Sustainability is basically a form of maintenance. There are environmentally friendly options for almost every element of graphic design, so it becomes a matter of being mindful about those decisions and looking closely at each product in order to find which one is the most (or even honestly) eco-friendly of the bunch.
Some products, like the stacks of printing stock you can buy at Officeworks, might take one sustainable precaution for their product like choosing to go acid-free, which is nice because it’s a bit kinder to the earth, or to make their paper out of recycled existing stock. But then you can get stock that’s not even made from trees, for example it can be made from left-over fibres from agriculture farming such as wheat. So there are a few different things to choose from, and sustainability is just taking the time to making the choice that you believe benefits the earth the most.
I found a design agency online called Tomorrow Machine, and they only use 100% biodegradable products for their projects. A really cool example is their “This Too Shall Pass” project, in which they created three different packages for different types of food, that would expire at the same rate as their contents. Here are the descriptions and explanations of each type of packaging from the Tomorrow Machine website;
A package made of caramelized sugar, coated with wax. To open it you crack it like an egg. When the material is cracked the wax do no longer protect the sugar and the package melts when it comes in contact with water. This package is made for oil-based food.
Gel of the agar-agar seaweed and water are the only components used to make this package. To open it you pick the top. The package will wither at the same rate as it’s content. It is made for drinks that have a short life span and needs to be refrigerated, fresh juice, smoothies and cream for example.
Package made of biodegradable beeswax. To open it you peel it like a fruit. The package is designed to contain dry goods, for example grains and rice.
The thing that’s very interesting about Tomorrow Machine, in my opinion, is that they don’t really seem to look for existing products to use in their packaging, instead choosing to create their own new kinds of packaging. That’s not to say their products are 100% unique, just that they take the time to run tests and actually see to the research and manufacturing of their products. They often team up with existing groups and companies to create the most sustainable thing possible. All of their projects can be viewed at their website:
The Crystal Cup project won’t see anything that extensive put in place, but I’ve had it in mind for a few weeks to choose eco-friendly options for my printed materials.
For the food and drink packaging especially, it has to be biodegradable because takeaway containers and coffee cups make up a huge amount of the litter that can be found in cities. The honest truth about it is that you can’t trust every customer to dispose of their used items responsibly, nor can you expect them to when your products aren’t made out of recyclable materials. The best way around that is to create biodegradable products that won’t hurt the environment regardless of it’s manufacturing process, or where it gets put after use.
An Australian-based company called Vegware makes packaging specifically for cafes and restaurants. They are the only fully recyclable and biodegradable packaging company that operates globally. That’s pretty neat. They create packaging that is free of all plastics and BPA, and can be composted with extreme ease. Plastic containers with food residue cannot be recycled, however the packaging they make at Vegware is completely recyclable even with food left in it so they create as little waste as possible. Because they are based in the country, it would be easy to get some samples made. I’ll have to see if they can do one-offs.