By Fabrice Peltier, Designer and Eco-design Consultant
drupa Essentials of Print Article No. 13, December 2023
The common factor in many graphic creations, especially in packaging design, is they are usually printed in large quantities to meet consumer demands. However, amid the focus on reducing packaging material consumption, one crucial aspect seems to have been overlooked: the environmental impact of printing inks. Often deemed insignificant, the inks used in graphic creations play a more substantial role than we might realize, both in terms of their ecological implications and economic considerations.
Understanding the composition of ink reveals its complex nature, which consists of several components. The pigments, or colorants, provide the vibrant hues that capture attention and differentiate brands. The vehicle, or binder, acts as the carrier, enabling the ink to adhere to various surfaces effectively. Additionally, adjuvants are used to enhance ink properties, ensuring quick drying times or improved resistance to wear and tear.
Each graphic element, typographic character, shape, and color thoughtfully chosen to convey the intended message represents a specific quantity of ink required for reproduction. Embracing an eco-friendly approach known as eco-inking (Ink Saving Process), designers can craft top-quality graphic designs while concurrently managing ink consumption during the printing process.
The eco-inking approach is best incorporated during the initial stages of design development, providing an intermediary step based on a well-conceived graphic proposal. However, forward-thinking designers may also consider eco-inking as an integral part of the entire design process, even at the conception of a brand’s graphic identity and guidelines.
The core objective of eco-inking is to optimize ink consumption without compromising the quality and visual impact of the creations. It seeks to achieve a harmonious balance between resource efficiency and creativity. Although changes made to ink usage might not be immediately apparent to consumers or readers, successful eco-inking initiatives have demonstrated their potential to bolster a brand’s environmental credibility and resonate positively with the intended target audience.
Moreover, adopting an eco-design philosophy in graphics goes beyond reducing ink consumption; it encompasses a holistic approach to environmental stewardship. By implementing eco-friendly practices in materials selection and production processes, designers can significantly reduce the environmental footprint of their work.
Notably, eco-inking also presents a compelling advantage when it comes to recycling. Graphic papers, extensively used for packaging and marketing materials, undergo a de-inking process during recycling to ensure the purity of the resulting paper. By minimizing the quantities of ink used in printing, eco-inked papers facilitate the de-inking process, reducing the consumption of chemicals and energy required to remove inks from the recycled material. This, in turn, minimizes waste production and contributes to a more sustainable circular economy.
For brand owners aiming to reduce costs, eco inking offers a potential source of savings. Using fewer inks directly impacts expenses, and opting for CMYK – or even CMY – printing can deliver outstanding results at even lower costs and with a reduced environmental impact.
The efficiency of the eco-inking approach has been proven by its practical application. Developed over a decade ago, this innovative technique has been meticulously tested on more than 250 consumer product packages in France. The results have been nothing short of remarkable, consistently achieving an average reduction of ink consumption by 20% to 25% while preserving the visual appeal and message impact of the original creations.
As a passionate advocate for sustainability and ecological responsibility in design, I firmly believe in sharing knowledge and expertise for the collective betterment of our environment. In this spirit, I have chosen to disseminate the eco-inking technique as an open source resource through comprehensive guides and training materials.
I encourage fellow designers, manufacturers, and businesses to embrace eco-inking and unlock the potential for positive change in our creative industries. Feel free to reach out and while you visit drupa, not only assume new substrates, new machinery and new technologies will help you to reduce the environmental impact of packaging – also consider new ways to conceive and produce packaging.
In conclusion, embracing eco-inking is not only a means to enhance the environmental sustainability of graphic creations but also an opportunity for designers to stand as pioneers of change in the ever-evolving landscape of design and consumer consciousness. Together, we can make a meaningful contribution to safeguarding our planet’s resources and ensuring a greener, more promising future for generations to come.
About the Author
Fabrice Peltier is recognized as an expert in packaging design, a pioneer in eco-design, working towards more environmentally responsible packaging solutions. He serves as a consultant and a catalyst for creativity in eco-design for the entire packaging industry, including packaging manufacturers, market players, and eco-organization
He regularly gives conferences and writes for multiple professional journals, including Emballages, a major French publication, where he has been conducting packaging analyses for more than 20 years. Additionally, he is the author of several books including La Révolution de l’emballage première et deuxième période and Pourquoi et comment entrer dans la Révolution.
Beyond his professional work, Fabrice Peltier is an elected local official in his village of Combloux, responsible for waste management, and a member of the SITOM office from Mont Blanc Valley – recycling company.