Minimise and balance
Minimise prints. Consider which advertising or information materials must be printed. Maybe it is worth giving up printed invitations? Or maybe printed business cards are no longer necessary? As shown by various analyses carried out by cultural institutions, collective programme leaflets are usually not very popular among the audience, so it is worth considering limiting them or, for example, reducing their frequency from a monthly version to two-monthly version. Perhaps it would be enough to display one poster detailing the programme in front of the institution? Instead of creating your own prints, consider using existing newspapers and magazines. Instead of printing programmes and catalogues, make them available in pdf on your website. When considering these questions, make sure that the solutions are tailored not only to the nature of individual activities, but also to the needs of the target groups. For example, if you are targeting your event to the elderly or the local community, retain some information in the printed form. If, on the other hand, the target group of your event are people who are fluent in the digital environment, it is worth focusing on e-mail communication and electronic forms of promotion (social media, blogs, websites).
> When promoting the ‘Race and Forest’ exhibition (2019) on crimes associated with the natural environment, Biennale Warszawa decided to produce only one poster and one leaflet. The poster was temporarily displayed in various places, while the leaflet was passed from hand to hand. It was also possible to download them as a file from the website. Read more: Biennale Warszawa shows care for the environment in the communication for the exhibition ‘Race and Forest’ source: Biennale Warszawa
Print and digital media. The choice between print and digital is more complex than the simple principle: give up paper, go online. Computers and servers are a serious factor contributing to global warming and e-waste is a growing concern for the environment. Little is said about it – digital forms of communication and promotion are often perceived as automatically better for the environment than print and regarded as pro-environmental alternatives. However, in many cases this assumption may be wrong. Remember that in many countries electronic waste is the fastest growing type of waste and internet servers consume monstrous amounts of energy. We live in an increasingly digital world in which electronic and paper communication coexist and often complement one another. In order to make a sustainable choice, you will have to take a closer look at the details. It is best to look for ways to reduce the impact of both these forms (see: ICT).
> Paper vs. Digital, source: Environmental Paper Network
If you can’t avoid printing, make it eco-friendly.
The type of paper you choose and how you are going to use it makes a difference. If printing is necessary, choose ecological paper, i.e. recycled paper, paper from sustainable forestry (FSC, PEFC certified), non-bleached. The printing industry has recently made progress in reducing the carbon footprint of prints, both with regard to energy efficiency and production technology. A lot of companies offer ecological paper and environmentally-friendly printing ink. Make sure the ink is zero VOC, i.e. it has a low content of volatile organic compound which pollutes the environment by being emitted into the atmosphere. Avoid labels, varnishing, laminating, gilding and foil, including foil-laminated folders, because these materials reduce recyclability and are an additional burden to the environment. Remember that the delivery is also part of your order – pay attention to eco-friendly packaging of prints (paper, cardboard, polyolefin film) and order locally.
Minimising printouts on own printers. At times we do not need professional printing services and prepare materials on our own, on office printers. In such a case, you should also use ecological paper and, whenever possible, print on both sides or using the ‘brochure’ setting (four pages on one piece of paper). Unused single-sided printouts can be reused for making notes or test printouts. Check whether the printers and toners used by your organisation have an ISO 14001 certificate (environmental management system). If so, you can be sure that the products you are using are compliant with the best environmental practices.
Design ecology. When designing with a graphic designer, consider a smaller print format to reduce not only costs but also environmental impact. Minimise ink coverage, e.g. by using thinner typefaces or fonts – this will save you money and facilitate recycling. Consider reusing your design in the future – prepare it so that the content can be updated. For example, in the case of a poster, the easiest way is to prepare a design with blanks for the dates and the title of the event, which can be later filled in as needed.
> Using thinner fonts, e.g. Century Gothic, makes it possible to save up to 30 percent of ink. Read more: Print for the Planet: The Best Eco Fonts source: Leap
Outdoor advertising. Have you considered whether large-format outdoor advertising is really necessary? The production of large-scale banners, billboards or posters should be reduced to a minimum. However, if you do need them, produce them from recycled materials. Pay attention to the printing technique – solvent print is dangerous for the environment (its newer version – eco-solvent print – reduced the harmful ingredients), latex print and UV print are environmentally-friendly. Solutions which promote the idea of reuse are also increasingly popular. One of them is, for example, eco-poster (i.e. an ecological printing substrate which allows multiple use of both the substrate and the poster printed on it, and the poster itself is recyclable). As far as digital media are concerned, pro-ecological solutions are also introduced; you can opt for ecolight screens (a digital medium which is environmentally friendly due to the use of LEDs), you can also see the transition to the power supply of photovoltaic energy, and the introduction of solar advertising poles. Also, pay attention to whether the supplier of an ecoservice does not make its media available to promote slogans that conflict with your and your organisation’s ethics, e.g. whether they do not promote discriminatory content. Consistency is extremely important as far as the ethics of ecological communication is concerned. A mural can be a valuable tool to convey an external message. Today, murals are painted using technologies that minimise their negative impact on the environment and can additionally contribute to the revitalisation of walls. Such initiatives also make it possible to support local artists by inviting them to cooperate on the mural. It is worth remembering that if the mural is to appear on a wall of a residential building, agreement of the residents should be obtained and residents should be invited to join in the common effort.
