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Doing the Right Thing

(April 2014) posted on Mon Apr 21, 2014

How to balance your company’s needs with government regulations and customer demand for products that are environmentally friendly and cost effective.


By Rick Mandel

Intelligent design
One answer might be to look upstream at how the prints you produce are engineered. Point-of-purchase designers, event producers and others who specify the jobs we produce have a great influence on the sustainability of the final product. Among other things, they choose the materials that will be used and can determine how the sign will be disposed of after the advertising campaign.
Recently, the Point-of-Purchase Advertising Institute (POPAI), a global association covering marketing at retail, has introduced a sustainability standard that takes a proactive approach to responsible display design. The fee-based accreditation program, currently offered in the UK, focuses on seven areas:
1. Corporate
2. Premises
3. Design
4. Plant, materials and processes
5. Supply-chain management
6. Logistics
7. End of life

POPAI’s program looks at the environmental impact of retail displays throughout their life cycle, from choice of vendors and raw materials to transportation and disposal. It stresses the importance of establishing company-wide policies that promote sustainable activities as a condition of accreditation. It also recognizes that the design process is where the majority of the decisions determining the environmental impact of a display are made, affecting such considerations as the materials that are specified, whether environmentally certified suppliers will be used, installation methods, disposal considerations, and more.

One goal of POPAI’s standard is to promote best practices and identify strategies that have been applied by designers to improve the environmental impact of their displays. Some specific examples they cite:

Design for disassembly/ deconstruction: By creating displays that can be easily dismantled, designers can make it easier for the components to be separated for recycling. If the display is made of one large part, disposal and recycling become arduous.

Weight of the display: Designers are striving to make displays as light as possible while taking into account other constraints such as durability and structural strength. Less weight often translates into less material content in the display, less energy used in manufacturing, and reduced fuel when transporting the units, all of which improve their environmental performance. A nice example is using a fabric and wire frame to create a retail sign instead of a rigid material. The graphic itself is not necessarily more environmentally friendly, but it will be much easier to ship.


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