Know Your Green Terms: Feeling Confused About Eco-Friendly Printing?

Making environmentally-friendly choices when it comes to your printed marketing can often be confusing. There are so many different terms used, all claiming similar things. So how do you know who to trust? How do you sift through all the buzzwords? How can you be sure the print service you’re using is really making a difference? 

Let’s break it down. 

Getting to Grips with Sustainability Terms


The Cambridge Dictionary defines sustainability as the ‘quality of being able to continue over a period of time.’ Now, this is pretty general, so it also offers a second definition:

The quality of causing little or no damage to the environment and is therefore able to continue for a long time.

When businesses claim to be sustainable, their services, products and working conditions are designed in such a way as to make the least impact on the environment. This ensures that their work can continue into the future, making the least impact so that natural resources aren’t depleted. In some cases, this even means having a positive impact on the environment.

Can Print Be Sustainable?

Print can definitely be sustainable. With a focus on eco-friendly inks, paper crafted from sustainable sources and energy sourced from renewables, print services are able to carry on their work without harming our shared natural environment. 


Eco-friendly has a slightly different meaning. The term ‘eco-friendly’ refers to a practice that is not harmful to the environment. However, as a term it’s not as defined as ‘sustainable’. While sustainability is about not compromising the safety of future generations, eco-friendly is simply about not having an immediate impact. 

How Can Print Be Eco-Friendly?

Some print companies have a set focus on sustainability that they employ in all the work they do. Some will use low-energy printing presses, some will use carbon balanced printing, others will have eco-friendly inks - some will use a mixture of all of them. 


Ethical printing is a real thing. Many printers will source their paper from cheap and unsustainable sources, such as illegal logging companies in old growth forests. This is evidently a highly-unethical option, meaning that indigenous communities and countless species are displaced from their homelands.

What is Ethical Printing?

The best printing services use FSC® Certified paper. This means the paper is sourced from responsibly managed forests, which meet high standards regarding the environment, society and the economy. 

The use of timber is tracked throughout the supply chain, all the way from the forest to the final user. We’re proud to say we use FSC-Certified paper as standard, ensuring our products are sustainably sourced.

Does Ethical Mean Fair Trade?

Fair Trade is a term in itself, referring to a product that is certified as being Fair Trade. This certification only comes from a governing body, such as Fair Trade Certified or Fair Trade Federation. 

The Differences Between Zero, Balanced and Neutral

Zero Carbon

This is a case where no carbon is emitted from the outset, so no carbon needs to be captured or offset.

For example, an off-grid household or commercial building running entirely on solar and using zero fossil fuels can label its energy ‘zero carbon'.

Carbon Balancing

Put simply, carbon balancing is where the carbon impact of a product or service has been estimated. The equivalent amount of carbon dioxide is either prevented from being released or is absorbed into the atmosphere.

To learn more about carbon balanced print, click here.

Carbon Neutral

Carbon neutrality, or having a net zero carbon footprint, refers to achieving net zero carbon emissions by balancing a measured amount of carbon released with an equivalent amount sequestered or offset.

How Are They Different?

Carbon balancing is delivered by the World Land Trust (WLT) who protect the world’s most biologically important and threatened habitats. Their Carbon Balanced Programme offsets emissions through the purchase and preservation of high conservation value forests, whereas Carbon Neutral is usually achieved through buying carbon credits. 

Carbon Neutral is a registered trademark of Natural Capital Partners. Carbon Balanced Paper and Print is a registered trademark of World Land Trust. Through Carbon Balancing, you’re supporting the World Land Trust directly - saving real acres in real places.

Who is the World Land Trust? 

The World Land Trust is an international conservation charity that protects the world’s most biologically significant and threatened habitats - acre by acre.

WLT is instrumental in the purchase and protection of more than 700,000 acres of habitat in Africa, Asia, Central and South America and the UK to create reserves and give permanent protection to habitats and wildlife. 

Their work is actively supported by their passionate and dedicated patrons such as Sir David Attenborough, Steve Backshall, David Gower and Chris Packham. 


The World Land Trust supports projects across the globe. For example, they’re active in Vietnam, one of the most biologically diverse countries on Earth and an area of international conservation importance. 

Vietnam is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world and this growth is putting immense pressure on its exceptional biodiversity.  

Currently, WLT is collaborating with the Viet Nature Conservation Centre. This is being done to protect the Khe Nuoc Trong Forest which is an area that covers almost 50,000 acres. In doing this, around 50,000 tonnes of CO2 can be absorbed every year.

Khe Nuoc Trong is home to 41 threatened species listed on the IUCN Red List, eight of which are endangered and six are critically endangered. 

Quick Acre Comparison: An acre is a unit of area containing 4,840 square yards. It’s approximately the same size as one football pitch or 16 tennis courts. 

So that’s 800,000 tennis courts worth of Vietnamese forest, to help put it in perspective.


The Benefits of Carbon Balanced Print

Carbon balancing your print will reduce your carbon impact and enhance your brand. 

Taking positive action with Carbon Balanced Print is one way to help combat global warming and deliver against your corporate social responsibility. 

You’ll be issued with a unique World Land Trust Carbon Balanced Print logo that you can use on your printed material. It demonstrates and communicates your commitment to reducing your carbon impact.

You’ll also receive a certificate to advise the amount of CO2 balanced and the area of land protected as a result of your positive action. You can have a yearly or quarterly certificate or a certificate for a specific project if necessary. 

Choosing to Carbon Balance your print is one step in the right direction. Thankfully, there are now many ways you can make your print process as environmentally friendly as possible.

The Next Steps to Eco-Friendly Print 

If you’re looking to make your print marketing more sustainable, download our Sustainable Printing Checklist. It gives you great actionable advice on how you can alter your printed solutions to make them more eco-friendly and ethical. The more of the checklist you tick off, the greener your print will become.

Click the link below to download.

Sustainability Checklist


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Printing Tips

You’re probably well aware of the growing importance and demand of eco-friendly products.

Modern technology has made these kinds of items increasingly cheaper to produce and more visually appealing. They’re a great way of lowering your business’ environmental impact - but how exactly do you produce the best kind of print using these methods?

Our checklist will give you the best advice for creating an impactful sustainable print solution.