Concerned about the ecological footprint of your business? Here are some tips and suggestions on more earth-friendly products and practices.
Plastisol inks are very durable and take less energy to dry and cure than water-based inks, but a major concern is the harmful phthalate plasticizing additives. New regulations have taken affect for the phthalate levels in plastisol inks. If plastisol inks are your preference, be sure to look for such labels as “phthalate free” and “phthalate compliant.” These are much safer for you and your customers.
Water-based inks are generally seen as the more environmentally friendly option. They do not contain PVC or phthalates, but as stated above, they take more energy to dry and cure. There are currently water-based products on the market that are also free of toxins and ozone-depleting chemicals such as CFC’s and HCFC’s. Water-based inks have a reputation of printing a duller finished product than plastisol inks, but one must be sure to look for products that claim a high color yield.
Print on organic cotton t-shirts. The name may sound redundant, but in fact most cotton is grown with pesticides that are dangerous to humans. According to a USDA study in the year 2000, 1/3 of a pound of harmful chemicals is used to grow enough cotton for one average t-shirt. Besides reducing the use of such hazardous pesticides, organic cotton is commonly grown using more sustainable crop rotation practices and uses less water for irrigation.
Another option is the use of reclaimed or recycled cotton t-shirts. These earth-friendly t-shirts are made from scraps and excess yarn from big manufacturers. These salvaged pieces of material are sorted, re-fiberized, and blended into cotton of a multitude of colors. The process uses no new cotton, dyes, or chemicals, thus is an environmentally and socially responsible way of making clothing. It is also much more sustainable than growing organic cotton.
Recycled paper and cardboard are great options for product packaging. They are both sustainable products, and they are the easiest for the customer to recycle upon opening their packaging. Most standard and padded eco-mailers are made of recycled paperboard of post consumer content and are 100% recyclable after mailing. Packaging companies now offer earth-friendly bubble wrap and biodegradable packaging peanuts, many of which are sold online in bulk. Also available for those using boxes, are mailing tape products made with recycled resin.
Biodegradable poly-bags are another product commonly used by t-shirt screen printers in mailing their products, with less concern of water damage during the shipping process. These bags are available from a variety of retailers to be placed inside of any type of mailer. These bags will decompose after a period of time in compost or a landfill once in contact with particular naturally occurring microorganisms, without leaving a toxic residue. They can be starch-based, or the more expensive option of aliphatic polyester.
Be sure to recycle any packaging of products delivered to your business, such as t-shirt, ink, and all other types of packaging.
Cut down on transport when possible. Make local deliveries on foot or bicycle. And group items for fewer trips.
The use of old, small jars to store leftover ink is a great way to save small amounts of ink that were mixed or will not fit into their original containers. Baby food jars work very well in this way. Just make sure to label them well!<
Don’t waste energy around the shop. Be sure to turn off any electrical machines when not in use, put computers in a sleep mode after short periods of being idle, and monitor the heat and air conditioning so they’re not running when not necessary.