Friday, April 10, 2009

A Note About "Greenwashing"

One thing about "green" that makes me see red is the tendency many marketers have to label their products as "green" when they really are not green at all... or, in more instances, only a "little bit green," (more like a pale shade of ochre). Let's set the record straight. No manufactured product is absolutely, purely green. The acts of sourcing, packaging and transporting products use resources, energy and "chemicals." Driving a delivery to the post office uses fuel. The 100% recycled packaging we use contains papers that may have been printed on before with solvent inks. Even though we have an ultra-efficient radiant heating system it still requires fuel.

What we do though is constantly strive to find the most green solution available. Pure, post-industrial cotton based papers, for instance. The absolute smallest, most fuel-efficient delivery truck we can afford. Inks with no VOCs.

The fact is that in today's world, 10% recycled, 20% recycled, 30% recycled papers are not good enough when 100% recycled products are available - especially when their quality is equal or better and their cost is comparable. Inks that contain solvents are not acceptable when aqueous VOC-free inks can do as good a job with better gamut, color and saturation. Petroleum based "foamcore" doesn't cut it when bio-based materials are available.

The reason you see the word "virtually" in our 100% green description is that even though we have worked hard to find the absolute most green solutions, we still need to do a better job. That's why we welcome your comments, suggestions and advice. Please let us know what you think!

Our Story, Inspiration and Our Muse

As someone who loves to create images, one long-ago picture now stands out clearly in my mind. A little girl sits at an outside table with her friends at school lunch time as officials spray the children with DDT. They thought it was harmless and that it killed influenza. True. How foolish we can be!

That girl of so long ago is now my wife of 25 years and her recent critical illness (environmentally related cancer) and the time spent as a caregiver got me thinking a lot more about the environmental implications of many of the things I am passionate about – especially photography, print making and other forms of imaging I learned from RIT and more than 25 years of image making. A dream soon emerged along with my own small quest to make it reality. I asked myself, “When my wife is well enough that I can get back to work, what would I really love to do?” Life is indeed too short to do otherwise.

The answer was ecovisualcom.com (EcoVisual Communications), the nation’s first company to offer exclusively green, healthy prints, graphics, interior d├ęcor art and photography reproduction plus personalized advice to corporate marketers and printers on improving the environmental impact of their marketing efforts. Greenphotoprint.com emerged just five months later as ecovisualcom.com's sister company and the nation's first 100% green photo "lab." All images are printed on 100% sustainable, tree-free media made of pure cotton, which is totally chlorine free, recycled and recyclable. Our paper is sourced right here in Massachusetts to reduce the carbon emissions associated with transportation. (A typical cargo ship carrying imported papers uses one gallon of fuel for every 37 feet it travels, and air shipping consumes a gallon of fuel per second.)

About 40% of landfill content is paper made from trees. What do you get when you mix wood pulp with elemental chlorine also in papers? The answer is dioxins, the single most carcinogenic class of chemicals known to man. To help alleviate this problem in our own small way, the primary papers we use are made from the pure recycled post-industrial recovered cotton! The inks that we use are water based, carbon pigmented and free of all volatile organic compounds. Our prints are so pure that I wouldn’t hesitate to hang one over a baby’s crib just seconds after it was printed. I now work with some of the world's best image makers, among the creative thinkers that others look to for inspiration. Surely, being green and helping others to be more ecologically minded is not only a worthy goal, it’s a privilege. Even small steps can make a difference.