EcoFont: Can your printing choices save the planet?

Dear Reader,

I sat down yesterday to write a post encouraging you to switch to EcoFont, an environment-friendly font. But I just couldn’t do it. 

The idea is pretty slick: EcoFont claims to reduce ink and toner use by almost 30%. It works by printing each letter with tiny holes in it — imagine a regular font, but with a Swiss Cheese effect. Makes sense: use less ink, your toner or ink cartridges last longer, everyone is happy.

Sure, ink and toner are bad for the environment. Most printer ink is made with petroleum-derived oils, heavy metals (lead, cadmium, etc.), and has high VOC (volatile organic compound) content. This is why it’s not a good idea to eat printer ink or toner — but it also means that producing ink, and disposing of plastic inky cartridges, isn’t good for the planet. And recycling the cartridges can produce release toxics into communities — click here for a report from Guiyu, China in 2002.

Usually, at The Green Life, we like to identify an environmental “bad thing” and suggest ways you can help. But it’s hard to conclude that every little bit counts here. This is a pretty clear case where it’s really not about you and me, and our personal printing. We are not responsible for most printing or ink use in the world, nor are there widely available eco-friendly options when we buy ink. And the stuff is so dang expensive that there are already plenty of good reasons for each of us to limit our printing. In that sense, give EcoFont a try if you’re into it.

But to do something about the environmental damage, switching your computer to EcoFont is not the solution. It’s too small, and it distracts from the real issue. Instead, we need ink and printing companies to clean up their act. Since the 2002 report mentioned above, public awareness of these issues has increased, and the quality of recycling programs have improved. If huge newspapers can reduce ink use by switching to EcoFont, then by all means, I hope they do. It is a smart innovation.

You shouldn’t feel like an eco-villain if you continue using your stock fonts. Far from it, really. This isn’t a case where the burden to change things is on the everyday consumer. However, we might earn eco-hero status if we find a way to push for cleaner, less polluting manufacturing and disposal of the whole industry. And we’ll let you know once we’ve figured that out!

Yours in going green,

Jeff

Photo credit: Jerry Cooke and innovate360, via flickr

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