Creating waste is a design flaw

Sustainability is a problem in the creative industries. Along with a small chorus of design studios worldwide, Monomo & Co is working hard to bring about fundamental change in our industry and in the organisations we work with.

Monomo & Co has considerable expertise in creating sustainable design. We advise clients on how to reduce the environmental impact of design projects and make more efficient use (or reuse) of natural resources. We design backwards. By starting at the end of a product’s lifecycle we can rethink how we approach a design brief by thoroughly researching materials, processes and emerging technologies in order to manage each project’s environmental footprint.

Normally the production of each brochure, flyer, piece of clever packaging, or suite of branding collateral creates pollution. It’s been like this for years. Much of this ends up in landfill – or worse, floating in the oceans. Other environmental impacts are less visible. Websites and apps gobble up fossil fuels used to power the servers needed to run them. It has been estimated that streaming an hour of video per week uses more electricity in a year than two domestic refrigerators.

The challenges surrounding sustainability in design are multi-faceted and have implications for different industries, communities and demographics that are too complex to delve into here. But, if the values of your organisation go beyond profit and you are interested in a sustainable approach to your communication output, then please get in touch.


In the meantime, here are just a few things to consider when developing your next project:

Paper

  1. Consider using recycled paper or even tree-free paper such as kenaf, hemp, flax, cotton and combinations thereof
  2. Consider 100% PCW uncoated paper
  3. Consider Elemental Chlorine Free or Totally Chlorine Free paper
  4. If using virgin paper stock, consider one that has FSC or SFI certification
  5. Buy paper from a source using sustainable energy in production
  6. Don’t bleed to the edgesof the pape. By leaving a white border around your design, you can reduce ink waste and allow for more paper to be recycled
  7. Try to reduce the amount of paper and other materials used overall by creating smaller and more efficient pieces

Inks and Finishing

  1. Consider vegetable-based inks
  2. Use fewer ink colours
  3. Consider less ink coverage
  4. Request only nontoxic solvents and additives for offset printing
  5. Avoid metallic and fluorescent inks when possible as many of these colours have heavy metal additives
  6. Consider using aqueous varnishes and coatings instead of UV coatings and laminates
  7. Consider alternatives to foil stamping
  8. Consider water-based glues

Printing

  1. Involve the print vendor in the planning stages
  2. Choose a local printer within 100 miles of you (or better still, within 100 miles of where the final printed piece will be distributed).
  3. Choose an FSC-certified printer
  4. If not FSC certified, check that the printer has an environmental management system in place
  5. Consider filmless and plateless digital printing for small runs
  6. Create pieces to be as light as possible without sacrificing durability (also known as lightweighting)
  7. Send art to printer electronically
  8. Clearly outline specs to vendor
  9. At project close, recap with client, designer and vendors to learn from successes or failures

Web Design

  1. Bloated websites lead to slow load times, frustrated users and wastes energy
  2. The easier content is to find, the fewer pages a user has to load, the fewer servers are required to process the data
  3. Optimise images correctly
  4. Use less video content. Video content take up a lot of bandwidth and uses much more energy
  5. Avoid cookies and third party tracking if it all possible. All of this requires extra code and data transfer that increases greenhouse gas emissions
  6. Create Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) as they are optimized for optimal mobile browsing. Google also prioritizes AMP content in mobile searches.
  7. Look for a green cloud provider