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Getting Started with Sustainable Graphics & Signage

Every year in April we celebrate Earth Day, and it serves as a great reminder that the earth needs a little extra love. At The Vomela Companies, we are constantly working towards our ESG goals and continuing on our journey to sustainability. We are working hard to ensure we have more eco-friendly materials and processes to help our clients meet their own goals. But “green” materials are only the tip of the iceberg! Here are three tips you can utilize for your next event or printing project.


3 Tips to be more sustainable with your graphics: 

Tip 1: Design for the end in mind 

Being more sustainable with your graphics and signage starts with design. The first step is to determine your goals for the project. Then it’s time to get creative when it comes to materials, print layouts, and construction. There are several questions to ask yourself before jumping into a project:

  • Will the graphics be short-term or long-term? This will determine the optimal material to use for both longevity and disposability. For short-term projects, it’s important to take into account how much waste is created that can’t be used again or recycled. If your event or booth is one-time use – one way to make it more sustainable is to make sure all materials are 100% recyclable. Just throw it in the blue bin when it’s done!
  • Can you design to minimize wasted material? Our design team can help you utilize as much material as possible with as little waste as possible, especially when it comes to large scale projects and packouts. This is optimal for both economical purposes and the environment.
  • How will the printed materials be transported? A 3D display that can be flattened or disassembled into two dimensions and packed into a small footprint will not only cost less to ship but will reduce GHG emissions and lower your carbon footprint.
  • How do you want to dispose of it when the event or promotion is completed? This is probably the first thing people think of with sustainability; do you want to recycle your items? Or is there another use for it? There are multiple options that we can help you determine what’s right for you. One program Vomela has is called NextCycle, where we repurpose fabric banners into pencil cases. 


Tip 2: Swap your vinyl, banner, and foam board for sustainable alternatives 

Many of the traditional materials used today in event and retail signage, POP displays, wall and floor graphics, are not friendly to the environment. If you have sustainability goals, you know that there are great alternatives on the market. But will they perform the same? That’s where Vomela comes in. We’ve tested over 40 alternative materials to replace traditional signage and know what will work best in any situation. Here are some alternative options:

  • Vinyl is an incredibly useful tool – but also one that doesn’t break down or recycle well and creates toxic materials in the production process. To combat the waste produced by using vinyl, there have been large steps towards improvement through the development of PVC-free materials with a better end of life than the landfill. There are recyclable materials which are great for short term projects and allow you to dispose of after use, like various types of Covered Board.
  • Retail Signage comes in many flavors, including 100% recyclable. There are high quality materials made from paper that can be tossed directly in the recycle bin when a promotion is over. These are perfect for POP displays and window signs, which can generate a large amount of waste due to their temporary nature. But it doesn’t just stop there! More permanent signage, like hanging signs, display danglers, and directional signage, have solutions that can be recycled when stores reorganize.
  • Wall Graphics can be created using materials produced with post-consumer waste (PCW). These are made with paper collected during the recycling process instead of using newly harvested trees. This is an incredible way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and water waste generated during the paper production process, as well as reducing the number of trees used in your signage. These products can be latex saturated, which allows for better abrasion resistance for your outdoor signage and can display bold, contrasting colors. You don’t have to sacrifice longevity or vibrancy to use a sustainable product!
  • Events are another scenario when signage needs to be on point but could potentially create a lot of waste due to its temporary use. Using recyclable materials for those one-time use trade show booths, banners, directional signage, and back-lit displays is a great way to keep products out of the landfill. Or you can invest in a high-quality booth setup that can be easily stored and shipped for years to come.
  • Small items can add up too, like packaging. Items wrapped in plastic or cardboard covered in plastic can have the same damaging effects. Look for materials using PCW or that are recyclable. This is vital when thinking about the large number of individual products a single company can mail, handout, or sell in-store and online.


Tip 3: Install a reusable sign system 

Another way to incorporate sustainability is installing a reusable signage system in your retail stores. Consider areas that will constantly need signage but the messaging changes: cooler doors, freezer bunkers, seasonal sections, shelf talkers, etc. These are areas perfect for using magnetic signage [link to blog], that can be switched out quickly and be reused year after year. This can also help reduce the cost of installation, because they can be easily installed by your employees.

Pricing is another area that reusable signage can be used. Check out this [link] case study example from Lowes. We created a new custom signage solution to make it easier for them to update the signage whenever pricing changed. A nationwide rollout of this program led to a high reduction in waste across all stores.



Think outside the recyclable box

When thinking of sustainable materials, most people jump directly to recyclable, but it goes further than that. No one product is 100% sustainable but looking at your goals can show you what products will work best for you. Here are some attributes to consider:

  • Recycled materials – there are options for both pre- and post-consumer use to reduce the raw materials gathered.
  • Recyclable – you can either throw the signs in the recycling bin or send back to the manufacturer to be used in other materials.
  • Renewable – easily grown and harvested sources that regenerate within ten years, like bamboo, wool, cork, linoleum, and cotton.
  • Salvaged – materials that have been repurposed from their original use.
  • Sustainably harvested materials – work with companies that are doing the work to reduce economic issues, like deforestation, when harvesting materials.
  • Free from VOC (volatile organic compounds) – items produced without harmful chemicals like urea, formaldehyde, and other toxins.
  • Biodegradable – allows materials to breakdown over time without human intervention.
  • Grown without the use of herbicides or pesticides – reduces the loss of wildlife habitat and increases social equity.
  • Locally sourced – materials produced, harvested, extracted, manufactured close to the source to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in transportation.


If you’re looking to reduce your company’s carbon footprint or be a more responsible retailer, turn to the experts at Vomela to navigate the many options. We can brainstorm what makes sense for your business and goals and come up with creative solutions for your graphic needs.

Contact us today to find out how to reach your sustainable print goals!

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