Last year, the International Code Council passed the first ever International Green Construction Code (IGCC). With its implications for signage, it seems an appropriate time to look at what the sign industry can do to further minimize its carbon footprint and protect the environment. There’s no question that as an industry products and production methods are becoming more eco-friendly, but sometimes the stumbling block can be the customers themselves.
So how do you respond when a customer may not want to spend extra money or “doesn’t care” about going green? In this column, we’ll look at how you can convince your customers that investing in greener products can be beneficial not just to the environment, but to their bottom lines.
Longer Life Cycles
Many customers may not even consider the durability of a sign as a measure of how sustainable it is. But while this is typically not the first thing that comes to mind, producing a sign with a longer life cycle can be one of the simplest ways to reduce environmental impact. The reasoning is simple: the longer a sign stays in use, the less it adds to the waste cycle.
Things that can extend life cycle include choosing durable materials as well as using modular and other designs that allow components to be updated without replacing the entire sign every time. Best of all, for a slightly higher initial cost this can lead to significant cost savings over the life of the sign—something any customer would be hard-pressed to say “no” to.
Today’s technologies have greatly improved printing production standards, and printers with water-based paints and coatings with no harsh chemicals and volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) are becoming the norm rather than the exception. By delivering a product that is giving off fewer VOC’s that have the potential to negatively affect the health of those exposed to the graphics on a daily basis, you are offering your customers yet another way to protect the health of their employees and customers and save money lost to sick days.
Additionally, improved cutting and other production techniques maximize material usage and yield less waste. Less waste on the production side once again means cost savings that can be passed along to the end customer.
Another less-than-obvious way to provide eco-friendly signage is through installation methods. For instance, by choosing mechanical fasteners over adhesives, it can be easier to update signs while also eliminating VOC’s commonly found in adhesives. As with the examples above, faster, easier updates mean more money going to the customer’s bottom line while fewer VOC’s can mean healthier, more productive workers.
Since many projects require illumination to be effective, the type of illumination method you choose has a significant impact on the volume of energy used. Solar-powered exterior lighting is the best option from a sustainability perspective, and although it can mean a higher initial outlay, the difference in cost will be quickly recouped in energy savings that add up over the life of the system.
As an alternative to solar-powered lighting, LED is another good option thanks to an extended life cycle of up to 10 years as compared to incandescent or fluorescent lights, again quickly paying for itself.
A core tenet of any successful green signage approach is recycling – and there are many options available that benefit graphics customers. Material take-back programs from leading brands like HP make it easier than ever to successfully recycle. Scrap materials can be recycled or even repurposed in new signage. And cutting edge closed loop recycling can now even repurpose unusual materials such as post-use adhesive-backed graphic materials (think balled up, peeled off wraps) to be used as a binding agent in tile flooring materials.
As important as it is to help customers understand the advantage of choosing more sustainable signage and graphics, you will also have to work to educate them that some well-known green materials may not work in signage and graphics applications. For instance, popular green building materials like bamboo may not meet fire and building codes, or work with tactile letters and raised Braille characters to comply with accessibility guidelines.
In conclusion, while it may still be an uphill battle to convince some customers that sustainable choices are right for them, you may just be able to get through to them by showing them how much “green” they can save.