10 tips toward creating a smarter print strategy

4 minute read

That first step toward leaving a lighter environmental footprint can be intimating. But you can stride into the future with a more sustainable print strategy thanks to Ward Griffin, Lowe-Martin President and CEO.

Here, the Chairperson of the Sustainable Mail Group offers 10 ways business and organizations like yours can create a smarter print strategy that delivers an effective, welcomed and a more sustainable way of communicating with Canadians.

1. Get ahead of demand

Just by the fact you are reading this tells me that sustainability is important to you and your business. That’s good. Even though there hasn’t been a landslide of demand for sustainable products – yet – I see it growing more and more. It’s always better to be ahead of customers (and possibility future laws and regulations) when it comes to sustainability.

2. Modernize your thinking about print

I am not pointing any fingers here, but some people think printing technology hasn’t advanced beyond what they have seen in old movies – ones showing those giant, noisy presses rattling off thousands of newspapers. Rest assured; we’ve come a long way from that. Take a look around a modern print shop and you’ll see cutting-edge technology designed to reduce time, expense and waste.

3. Put those technological advancements to work

The biggest change in mail printing has come with the improvement of high-speed inkjet and toner-based printing. Though they may look like scaled-up versions of the inkjet or laser printers we have at home, the output quality of these commercial devices can rival offset presses.

Unlike offset presses, digital presses do not use aluminum plates or consume water in the printing process. Furthermore, digital presses need few make-ready sheets before starting a print run, while offset presses may waste more than 100 sheets or more before producing the first document.

Printing shells and then overprinting for bills and statements requires warehousing, heating and cooling of the paper throughout the year. Alternatively, high-speed inkjets can print mail on demand, from white paper sheets and rolls into full colour mail in a single step. It may not be the ideal solution for all mail, but it does offer environmental advantages when used.

Find out how paper plays a key role in your business building a smarter sustainability strategy

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4. Understand the full costs of alternatives

Digital isn’t going anywhere, but it gets a bit of a free ride when it comes to sustainability, doesn’t it? Be sure to weigh the total costs of a channel when you create strategies.

5. Optimize data and targeting

Know the best way to save printing costs? Make sure you are using accurate, clean data. Starting with solid data capture and hygiene methods, then incorporating proper analysis and targeting, you can make sure your messages are landing in the hands of your most welcoming audience.
I know these aren’t exactly the most exciting topics, but they can have massive impact on reducing your waste and shrinking your ecological footprint to be more sustainable. Focus on the waste in your processes – and cut it out.

6. Pick the low-hanging fruit

There are quick wins to be had when addressing the sustainability and effectiveness of your printing efforts. Some considerations are:

Ink selection

Nearly all Canadian printers are using vegetable-based inks and water-based inkjet inks. They are also reducing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and many have sustainability practices built into their business model.


Choosing an envelope can have an impact. Many envelopes are made from Chain of Custody Certified stock and manufacturers in Canada have high standards for recycling offcuts and production overs. If highlighting the Chain of Custody certification logos on the envelope, remember to include this extra element in any artwork design.

Cut out the plastics

Plastics are a big part of our lives, but we cannot ignore the huge disposal challenges they pose. Your print partners can help you find ways to cut out plastics from your mail. As Canada Post, for example, will no longer accept Canada Post Neighbourhood Mail TM wrapped in plastic, starting in mid-2025, its experts have plenty of suggestions to help you transition.

Explore size and format

Instead of your usual letter-in-an-envelope campaign, consider embracing a postcard, self-mailer or even mini-catalogue.

Get a little creative

Get back to basics – focus on a clear message, offer, call to action and good design to ensure your message ends up in the hands of the right audience with maximum impact.

7. Partners matter

When it comes to production, businesses and organizations often defer to printers to manage all aspects of the process. Creating direct mail is a complex process. Partnering with a trusted printer provides the professional advice and insight required to run more sustainable campaigns.

When it comes to sustainability, in particular, make sure your values align with those of your print partner. As a company, our environmental strategy has been built over many years, not in the last few minutes. Seek a similar commitment.

8. Printing is part of a larger process

Printing is an important (and my personal favourite) part of the direct mail marketing process but resist the urge to look at it in a vacuum. See the process as a complete system of data, design, delivery and disposal. Look for areas of improvement in each area – they add up.

9. Continue to improve

Print is not a stagnant industry – it is constantly innovating to meet the challenges of the times. Over the last few decades, we switched inks, recycled solvents, removed chemicals, invented new technologies, unturned processes, and despite all that change, we continue to evolve and improve. This will be an even more sustainable industry over the next 10 years. Important industries don’t stand still – and print has been an important industry for a long time.

10. Ask questions and seek help

A lot of people want to do the right thing, but maybe don’t know what steps to take. The solution is simple: Ask questions and seek expert advice. Talk to colleagues in the industry. Find case studies. Bring your printer into the conversation early. They will have plenty of suggestions, including ideas around paper weight, coating, timing, etc. Engage with the Canada Post team and our partner network. Nobody can possibly know everything as this is an already deep and constantly evolving area.

Ward Griffin is the President and CEO of Lowe-Martin. Since assuming that role, Ward has led Lowe-Martin on a path toward ever-greater environmental sustainability. He views new equipment purchases, product development, and sales strategies through the lens of sustainability. Ward is an active spokesman for the printing industry’s environmentally responsible approach to providing an essential service to its customers.

Keep sustainability top of mind

Align your brand values with a sustainable future. We can provide you with the insights and expertise needed to create a more sustainable print strategy.

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