sustainable printing, graphic design, interview

Sustainable printing — interview with Marko Hanecke

Marko Hanecke shows impartially and without a moral index finger how sustainable print production can be successful from the early conception phase to delivery. His book”Print sustainably. Designing environmentally friendly printing projects“encourages people to think, discuss and identify their own attitudes and perspectives in the context of sustainability. With 20 different printing materials, four printing processes and four print finishes, it is both a source of inspiration and an ode to beautiful books.

What motivated you to write a book about sustainable printing, and what central message would you like to convey to readers?

The industry focus is on printing materials, eco-labels, logistical challenges and the production conditions of paper mills and printing houses. That is certainly not wrong, but this mindset excludes great potential that lies outside this tight framework. This sub-complex approach motivated me to tackle this book project together with the publisher Hermann Schmidt. After all, we're talking about a type of product that we no longer absolutely need due to digitalization. The trick is therefore to publish environmentally friendly printed products that people still have and want to use.

If that is not the case, then print is simply not sustainable. But desire, appreciation and attention do not appear at all in the entire sustainability debate. A great deal of potential lies untapped here.

How do you define sustainability in the context of printing, and why do you stress that it means more than eco-certificates?

Ecocertificates are not bad or nonsensical per se. However, they have systemic limits that simply do not take into account many aspects that contribute to environmental sustainability. For example, poorly planned editions, stable supplier relationships, an ill-considered distribution policy, low response rates for printed advertising or unnecessarily high page volumes or paper grammages are not the subject of eco-certificates. From my professional experience, I know that many rely on certificates, but that the basic approach to a printing project remains unchanged. For me, printed matter is sustainable when it produces a positive aftertaste. At least among distributors of printed products, recipients and our environment. It is therefore a question of balancing different needs. And the better that works, the more sustainable a printed item is.

What specific challenges do you see for creative people in implementing sustainable print projects, and how does your book help with these challenges?

One challenge is certainly knowing which aspects are decisive right from the design phase and product development. I explain all of this in the book in detail and in a practical way. And then, of course, it is up to creative people to join the table as early as possible so that they can contribute precisely these perspectives. When customers approach designers with fixed ideas, many unsustainable parameters are often already cemented and experience has shown that they can no longer be broken up.

Can you give an example of creative and multi-faceted approaches to sustainability in the printing sector that go beyond choosing recycled paper or certified printing companies?

But of course: The book itself is a very good example of this. We have combined over 20 different printing materials. It includes C2C-certified fresh fiber papers, papers that are certified with the Blue Angel and partly consist of recycled disposable cups, but also papers containing roasting residues from coffee roasting, leftovers from leather production, grass, hemp or bagasse, a waste material from sugar production. The cover material consists of robust and vegan apple leather and FSC-certified bookbinding linen.

In addition, there are four printing processes and four print finishes as well as numerous QR codes, which lead to further informative sources, such as interviews, videos, checklists, articles and podcasts. This brings together over 30 hours of additional material. All materials used are certified according to strict environmental labels. However, the book itself does not bear the eco-label because we did not want to take sides and because the mix of materials makes an award impossible.

Print production has become significantly more expensive in recent years: Can sustainable printing and cost-effective production be reconciled?

Ecology and economy are often seen as antagonists: If something should become “greener”, it will be more expensive, according to the misconception. I think that sustainably designed printing projects are also sustainable because they make economic sense. In the book, I also explain how this can be achieved.


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