GOING GREEN

 

Printing does not have to be harmful to our planet. We at Custom Banner are continually striving to reduce our environmental impact and increase our social responsibility through more sustainable printing practices. From inks, to raw materials, to display hardware, to printing, to helping our customers maximize the utility of the printed products they procure from us, to utilization of the waste we generate in our process, these combined can reduce the footprint we leave for future generations

Though our printed vinyl offering is in not “green”, our dye sublimation process has been a significant step towards sustainability. This process involves printing water based inks on a transfer paper and then transferring the image onto various polyester fabrics using a “roll-to-roll” heat press. The heatpress runs at 400 degrees farenhiet. At this temperature, the solid ink on the transfer paper turns into a gas and dyes the image into the fabric. Why fabric? Fabric is recyclable and biodegradable whereas vinyl, depending on the PVC content, can take hundreds of years in a landfill to breakdown. Fabric is 1/3 the weight of vinyl banners of equal size. Fabric banners use 70% less material and energy in their initial production. Fabric is more energy efficient when transported than vinyl. Fabric can be reused many times whereas vinyl tends to be used once then discarded (though we are trying to change this practice). The water based inks used to print fabrics (and hopefully vinyls in the near future) are environmentally friendly with little or no VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds).

Both of our current printing processes are Digital which is more sustainable than offset and screen printing processes as it does not require the production of printing plates or screens. This translates to the consumption of far fewer materials leading to lower energy usage and reduced environmental impact. Digital printing uses half the ink of screen printing methods and results in far less waste being discharged.

We are committed to turning the vinyl and fabric waste that we generate into products that consumers can utilize. Products include, tarpaulins, banner bags for printed banners, large tote bags for a variety of applications, waste bags to be used in automobiles and more.

We currently offer lines of recycled raw materials for both our fabric and vinyl printing processes. Please contact our Customer Service people for more details on these greener alternatives.

We are researching newer technologies for both fabric and vinyl applications. Since the dye sublimation process involves very high temperatures, green, natural fabrics such as cotton or silk have not been possible with this process as they would burn. We do however have a “direct to fabric” printer that we use for flags that could be converted to other water based dyes that sublimate in a “steamer” rather than via a heat press. This process would allow for the digital image to be dyed into natural fabrics. These would not generally be appropriate for exterior use but would work well and be competitively priced for interior “Point of Purchase” displays as well as making fabric for the short run fashion market. Not only is the end product more green than the traditional “dye sublimation transfer” approach, the process itself eliminates the need for the paper transfer as well as reducing the consumption of energy needed to operate the heatpress. Because this new process requires less labor to process and does not utilize transfer paper, offsetting the higher cost of the environmentally friendly natural fabrics, the price to the end user will be comparable to traditional transfer sublimation. This will make it much easier for Retailers to opt for the optimum in environmentally friendly POP products. Please let us know if there is interest in fabric products produced using this technology.

As for new technology for printing on vinyls, we are exploring the potential of “water based Latex inks” rather than the traditional “solvent based inks”. These latex inks claim similar outdoor durability to solvent inks. In addition to working well on vinyl, these inks supposedly work on fabrics as well. They do not provide the pop in colors that our traditional dye sublimation  transfer process offers but, since they can be significantly lower cost than dyesub will likely appeal to a certain mid-range market that desires the look of fabric at a much lower cost.

In keeping with the movement towards greener, paperless business practices, Custom Banner has invested in 2011 in an “online” design website www.signsidesign.com. This is a site where anyone can go to design, order and pay for a flag, banner or various tradeshow products completely online without the need for graphic design experience. This process minimizes the need for the back-and-forth of traditional outsourced sign design as well as the need for all the paper work associated with processing traditional wholesale print orders. The objective of this site is to ultimately keep the cost to the end user down by eliminating the proofing process as  well as the ability to match Pantone colors. We also transfer the cost of order entry to the end user, and since they pay online, no collection costs are incurred by us either. All these online advantages combined, drastically reduce the environmental footprint associated with the order. Probably most important in terms environmental savings resulting from this website is the ultimate reduction in waste typically associated with the high number of “one unit” orders we process daily. Many current one up orders are processed one to a few at a time. Each time we setup a printer for a new material, we must web anywhere from 3 to 5 feet of unprintable material. The objective of the site is ultimately to process dozens of unique “one up” banners at a time thereby significantly reducing waste as well as energy consumption.

Other green initiatives include encouraging banner end users to properly care for their printed products as well as not date or put dollar amounts that may change over time. We offer 20 mil clear vinyl panels that can be welded to the printed banners at points that require change. The combination of caring for, cleaning and rolling for storage and using clear panels can result in reuse of the banner many times rather than “one than done” mentallity. Finally providing instructions  for proper installation of banners will extend the life of a banner significantly. Unfortunately, greater than half of the banners deployed are installed improperly. This not only serves to shorten the useful life but also hurts the effectiveness of the message being promoted.

All of us at Custom Banner want the generations that follow us to inherit a planet that is safe and clean, capable of supporting life as we know it. We are concerned about the negative impact that we as a company may be contributing to this earth. We will do our best to promote and provide the greenest of options to our customers.