> A mural eco-path covering five buildings was created at Toruń’s ‘Na Skarpie’ housing estate as part of a participatory budget project. Read more: Ecology straight from a wall, source: Toronto
You can also consider other forms of sustainable outdoor advertising which only use environmentally-friendly products. One example is reverse graffiti, which makes use of the natural dirt of pavements – a message appears after dirty areas have been cleaned and disappears after a few weeks and months. The range of possible techniques is much wider; e.g. moss or sand graffiti, rain graffiti or stamping of snow or sand (once designed, a stamp may be reused and the advert, similarly to the other methods, disappears naturally).
Reduce the number of promotional items and take care of their ethical aspect. We often do not know under what conditions the promotional items were actually produced. Transporting them from distant countries harms the environment. If you decide to procure such items, use the products of local manufacturers or enter into cooperation with local crafts people – thanks to your cooperation, their products may become more visible. Consider introducing promotional gifts directly related to ecology: plants, reusable water bottles, cloth handkerchiefs (yes, yes, they are back!), local plum jam or honey. Opt for a practical item so as not to increase the pile of unnecessary things. If it requires packaging – reduce it to a minimum and make sure that it is made of eco-materials.
If you are organising an annual or regular event, create reusable banners or posters: do not print the date of the event, reuse them in the following years. If there are leftover prints from the activities carried out, check whether they might come in handy for workshops and educational projects. Waste paper can be used to make paper bags, which will serve your organisation as unique packaging for various purposes. Old banners or billboards are great material for recycling – many cultural institutions recycle them into promotional items, e.g. bags, kidney bags.
> Read: Eco-friendly poster-bags. Art and recycling go hand in hand source: Kujawsko-Pomorskie. Travel
Notice the potential of local resources
Some communication and promotional channels are really at your fingertips. In your immediate vicinity, there are institutions, NGOs, schools, cafes, housing cooperatives, as well as residents. If some of your activities are addressed to the local community – we believe so! – take care of direct contacts, cooperation networks and identification of local resources. This is where a printed poster will come in handy, displayed in nearby meeting places or shops, the hairdresser’s, the local library or in residential buildings (only in cooperation with housing cooperatives and building administrators). Do some fieldwork and check where the neighbours tend to be at particular times, where and how neighbourhood groups operate (face-to-face, on the Internet). Get interested in the local press, find local ambassadors who may wish to get involved in your activities. Invite neighbours directly, involve them in programme planning. Provide an area for a notice board for your neighbours, where you can also inform them of planned social activities. Do not give up on social media – there are many thriving neighbourhood forums. Use inclusive language.
Using simple, understandable language is also part of thinking about the ecology of an organisation. It enables faster communication and is more inclusive. Sometimes, however, it is not so easy to achieve. Several free online tools that help to verify the simplicity of texts come to the rescue. The criteria used by these platforms include sentence length, number of words and level of expertise. The result indicates the likely level of education necessary for our recipient to be able to understand the message we have created.
> Jasnopis – after pasting the text in the app window and clicking ‘analyse’, the system will notify how difficult your text is on a scale from one to seven. The app underlines places where simplification is advisable.
> Logios – the app researches the fog index of a given text, it uses the FOG 1-22+ scale. For our text to be regarded as written in ‘simple language’, it should be at level 9-10. This level is also recommended for public communication.
Communicate your pro-environmental activities
It is worth talking about pro-environmental changes as soon as you start making them. At first, these will not be in-depth, cross-cutting strategies – accept it and do not get discouraged. Green initiatives that no one knows about have no chance to ‘bud’. Communicating even small steps is important; however, make sure you talk about them adequately for the scale of changes. Consider adding a green section to the external newsletter with information about the initiatives you take, start a pro-ecological micro-campaign in social media. Also take care of internal communication – green changes concern the entire team and it is important to make such practices common knowledge. An internal green newsletter can be a simple and effective tool to achieve this. However, when communicating green changes remember to follow the principles of green communication. Remember that the medium is the message.