Skip to content
sgreen ink degrader, supreme wash, and aqua wash

How to Do Eco-Friendly Screen Printing

Let’s face it. Screen printing is dirty, messy, and toxic at times. From the chemicals, garment manufacturers, chemical waste, to water pollution, screen printing has a long road ahead to becoming eco-friendly. Implementing greener practices seems challenging and expensive, but that’s not the case. 

Our choices matter. Let’s look at ways screen printers can implement environmentally friendly products and processes in their shops. 

sgreen chemical boxes stacked on top of each other to form a pyramid

ECO-FRIENDLY CHEMICALS

You can implement more eco-friendly chemicals in your shop. Sgreen® has a whole range of screen printing chemicals like Emulsion Stripper, Ink Degrader, Haze Remover, Degreaser, and Ink Wipes. What makes Sgreen’s chemistry eco-friendly is that it’s non-toxic, biodegradable, and soy-based.

Look at what you have in your shop. Are you using a screen opener aerosol? Aerosols are harmful to you and the environment. Instead of using a screen opener, use Sgreen® Supreme Wash. It works just as effectively, if not better. The greener chemistry will no longer put you or the environment in harm’s way.

Ditch spray adhesives. Spraying that on your platens all day means you’re inhaling the adhesive. Instead, use a water-based adhesive like Sgreen® Water-Based Adhesive. Ooze the glue on the platen and use a cleanup card to spread the glue across the platen. The adhesive works fantastically, and you’re no longer inhaling it.

LEARN MORE ABOUT USING WATER-BASED ADHESIVE

Using environmentally friendly chemicals is a simple switch to make in your shop that’ll make a profound difference on you and your environment over time. 

person scooped out white green galaxy ink

CHOOSING INK

When looking at the sources and energy used to manufacture inks, water-based ink comes out ahead of plastisol ink. What really makes water-based ink more eco-friendly than plastisol is the fact that water-based ink on a shirt is recyclable. That isn’t the case with plastisol ink. If your shop has the necessary equipment to print water-based inks, it's not a bad idea to use it more.

Not all shops have the budget and capacity to print water-based inks. You can control who you purchase your inks from. Take Green Galaxy and FN-INK™ for example. Both inks are manufactured by Achitex Minerva. This company has gone the extra mile of being sustainable by replanted trees to match the acreage of their facility, have an internal water treatment plant, and have reduced their water and electricity consumption. Purchasing products from eco-conscious companies supports and reinforces the continuation of sustainability. 

Inks can affect your shop’s energy consumption as well. Inks cure at different temperatures. If you use more low-cure inks like FN-INK™, you’d use less electricity to cure garments and therefore, the power plants are burning less fossil fuels. 

Being conscious about the inks you’re using may seem small, but any step in the right direction is a step that leads us to a better future.

a pile of boxes

ORDER IN BULK

The transportation industry wreaks havoc on the environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, transportation accounts for 28% of US greenhouse gas emissions, making it the largest contributor. The more people order items to be shipped, the more greenhouse gas emissions are emitted. 

A great way to reduce the harmful effects of transportation is to order in bulk. When it’s time to order more supplies for your shop, try to order a month’s worth of supplies. Same goes for ordering garments. The less frequently you order, the less amount of trucks, trains, airplanes will be traveling.

REDUCING WASTE

Did you know that film can be recycled? When printing films, all you need to do is include the recycling symbol with the number one in the middle of it and underneath it write PETE (see picture below).

person pointing to recycling symbol on film

LEARN MORE ABOUT RECYCLING FILMS

Simply adding this symbol means that the film can be recycled when finished. How easy and cool is that?!

Misprints happen. It’s what you do with those misprints that matters. Instead of tossing them, you have tons of options to reuse them. Many shops use misprints as test shirts or as rags. 

pile of dog beds on a cart

Photo by Night Owls Print.

Night Owls Print used their excess shirts to make dog beds and donated them to local shelters. Other shops have donated shirts to homeless shelters or to organizations like Goodwill or Salvation Army. Check in with your local recycling facilities. Many will take clothing and repurpose it like using clothes as insulation. Printers have many options where misprints can go. Throwing shirts in the trash is off the table.

