green Hosting Options post, I wanted to use a print example of how designers and others can contribute to sustainability. Because the business card is small, it is a less obvious opportunity to improve the environment. However, recent printing and technology solutions provide a wealth of options for increasing the efficiency of business cards as a communication tool.

Sustainability In Printing

If a large number of designers adopted any of these methods, the reduction of the environmental impact that billions of business cards create every year would be substantial. To run a company, no matter how hard you may try, you will probably still need to print business cards, stationary and promotional materials. The key is to reduce the impact of your print materials as much as possible while maintaining their effectiveness as business tools. This is becoming less of a trade off in many ways, and the solution will be different for everyone. With a little research you can make a large impact.

Pick the Right Printer

Traditional offset printing uses harmful chemicals and contaminates water during the process of creating negatives (film) and/or burn plates (usually some type of polyester material).  Another set of chemicals is then used to make the plate ready for the press.  In some shops, like ours, a process called DTP (Direct-To-Plate) is used which removes the negative (film) process entirely, and files are sent from the computer directly to our metal plate system.  These are also recyclable. And they often produce a better end product. Also some newer offset printing technologies use absolutely no chemicals throughout the entire process, are smaller, and use less electricity. Ask your print about the details of their printing process, you will quickly find which ones are paying attention to these details and which ones are not.

Also, look local. The closer the printer is to you, the less impact your product being shipped will have. Consider a local printer that you can build a close relationship with. I have worked with many local printers that will personally drop off a project when completed.

Are you a green printer that cares about sustainability? Leave your company name and website in the comments and I will add your company to this blog post.

Smaller Cards

Flickr - Moo Minicards

People often say that you can only go green by not printing. This isn’t the case… and is not how the subject should be approached. While technology solutions should be considered, the overarching goal should be to reduce your paper, material waste, and harmful byproducts. One of the easiest way to reduce paper is to simply use a smaller card.

Websites, printers, and customers alike are beginning to experiment with smaller business cards. Beyond the simple fact that they use less resources, they are for now a unique delivery of the product and therefore tend to garner more attention.

Pick the Right Paper and Ink

When choosing paper stocks, look for products that have an FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) or SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) tag on them.  These organizations help to certify that forests being used for the paper are being managed in a sustainable manner.  Also, look for FSC/SFI certified printers.

Aim for 100% post-consumer content and soy (or vegetable) based inks. While these options use to be difficult to find, they are becoming more common, especially with many states requiring all government printing reach a certain level of post-consumer product. Before selecting a printer, ask to see a swatch book for their available paper stocks. Also ask for soy (vegetable) based inks to be used on your job.  Soy (aka Vegetable)-based inks are a more natural alternative to the old-style Petroleum-based inks.

Avoid plastic cards for the obvious reason.

Use Digital Cards

Palm allowed the digital sharing of contact info a while back. With the popularity of the iPhone and Blackberry, exchanging digital business cards, with no paper or ink, will only increase in popularity. One promising iPhone app is SnapDat, which allows easy exchanges via usernames and using multiple cards. Also, if the person you are trying to exchange info with is not a user or iPhone owner, you can simply send your vCard to their email using SnapDat. This is just one of many existing digital options that are sure to grow and improve.

Take Photos of Cards

With the rise of applications like Evernote, that recognize the text of business cards and other print/signage you save to the software, storing photo versions of information is becoming more viable. Personally, I have tried this with the iPhone unsuccessfully. However, I have seen it work with phones that have better cameras and some people are making it work for the iPhone. While not feasible for many right now, people will find a lot of value with this solution in the near future. Just remember, for this to contribute to sustainability you actually have to give the business card back to the owner for them to reuse.

And to echo one of the points from my Green Web Hosting post, always try to do business with companies that purchase carbon credits to offset their carbon footprint.  It’s not going to make your job look better, but it will help promote business to be more eco-friendly. The more questions consumer ask of businesses about sustainability the more businesses will see it in their best interest to seek out green solutions on their own.

Have your own green business cards or a method I did not mention? Add it to the comments. And give some love to PrintingResponsibly.com if you are thinking of getting green biz cards of your own.

13 Responses

  1. Cristhian Bedon
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    This is a great article, and it something everyone should take a look at.

  2. Angus
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    This is really useful information, thanks Jason. I'll definitely be trying to go green next time I print business cards! One other useful thing people can do is try to make their business cards easier for programs like Evernote to "read". I've had much more success with high contrast, dark text on light backgrounds. And of course no crazy fonts (which is probably a good idea anyway!)

  3. Jak
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    agreed

  4. Anne_Wayman
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    Oh wow, hadn't even thought of business cards… a real "of course!" Helpful info… do you know how I could order green cards online?

  5. jakrose
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    hoping to list printer options here as some green printers find this post. check google, and definitely follow the PrintingResponsibly.com link at the bottom of the article. they provided a lot of the info for the post.

  6. Steve @ PR
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    Jak…thanks for the mention of PrintingResponsibly.com. We were glad to provide the information, and hope everyone who reads your article benefits from it.

    To anyone interested in getting any type of printing (business cards, letterheads, brochures, etc.) feel free to contact us at 1-877-438-5713 or production@printingresponsibly.com, and mention this article to get an additional discount on your first order.

  7. Alicia
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    These are good green options. Somewhat similar to the iPhone app, but better is TextID. It allows users to purchase unique text “domains”, such as their names or businesses that allows them to pass along contact information and messages quickly and conveniently. They can give out their ID, lawn care or Angie for example, and the recipient texts that name to 555411. In just a few moments, they will receive a text back to their phones with contact information and the message the TextID member has chosen, which can also include a link to a pdf brochure.

    If you have time, take a look at the site. http://www.Textid.com. It is still a relatively new idea, and most people are pretty excited once they catch on. It's easy, it's cheap (around 5.95/month for individual users) and good for the environment!

  8. Stephanie Wood
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    Very sensible advice, especially considering that we are likely to be underestimating the threat of global warming! If you live in the UK and are looking to print on recycled material, Solopress do recycled business cards among many other recycled products.

  9. PrintResponsibly.com
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    Just an update: PrintResponsibly.com is now offering FREE eco-friendly business cards http://tinyurl.com/freebcs

  10. Alicia
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    These are good green options. Somewhat similar to the iPhone app, but better is TextID. It allows users to purchase unique text “domains”, such as their names or businesses that allows them to pass along contact information and messages quickly and conveniently. They can give out their ID, lawn care or Angie for example, and the recipient texts that name to 555411. In just a few moments, they will receive a text back to their phones with contact information and the message the TextID member has chosen, which can also include a link to a pdf brochure.

    If you have time, take a look at the site. <a href=”http://www.Textid.com.”>.” target=”_blank”>www.Textid.com. It is still a relatively new idea, and most people are pretty excited once they catch on. It's easy, it's cheap (around 5.95/month for individual users) and good for the environment!

  11. tom
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    Thanks for all of the information on business cards! Business cards are a great way to present yourself and what you stand for. ZimmZang is now using Green Business Cards which is an organic paper composed from post consumer recycled paper. It's a way of giving back to the planet and doing their part in small ways and promotes the “go green” attitude.

  12. Jamys Trauss
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    Green Business Card is the best option for the businessman. The green eco friendly business cards are very useful to environment. The posted Smaller business cards are looking be very unique to others.nbusiness card printing

  13. Daviedons22
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    I think business cards are one of those things that will die out with technology. Which lends real opportunity for green businesses to take on this new market.