Let’s face it: screen printing isn’t exactly an eco-friendly industry. It’s messy and even toxic at times. But printers looking to run an eco-friendly shop can make some efforts to do so. Here are 5 ways to make any screen printing shop a little friendlier on the environment.
#1: USE GREENER CHEMICALS
Sgreen® Chemistry offers a range of screen printing chemicals like Emulsion Stripper, Ink Degrader, Haze Remover, and Degreaser. What makes Sgreen’s chemistry eco-friendly is that it’s non-toxic, biodegradable, and soy-based.
Here are a couple of examples to implement cleaner chemistry in any shop. Instead of using an aerosol screen cleaner, which is terrible for the environment (and makes a mess), use Supreme Wash to clean screens.
Using a spray adhesive? Switch to Water-Based Pallet Adhesive. The adhesive is liquid and won’t make a mess like an adhesive spray, and it works just as well on the majority of garments printers use daily. Better yet, a water-based adhesive can be diluted to last longer and can be reactivated on the platen for longer use.
#2: CHOOSE ECO-FRIENDLIER INKS
Water-based ink is made with, well, water, and isn’t as harmful to the environment as plastisol inks are. When looking at the sources and energy used to manufacture inks, water-based ink comes out ahead of plastisol ink. What really makes water-based ink more eco-friendly than plastisol is the fact that water-based ink on a shirt is recyclable. That isn’t the case with plastisol ink.
No matter what type of ink is printed, take a look at the practices of the company manufacturing the inks. Companies like Achitex Minerva, manufacturers of FN-INK plastisol ink, have gone the extra mile of being sustainable by replanting trees to match the acreage of their facility, having an internal water treatment plant, and have reduced their water and electricity consumption. Purchasing products from eco-conscious companies supports and reinforces the continuation of sustainability.
#3: ORDER IN BULK
Everyone knows that ordering 1 bottle of cleaner as needed will be more expensive in the long run than ordering the entire chemistry line in one purchase. It not only saves money but shipping bulk orders is actually better for the environment.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, transportation accounts for 28% of US greenhouse gas emissions, making it the largest contributor. The more people order items to be shipped, the more greenhouse gas emissions are emitted. A great way to reduce the harmful effects of transportation is to order in bulk.
When it’s time to order more supplies for your shop, try to order a month’s worth of supplies. The same goes for ordering garments. The less frequently you order, the fewer trucks, trains, and airplanes will be traveling.
Many companies are switching to more sustainable packaging methods, like shredded cardboard. Take note of how packages arrive and order from the companies that pack sustainably. One shop’s purchasing habits may seem small compared to the wide world of international shipping, but the best way to combat shipping waste is to order smartly.
#4: REDUCE SHOP WASTE
There are plenty of ways to reduce waste in any shop. Here’s a quick list of a few to start implementing today:
- Recycle films simply by adding the #1 PETE symbol to the film during art creation and tossing it in the recycle bin rather than the trash bin.
- Turn misprints into rags or junk shirts.
- Donate excess shirts, or turn them into something else. These can be shop shirts, repurposed garments, test shirts, and more.
- Invest in a filtration system to keep emulsion, ink, and other gunk from going down the drain. For more information, check out this article.
#5: PRACTICE MORE SUSTAINABLE EFFORTS
Creating a sustainable shop may seem like a big task, but a little goes a long way. Here are 4 ways to make any shop even more environmentally conscious.
SWITCH TO LED BULBS
Halogen bulbs use more energy than LED bulbs. Switch all the bulbs in the shop to LED and save a ton of energy (plus cut down that all-important electric bill).
LEDs are 80% more efficient compared to traditional bulbs, according to Solar Electric Power Company. Only 5% of the energy LEDs use is wasted on heat, the rest produces light. Plus, LEDs use less energy, which means fewer greenhouse gasses are emitted.
CHOOSE GARMENTS WISELY
It’s no secret that creating and dyeing garments has a huge environmental impact. According to BBC, the fashion industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions and 20% of wastewater. The fashion industry uses more energy than both aviation and shipping combined. Crazy, right? Selecting sustainable garments is probably the most important decision a shop can make to reduce its carbon footprint.
Worried that customers will not want to pay more for the eco-friendly garment? According to Forbes, 88% of consumers want businesses to help them make a difference in their environmental footprint. Go ahead, buy those recycled T-shirts.
GET CREATIVE WITH WORN-OUT SUPPLIES
Printers have come up with many creative ways to reuse screens — burning images onto them and using them as decoration, building a screen wall, constructing a desk, and more.
When wood and aluminum screen printing screens are no longer used, cut out the mesh to toss and recycle the frame. Ink containers could become a pot for a plant pot, cleanup card storage, a supply holder, etc. The possibilities are endless. With a little bit of creativity, printers can reduce the amount of waste generated and customize their shop in one step.
A great way to align a shop with sustainability is to partner with organizations that are making a positive impact. Customers love participating in something that pays their money forward, especially if it’s something they believe in. Find an organization, company, or other entity that shares the same values and form an alliance. It’s beneficial from all sides.
In the end, one shop making sustainable choices might not seem like a lot, but it can make a big difference. Be a trendsetter and say no to environment-damaging practices.
- Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/solitairetownsend/2018/11/21/consumers-want-you-to-help-them-make-a-difference/?sh=35d9eb956954
- EPA: https://www.epa.gov/transportation-air-pollution-and-climate-change/carbon-pollution-transportation
- Allmade: https://allmade.com/pages/impact
- BBC: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200310-sustainable-fashion-how-to-buy-clothes-good-for-the-climate
- Minerva: https://www.achitexminerva.com/en/sustainability
- SEPCO: https://www.sepco-solarlighting.com/blog/the-advantages-of-led-lights-for-the-environment