As a photographer constantly engaged with environmental issues and people wellness, I question myself very often about how can I use my photography to support such themes. While I believe I am on the right path approaching the right topics and the right collaborations, I suppose it’s important to also think about other aspects. Apart from the behavior I keep as a photographer (respect the places I go to make my shoots, never leave garbage behind, dispose batteries in the proper containers, never force the nature around for a good shoot etc..), I realize that printing my pictures has a huge negative impact on pollution and I have grown more and more consciousness in this area during this last year.
I admit I work with a wonderful worldwide online printing company since many years and I am extremely happy about their service, the speed they deliver, the quality of the papers they offer, the photo paper sample box they sell, so that I can decide together with my clients which type of paper would they love to get their pictures printed on forever. I love this moment, and often I indulge with my clients for hours on the many choices of paper we have: while zipping a wonderful cup of tea, we imagine the picture on a wall and we picture it when the sun or light turns to it, seeing the effect that this would have, depending on the final paper quality chosen. Unfortunately though, despite I am sure this company is also moving fast like many other towards “green printing”, at the moment they don’t offer re-cycled printing paper, ecological inks etc..
While for many years this was not a problem, in 2019 I have decided to change: I have started the year looking for a good ecological printing company in EUROPE.. I found quite some in the US, but that would cost me just too much in terms of shipping costs, import duties etc.. I have then decided to post on several photography Facebook Groups and on Instagram trying to find and collect information around this topic: “Does anyone know an eco-friendly photography printing company which uses eco inks, re-cycled paper etc..?”. Funny enough I really didn’t have much success in terms of answers received in any of these social media, while instead I had hundreds of “likes” and many people commenting phrases such as “I comment to this tread as I also really would like to know about this topic”. Nothing: despite the leverage of dedicated photography groups made of qualified and informed professionals, by end of the year I still had no good information in my hands. 1 comment I received months ago was positive, something I didn’t think about, however not really the solution I was looking for. This comment was referring to and ECO-TANK PRINTER which apparently instead of having 3 different plastic baskets which have to be disposed and bought again each time, has only 1 big tank where the ink is refilled directly into the printer. So lower use of plastic, less waste and apparently also very low consumption so you'll use at the end less ink for your printing. Very good to know, however I don’t print myself now, therefore this solution is not good for me at this moment.
So before the end of this year, I have decided to dive again into this topic and I have spent around 1 week surfing the internet and searching for solutions. So here is everything you need to know and everything I could find about existing eco-friendly photography printing services!
CROMALUXE has its European headquarter in Belgium. Looking at their websites they seem to be incline to the photographers business, however they only offer few materials to choose from, mainly wood and metal, and produce interior or exterior panels and photos on such materials. While in some areas of their website it is clear that they are environmentally conscious, the more I was exploring their site, the more this message was not coming back.. therefore I am not so sure, however I want to keep an eye at this company in the future..
JACKPRINTS website has a very professional look and a lot of information is provided about the ink they use, their re-cycled paper, their 100% wind-based energy, their production process and their re-cycled packaging materials. They are a US based organization with main office in Cliveland, Ohio. Another company to keep an eye on in the future, because as per now they offer several products and services but not really for professional photographers aiming at exhibiting their photos in galleries and musea. JACKPRINTS has the perfect solution for eco printing flyers, posters, business cards, banners etc., so I can only cross my fingers and hope that these guys will expand their offer in the future and ship outside US as well (they seem to have the size for that).
4OVER4 seems also to offer a hope for the future., As per now they are a business oriented eco printing organization, therefore offering the same services as JACKPRINTS, just a wider range, with business cards, invitations, packaging, posters, banners, marketing material etc.. so unfortunately for photographers, they are too "office" oriented..
ASHLEYHOUSE PRINTING COMPANY is UK based but mainly business oriented more than professional photographers oriented, therefore they also don't have a wide variety of photography papers to choose from. As per above, and even more as they are based in Europe, I will keep this company under my radar screen.
