Working on a carbon footprint
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By Laurel Brunner
10 April 2012
The ClimateCalc carbon footprint calculator is designed and owned by a consortium of European printing industry associations. It can be used to evaluates the environmental impact of an individual graphic product using a life cycle perspective
With the environment steadily moving to the top of print's agenda, sign- and display-makers are starting to pay attention as well. The problem is that in this very dynamic and competitive market there are so many other more pressing matters to deal with. Colour management and keeping work flowing without too many catastrophes getting in the way of profitability tend to take priority.
For most companies the latter is the dominant concern, however, improved business efficiency is one of the benefits of a reduced carbon footprint. There are a few companies, still a scant handful it has to be said, who are taking a more active interest in carbon footprint. For the most part they tend to be large organisations doing work for blue chip clients who need to be able to give it large on their Corporate Social Responsibility messages. They want to be able to extend their commitment to the environment further along the supply chain and this inevitably reaches printers, both commercial and sign and display.
How a sign and display company can answer the sustainability question depends obviously on the business, its waste management policies, recycling and so on. But it is possible to understand more about the carbon footprint of print, using an ISO 16759 (calculating the carbon footprint of print media) compliant carbon calculator. The best of these in terms of uptake is ClimateCalc, a tool designed and owned by a consortium of European printing industry associations. This tool evaluates the environmental impact of an individual graphic product using a life cycle perspective, which can be a little onerous for printers who have no control over what happens to their work once it leaves the factory.
This matter of control and data gathering is one of the most difficult pieces of the puzzle when it comes to calculating the carbon footprint of a piece of print. Working out the emissions for a company's energy usage is just about doable, because energy providers have the data available. But working out the emissions for signage delivered to multiple points across a continent, using multiple modes of transport and fuels, is an altogether more difficult proposition.
But it is possible to confine the measurements to those factors over which a sign and display producer either has control or knowledge. And once we start to develop some experience in the field that knowledge will grow. The time to start thinking about it is now, because the climate clock is ticking.
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