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The role of digital printing in the definition of “green”

November 1st, 2008 / By: / Graphics

Green is one of the hottest topics today, not only in regard to digital printing of textiles, but also in the traditional screen printing of textiles as well as in the digital printing community. Currently there are no absolute standards or definitions about what is “Green” or sustainable. These words mean different things to different people. However, there does seem to be a consensus developing that digital textile printing is “greener” than traditional printing.

Why? Digital printing is really performance without waste, and performance without waste is a good definition of sustainability. Some people consider traditional screen textile printing to be a 3D industry—dangerous, difficult, and dirty. Digital printing is none of those. According to Cotton Incorporated, worldwide textile processing uses one trillion gallons of water, 33 trillion gallons of oil, and 20 billion pounds of chemicals. Digital printing is considered to be a more efficient use of resources including water, energy, and chemistry.

The print-on-demand aspect of digital printing (printing only the amount needed so there is no waste) is an additional plus, not just for textiles but for other printed products as well. Additional sustainable benefits in shipping are possible with locally printed products rather than products shipped from some distance—even overseas. That earns extra green points for all. As an industry, we do not know the full impact of the green/sustainability movement; however, if we play our cards right, green could be the wild card that wins the game for digital printing.

If we step back and look at this more philosophically, green means being responsible in every aspect of life, not just printing. The earth is a large place and for a long time, we humans have been able to pollute the earth and not really see it. Now, however, the world is a smaller place and we can no longer do that. Green is the wild card that equals responsibility.

This is the final in a series of articles focusing on digital printing of textiles and sustainability, one of the most discussed issues in our industry today. The co-authors are Lynn Krinsky of Stella Color (www.stellacolor.com), a digital print shop in Seattle, Wash., and Patti Williams of I.T. Strategies (www.it-strategies.com), Hanover, Mass., a market research and consulting company focusing on digital printing.

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