All letterpress studios will differ, but here’s the ways my printing and studio is a bit greener.
Human power. My press does not plug into the wall. The motor is my arms and legs. My Arab Printing press has a heavy fly wheel that turns and gives the print momentum for each revolution. I keep up that momentum with my leg by peddling a treadle at the bottom of the press. You can see snippet video on Instagram.
Tree-free paper. Cotton is a great, easy to grow crop and makes the best paper for letterpress. I love printing on cotton paper. I encourage all my clients to choose this option as well. When cotton paper can’t be used, I only use FSC paper.
Reusing paper off cuts. For all the pieces I trim in house, I always save the off cuts for other projects.
Recycling. For the paper that can’t be reused, it’s all recycled. I also recycle the photopolymer printing plates from bespoke projects. Any designs or plates that can be reused are stored safely so I can use them again.
Low VOC cleaners. Cleaning the press can be hard work if I’m not using a strong cleaner, so I try to go for Low VOC if I can. I also have a tub of vegetable shortening next to my press, this is so great for cleaning without the fumes, but it does take a lot longer and a LOT of elbow grease. If I clean most of the ink off with the shortening, I then use the cleaner to finish off the job and get the oils off the rollers and plate.
Rubber-based ink. Rubber based ink is the best ink for letterpress, in my opinion, but also greenest. It has a long shelf life because it doesn’t dry out quickly. Because of this property, I can also leave it on my press over night and continue printing the next day without having to use more ink or clean the press off.
There has been some debate that soy inks are better than rubber-based, but this not entirely true, especially not in letterpress printing. Aside from the fact that soy 'trends' have increased rain forest clearing, for letterpress printing it requires other additives to make it press ready. Also the base of an ink whether it is soy, rubber or oil only makes up about 20% of the ink itself, so don’t let the word “soy” fool you. Here’s what Boxcar Press have to say about soy vs rubber based here and they are a very environmentally friendly company.
Amazing stationery. It would be an act of folly to bin such beautiful, letterpress invitations as those that leave my studio and I know my clients and their friends and family know that! Hopefully, most of my invitations and stationery end up on shelves, mantles and in keepsake boxes. They are much too pretty to be tossed aside.
Kidding aside, here's to more gorgeous stationery and an even more beautiful planet!