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In this article, Jennifer Proia (Principal of FIRE CREATIVE, a graphic design studio based in Cambridge, MA) gives you the inside scoop on the many benefits of using soy-based inks for your next offset printing job.
When professionals share their wisdom, DT&G listens. Ladies and Gentlement, we'd like to introduce you to
Jennifer Proia...

Going green
with your
marketing materials

The many advantages of using soy inks in offset printing

by Jennifer Proia, Principal / Graphic Designer

LET'S FACE IT. Every product that human beings create has an impact on the environment. The questions is, to what degree? How long will it last, what damage is done in creating it, and what will happen when it is no longer needed?
____ Take a car, for instance. To manufacture one requires a factory, raw materials, and human labor. To power an automobile requires oil (al least for now). But what happens when that car no longer works, and it must be disposed of? What happens to all that rusted metal and antifreeze? The 'not in my backyard" ideology may have been an acceptable excuse until the 1990's, but there aren't many 'backyards" left. So it's essential that we, as Americans, start to think about the long-term consequences of our actions, and accept that we can start making everyday decisions that will help things to change for the better.
____ As a graphic designer, I design printed materials. Brochures, catalogs, direct mail ñ pieces of paper that look great and get a response. But what does it take to create that marketing piece? It must be printed. But what is the printing process, and what affect does it have on the environment? What waste products are created from it? Are they dangerous to human health? Not all designers and business owners are going to ask these questions. In fact, many won't want to know the answer. But that doesn't change reality.
____ The truth is that the commercial printing process creates enormous amounts of carcinogens, hazardous wastes and pollution. So what can be done about it? Well, we can't stop printing, right? Right (to say otherwise would put me and a lot of businesses OUT of business!) But we CAN choose printing inks that are made from natural products and processes, and that decompose without harm to the environment. Do those inks exist? Yes! They are called 'soy inks", and have been gaining in popularity for the past few decades. They are widely available and are comparably priced. And the print quality is incredible. By requesting soy-based inks over standard petroleum-based inks from your printer, you will be making a major impact on the health of the environment and simultaneously stimulating the US economy. Sound too good to be true? Read on!
____ Soy ink contains non-toxic soybean oil, the same oil which is used in cooking oils, dressings and thousands of other foods and beverages. Soybean oil is extracted from soybeans grown in the United States, so simply by requesting soy inks when you go to the printer you are supporting American agriculture. As quoted by the United Soybean Board and the National Soy Ink Information Center ( 'Using soy ink helps the nation's economy by providing a market for a domestic crop while diminishing dependence on foreign resources such as petroleum oil". In today's volatile political climate, America's over-dependence on foreign oil is not only dangerous, it makes us extremely vulnerable. It is also finite -- eventually the wells will run dry, and we will one day be forced to find sustainable alternatives for all petroleum-based products.

Why not start now?

Here is an 'at-a-glance" list of the benefits of printing with soy-based inks:

  • Soy inks create rich, vivid color that "pop" off the page
  • Soy inks helps prevent pollution (low in VOC's, or Volatile Organic Compounds)
  • Soy inks are a safe, sustainable, and renewable resource
  • Soy inks promotes paper recycling (they are more easily stripped from paper during the de-inking / recycling process than petroleum inks)
  • Soy inks are comparably priced to most petroleum-based inks
  • Soy inks are accessible: 25% of the nation's offset printers use them
  • Soy inks creates less waste on press (they remain more stable throughout the printing process so there are fewer 'rejects" at the end of the print run)

To further put your mind at ease, consider this fact: 90% of American daily newspapers, and over 33% of other American newspapers, print with soy inks. That's a staggering acceptance rate ñ especially in the cost-conscious publishing industry. And you can bet they print a lot of material over the course of a year. Imagine all of the pollution that this switch prevented.
____ It may be hard to imagine that the decisions we make when going to the printer could possibly impact large-scale issues like the environment, our economy and our political stability. But consumer demand (or lack of) is a powerful influencer, and we should never underestimate the power of one individual to affect an organization, a community and even an entire state to choose healthy, renewable sources for their printing projects.
____ So spread the good news! Request soy inks the next time you take a project to the printer, and ask your colleagues and friends to do the same.
____ For more information on soy inks, including ink manufacturers and area printers who use soy inks, call The National Soy Ink Information Center at 800-747-4275 or visit

Jennifer Proia
___ Fire Creative

About the Author:
Jennifer Proia is a graphic designer, and Principal of FIRE CREATIVE, a graphic design studio based in Cambridge, MA -- on the web at: (c) 2001 Jennifer Proia; all rights reserved.

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