ECOVISUAL LAB definitely seem to be the most promising company in this area, one to definitely keep an eye on. They are based in Massachusetts and print Archival, museum-quality prints, 100% cotton paper manufactured with post-industrial reclaimed cotton fibers, where the cotton fibers (liners) used are from cottonseed oil manufacturing (food grade). ECOVISUAL LAB use 100% VOC-free inks, chlorine-free, acid-free, no optical-brighteners (OBs) and can print images up to 1m x 3m (!). I decided to get in touch with owner Rick Colson for some questions and he answered me in no time, providing a lot of additional information. So I came to find out that they charge a flat price per square foot (like 18.00 US$ today), and have 2 different kinds of paper quality: Premium Rag Matte and Premium Semi Gloss finished paper. They print Archival, museum-quality prints, 100% cotton paper manufactured with post-industrial reclaimed cotton fibers, where the cotton fibers (liners) used are from cottonseed oil manufacturing (food grade). ECOVISUAL LAB use 100% VOC-free inks, chlorine-free, acid-free, no optical-brighteners (OBs) and they can print images up to 1m x 3m (!). They also use re-cycled shipping materials due to which the packaging might not look beautiful but it stays of high quality. Rick acknowledged the distance element and the impact this would have on pollution for me and he pointed me, very professionally, to 2 eco-printing organisations in Europe, German Hahnemuhle and French Canson, Funny enough, I could not find them at all via my Google research, therefore I wonder about the SEO set up of these organisations or the Google searching engine quality.
Hahnemuhle offers eco-friendly paper, however no printing services. So the trick is to find where they supply their paper to. With some research for the Canson Infinity paper mentioned below, I manage to find that in The Netherlands CAMERANU uses both Hahnemulhe and Canson Infitiny eco-friendly photography paper.
Canson Infinity is the fine art photography paper supplier of Canson and they provide really a large variety of eco-friendly fine art papers. On their website you can locate the store in your country which uses Canson paper. For instance, in The Netherlands there are 2 stores: CAMERANU in Apeldoorn and VDP DIGITAL IMAGING in Hoogeveen. While VDP DIGITAL IMAGING seems to offer Canson paper but no photo printing services, CAMERANU provides a full online photography printing service like the company I am using now, therefore, I am happy to announce that, by the end of this blog I have find my new supplier! On CAMERANU website you can upload your photos and chose the right Canson fine art paper, knowing that Canson utilises only eco-friendly inks and printing processes. They will ship it directly into your home, therefore now I only have to test this process and the final quality.
I have Googled "eco printing company for photographers" or "eco-friendly photography printing" for days but nothing more than what I have mentioned above has came up on the internet. At the end of my researches for now, I can say the following:
1) At this moment, there seems to be VERY FEW ECO FRIENDLY PRINTING COMPANY specialized in producing eco-friendly professional photography paper both in US and Europe.
2) PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY ECO PRINTING SERVICES is definitely a niche market still, if you find one, treasure it for a while!
3) I AM HAPPY I have managed to find my new supplier, I just need to see how to embed this new element in my current project (BLENDING IN NATURE, link at the bottom of this blog), as at this point I have already ordered quite some pictures for my upcoming exhibition from my previous online photography service supplier.
4) I was surprised, but now I understand why at the DDW (Dutch Design Week) in Eindhoven, which is the innovation hearth of Europe, I was asking about eco printing for photographers but few could understand me and the ones who did, told me to be sorry but unaware of this service..
At this point, I don't give up and have decided to review this topic again somewhere at the end of next year, as I am sure that the conversion towards eco-friendly materials and low waste processes is going very fast across the whole world and something new will pop out soon in Europe as well. Keep following and I promise to provide new information on this topic next year, as protecting nature is a theme I care strongly about!
If you want to know how I try to support the environment and people's wellness with my photography, check out my other blogs here:
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