The graphic design industry creates an inordinate amount of pollution. We celebrate package designs that are designed to end up in a landfill (but often end up in the ocean instead). The servers that run our websites and apps gobble up fossil fuels at an ever-increasing rate. By putting egregious amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, our work accelerates climate change which disproportionately affects low-income and BIPOC communities. The planet is on fire, the oceans are acidifying, and things are going to get much, much worse. But smashing your keyboard isn’t the answer to the problem. At the intersection of culture and commerce, designers are in a position of tremendous power and influence. And there’s a small but growing chorus of design studios, freelancers, and organizations working to create a paradigm shift in the industry. We need to do more, we need to do better, and we need to start now.
Graphic design has a sustainability problem. We’re part of this problem, and we’re working to do better and create fundamental change in our industry.
We start at the end of a product’s life cycle and design in reverse. Our method encompasses rethinking how we approach the design of physical goods—including questioning their necessity—and thoroughly researching materials, processes, and emerging technologies in order to understand and mitigate each project’s environmental footprint.
We rigorously assess our company’s carbon footprint and actively work to reduce it. Here are a few of our policies:
We share our knowledge with our industry peers through the documentation on our website (as demonstrated in the sustainability segments of our case studies), written articles, physical products, and lectures.
For CO2 emissions that cannot be avoided, we purchase carbon offsets.
We support plant-based diets and actively avoid supporting the meat industry, including a meat-free policy for any meal purchased by the company.
We’re part of 1% For The Planet and have pledged to become a B Corp by the end of 2021.
We put together a starter kit for green graphic designers. If you know of an organization that you think should be on our shortlist, please drop us a line.
Re-Nourish — A nonprofit that provides tools (like their project calculator, which we use for every print project) and information about sustainable systems thinking. They’ve also written an excellent sustainable design primer.
Environmental Paper Network — Their most significant contribution is their Paper Calculator which, backed by extensive research, helps calculate metrics (i.e., an impact report) of eco papers. See also their project Solving Packaging.
Sustainable Packaging Coalition — A membership-based, industry-focused organization dedicated to making packaging more sustainable at scale.
A Better Source & Guacamole Airplane & Waste Not & Goods Index — Four databases of sustainable materials ranging from paper stocks to packaging substrates. For information on how to label these resources for recycling, check out How2Recycle.
Climate Designers — A network of designers committed to using their creative skills for climate action. They offer a wide array of content spanning podcasts, conferences, and online courses.
Climate Base — A database of climate-focused jobs.