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Green Printing

Developed by the VU Sustainability and Environmental Management Office (SEMO) in collaboration with VU Creative Services and VU Printing Services.

Download Green Printing Guidance as a PDF

Why is green printing important?

The production of paper as well as the printing of publications both use large amounts of natural resources, such as wood, water, and energy, as well as potentially hazardous materials. Each ton of office paper consumes 12,000 gallons of water, 24 trees, 98 tons of various materials, and 11,000 kWh to produce, creating one ton of solid waste and 15,000 gallons of waste water in the process. The printing process itself also involves numerous inks, solvents, acids, lacquers, dyes, driers, varnishes, shellacs, and many other solutions, that can be hazardous to both humans and the environment.

Fortunately, many green printing options are now available to the Vanderbilt community through the VU Printing Services and Creative Services. These include post consumer waste recycled-content papers, papers certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), vegetable-based inks, papers processed without chlorine, and products made with renewable energy.

Printing Services

Printing Services debuted a new operating mission and strategic plan in 2015 with an expanded emphasis on environmental stewardship. In collaboration with SEMO, Printing Services achieved Forest Stewardship Certification as an environmentally-sustainable printer and is implementing the new SmartPrint initiative.

The Vanderbilt CampusPrint program is a fleet copier/printer program with environmental benefits. Individual printers were largely replaced with pay-per-use, energy efficient machines stocked with FSC certified paper.

In 2012, Printing Services earned Forest Stewardship Council chain-of-custody certification and now offers FSC certified printed products.

Green Printing Terms

Recycled Content Papers

Paper can be made from virgin wood, pre-consumer waste meaning waste from paper mills and manufacturing plants, or post-consumer waste meaning paper that has been collected during recycling programs or paper waste from printing processes, etc. The more post-consumer waste (PCW) recycled content there is in a sheet of paper, the less fresh pulp from trees, energy, and water was used to manufacture paper saving natural resources. Using paper with PCW content supports the paper recycling industry, lowering the price consumers pay for recycled content paper while improving the payments to Vanderbilt for the paper recycled from our campus.

Consider the environmental impacts associated with producing 10 tons of the following types of uncoated paper (e.g., copy paper):


The production of equivalent quantities of other types of papers, such as coated freesheet (e.g., high-end catalog) or coated groundwood (e.g., catalog or magazine), has similar environmental savings when using increasing amounts of recycled content.

Sustainable Paper

Look for these sustainable paper options when purchasing:

  • The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)certification system provides internationally-recognized standards in responsible forestry. In order to obtain certification, a product’s entire supply chain must meet the FSC-certification process which serves the best interests of people, wildlife, and the environment.
  • Processed Chlorine Freepaper is preferable to paper bleached with chlorine because of chlorine’s harmful effects on the environment, particularly aquatic environments and water systems. Currently, chlorine and its derivatives are the most common bleaching agents used by the paper industry.
  • Paper Made with Renewable Energyis made using energy generated from resources which are replenished naturally, such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, biomass and geothermal heat.

Printed with Environmentally-Friendly Inks, which include vegetable-based inks such as soy or flax ink, and reduce the need to use petroleum based inks that are harmful to individuals and the environment and are difficult to recycle.