PrintCity, the nebulous alliance of industry suppliers offering advice to the industry, has published another of its cross-industry special reports. This one is called “Carbon Footprinting & Energy Reduction,” and we were flattered to have had the chance to peer review it. We also provided reference material for the authors through the Verdigris project, some of which is included in the report.
This latest PrintCity report is long on text, charts, and tables, but it is definitely not for the faint-hearted. It takes the reader very quickly deep into the weeds of climate change and emissions, covering everything from politics and standards and specifications, through to a smattering of case studies. The report has a mass of information with numerous useful summaries throughout the text, which offer a sort of safe haven when it all gets too much. The initial conclusions on page 5, the definitions (mostly), and the inclusion of many charts and tables, all help to make it easier to get through this otherwise very dense and turgid subject matter.
This is in essence a collection of material from diverse sources gathered together into a single reference volume, so there are a lot of facts and a few random opinions. If you are willing to battle your way through the mass of details, you will gain a good understanding of where the printing industry fits in the endlessly shifting and complex environmental and footprinting matrix. As such, it is more of a reference work than something one might read from start to finish.
What Got Left Behind
Annoyingly, PrintCity’s report has a few omissions, some of which are serious and some of which are not. We have to declare an interest here, because despite timely input from us, the report does not include any description of ISO 16759, the international standard on carbon footprinting with which we have been closely involved. This is very disappointing, and we feel it does a bit of a disservice to the reader because it is a standard for which many print buyers are asking.
PrintCity has thoroughly described the sterling efforts of organizations such as Intergraf, CEPI, and WAN-Ifra to develop carbon footprinting tools. But to completely omit the work of ISO TC130 (Graphics Technology) in general and TC130’s Working Group 11 (the environmental impact of print) in particular, is a great shame. So, before we go any further, we’ve rectified this with a brief description of ISO 16759.
Calculating the Carbon Footprint of Print Media
Working Group 11 is authoring ISO 16759, which outlines and explains the requirements for calculating the carbon footprint of print media products, rather than organizations. The idea is to provide printers, print buyers, industry associations, and anyone else who is interested with a framework methodology for carbon calculating tools. The goal with ISO 16759 is to provide a standard that unifies all of the efforts underway worldwide to create carbon footprinting tools. The idea is that these tools are transparent for print buyers, printers, and consumers, and that their results can be compared like for like.
This standard marks an extremely important step in creating a basis for comparing the carbon footprint of print media with that of electronic media delivered to e-readers such as the iPad or mobile phones. It also is an important step for the industry because it positions print at the forefront of industry sectors developing carbon footprinting standards. This is a key message for printers struggling to reinvent themselves in the new digital world.
As one would expect, there are masses of statistics and historical references, some of which are more interesting than others. But, most important of all, this publication recognizes the fact that “only coordinated international action can resolve [climate change].” It is indeed vital that everyone who cares about the future of the planet and of their industry pulls together. This is what initiatives such as the Verdigris project is all about, and it is what print industry associations worldwide recognize as they work with their governments towards a common goal.