Have you thought about the stuff that goes down the drain when you are washing and reclaiming screens? It’s nasty stuff. The byproducts don't only harm the environment, it harms the plumbing. When you have the funds, consider investing in the Sgreen® Filtration System. The filtration system has six stages that filter out waste, catching large chunks of emulsion to tiny ink particles. The system does wonders for shops and the environment. If you do not have the funds for a filtration system, try placing a screen mesh over the drain, it’ll catch the larger particles and you’ll be able to dispose of them properly.

man pointing to light in shop

SUSTAINABLE EFFORTS IN YOUR SHOP

A small but significant change you can make in your shop is switching out all of the fluorescent/incandescent bulbs to LED bulbs. LEDs are 80% more efficient compared to traditional bulbs, according to Solar Electric Power Company. Only 5% of the energy LEDs use are wasted on heat, the rest produces light. Plus, LEDs use less energy, which means less greenhouse gases are emitted. 

Listen up, here’s a financial perk for you that also benefits the environment. Many utility companies have created energy rebate programs. If businesses use energy efficient equipment to lower their need for power, they benefit financially by either receiving lower monthly payments or a cash rebate. Check in with your utility company to see if they offer a similar program and if you can participate. 

Going back to reducing waste… What do you do with old screens and ink containers? Printers have come up with a ton of creative ways to reuse screens — burning images onto them and use them as decoration, build a screen wall, construct a desk, etc. If you have no use for the screens in your shop, cut out the mesh to toss and recycle the frame. Ink containers could become a pot for a plant, storage, supply holder, etc. The possibilities are endless. Use your creativity to reuse old supplies to make your shop even cooler. 

three folded gray shirts

Photo by Allmade.

PICKING GARMENTS

Choosing garments is the same situation and selecting inks. Look at who you’re purchasing the shirt from and what they’re doing to make a difference for the environment. 

According to BBC, the fashion industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions, and 20% wastewater. The fashion industry uses more energy than both aviation and shipping combined! Selecting the garments you’re printing is probably the most important decision you can make. 

An example of an eco-conscious blank apparel line is Allmade. Each Allmade shirt is made up of six recycled plastic bottles. The brand uses less water to make the shirts while reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

LEARN MORE ABOUT ALLMADE

Brands that go above and beyond the norm of being environmentally conscious may have higher prices on their apparel. As a printer, that higher price can be passed onto the consumer. Are you worried that customers will not want to pay more for the eco-friendly garment? According to Forbes, 88% of consumers want businesses to help them make a difference on their environmental footprint. Your customers want to make ethical purchases. Market what you have to offer. Show customers how their purchase will positively impact the environment. People want to help. Show them how they can, and they’ll want to do it. 

people planting trees

Photo by Eden Reforestation Projects.

PARTNERING WITH ORGANIZATIONS

Lastly, shops can partner with nonprofit organizations who are helping to combat climate change. Symmetree recently paired up with Eden Reforestation Projects. For every product sold, part of the profit goes to the nonprofit where they plant eight trees in areas around the globe that need it the most. The organization also employs impoverished villagers and pays them a fair living wage. 

In three months, the shop donated funds to plant 6,556 trees. Clearly the campaign was a huge hit for their customers. 

LEARN MORE ABOUT SYMMETREE AND THEIR INITIATIVES 

In the end, printers just need to take a hard look at what products they’re using and the processes utilized within their shop to see where they can make a difference. Do what is manageable for your shop and your budget. Your decisions have an impact. Make the best, sustainable choices possible and you’ll be helping out the Earth in the long run.

SOURCES

Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/solitairetownsend/2018/11/21/consumers-want-you-to-help-them-make-a-difference/#1cd5067c6954

EPA: https://www.epa.gov/transportation-air-pollution-and-climate-change/carbon-pollution-transportation

Allmade: https://allmade.com/pages/impact

BBC: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200310-sustainable-fashion-how-to-buy-clothes-good-for-the-climate

Minerva: https://www.achitexminerva.com/en/about/sustainability

SEPCO: https://www.sepco-solarlighting.com/blog/bid/145611/the-advantages-of-led-lights-for-the-environment

Previous article Print Hustlers Conference with Ryan Moor
Next article How to Achieve Soft-Hand Prints Using Plastisol Ink