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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've been able to find answers here to just about any question I could dream up but I'm still in the dark about this one. Maybe I'm not searching right or maybe I'm not catching on..

I have seen lots of discussion about moving toward greener solutions in many areas - organic and sustainable fibers, soy-based and water-based inks and solvents, etc. But I haven't seen much discussion as it applies to heat-applied graphics. Is there any work in the area of a greener vinyl replacement? How about screen-printed transfers made with water-based inks? Does such a thing exist?

I am aware of the Spectra Eco Film, which is PVC free, but the website doesn't say any more than that about it and that makes me wonder - what is it made from? Is it safe for the landfill? Is it really a 'green' solution?

Last week I got a plastic cup from the coffee house that was made from corn and 100% compostable! There must be something equally as benign for the heat press?
 

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There is not any "green" heat press product that I am aware of.

Realistically there is no such thing as a truly green imprinting method. Water-based screen printing ink is still made of chemicals, and you need to use a lot of water to do any kind of screen printing. Vinyl, even if not made with PVC, is still plastic. Sublimation doesn't use water but can only be applied to polyester garments. Heat (and therefore a fair bit of electricity) are required to cure prints with most methods. Heat pressing transfers and curing plastisol screen printing ink also release fumes into the air.

If you really and truly wanted to have the greenest possible solution, an organic shirt that was hand-printed with plant-based dyes would be the best thing I could think of. But this method is very labour intensive and not practical for most businesses, as well as having more expensive costs for materials. Also plant-based dyes do not always have "staying" power like regular dyes and may fade or bleed.

But there are ways to be green even if the method itself isn't perfect. Waste water can be properly disposed of. Electricity can be conserved by batching production efficiently. In general, the waste of resources can be minimized by careful planning.

You also have to consider if your customers are willing to bear the extra cost of using organic blanks and such, and whether or not there is a true demand for these products. Your shirts can be as natural as a pile of dirt but it won't matter unless someone is going to pay for it. :)
 

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There is not any "green" heat press product that I am aware of.

Realistically there is no such thing as a truly green imprinting method. Water-based screen printing ink is still made of chemicals, and you need to use a lot of water to do any kind of screen printing. Vinyl, even if not made with PVC, is still plastic. Sublimation doesn't use water but can only be applied to polyester garments. Heat (and therefore a fair bit of electricity) are required to cure prints with most methods. Heat pressing transfers and curing plastisol screen printing ink also release fumes into the air.

If you really and truly wanted to have the greenest possible solution, an organic shirt that was hand-printed with plant-based dyes would be the best thing I could think of. But this method is very labour intensive and not practical for most businesses, as well as having more expensive costs for materials. Also plant-based dyes do not always have "staying" power like regular dyes and may fade or bleed.

But there are ways to be green even if the method itself isn't perfect. Waste water can be properly disposed of. Electricity can be conserved by batching production efficiently. In general, the waste of resources can be minimized by careful planning.

You also have to consider if your customers are willing to bear the extra cost of using organic blanks and such, and whether or not there is a true demand for these products. Your shirts can be as natural as a pile of dirt but it won't matter unless someone is going to pay for it. :)


Thanks Jasonda. You are confirming my suspicions.

I think you're right. If I was able to produce a truly green product, probably no one would buy it. As you suggest, a lot could be done through responsible work practices though.

I think someday we'll have a truly compostable decorated garment. In the mean time maybe I'll look into finger-painting with mud and drying in the sun. Though I'd have to move away from Minnesota if I wanted to dry anything in the sun. Maybe freeze-dried.. Hhmmm...
 

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Here is some information on Neenah Transfer Paper



Work Place Exposures and Environmental Choices for Heat Transfer

There has been significant interest in workplace exposures from lead and formaldehyde in recent weeks. Some of this is because of the news of imported toys that contain lead and the remainder is probably a growing awareness in the marketplace. There is an overall interest in greener, safer and more environmentally favorable products.

Lead: With the recent publicity about lead in toys and household goods, there is renewed interest in workplace and ambient exposures to this heavy metal. Lead exposure is one of the most serious health concerns in the United States today. Lead levels considered safe 20 years ago are now recognized to cause "subclinical poisoning" that affects red blood cells, kidneys, bones, reproductive organs, and the nervous system. All effects may occur without overt physical symptoms. Recent research has shown that lead is toxic; of particular concern are lead exposures in children and pregnant women. Blood lead levels as low as 10-15 micrograms/100 c.c. (ug/dl), both before and after birth, are related to delayed mental development, low IQ, hearing deficits, speech and language handicaps, and poor attention span in children. Neenah Paper's heat transfer papers do not contain detectable levels of lead or other heavy metals.

Formaldehyde: Formaldehyde has both cancer causing and non-cancer causing health effects. It has been concluded that there is sufficient evidence that formaldehyde causes nasopharyngeal cancer in humans. Formaldehyde has been linked to non-cancer effects of the eyes, nose and respiratory systems. The elimination of it from the home and workplace is being driven by many environmental organizations and governments. Formaldehyde is used as a cross linker in the manufacture of some heat transfer products. It has a distinct odor and can be detected easily. These products have recently been sold by another manufacturer and there are risks associated with selling products that cause this exposure. Neenah Paper does no use any formaldehyde in the production of their heat transfer papers. They are safe for home and commercial use.

In recent months, many Fortune 500 companies have declared their commitment to look for green suppliers, particularly those who have less impact on the environment and production of greenhouse gases. Neenah Paper's heat transfer products are made on a base paper that is Green-e certified and made carbon neutral per the Chicago Climate Exchange. These products can be targeted to customers looking for the best environmental alternative.

Green-e: Administered by the nonprofit Center for Resource Solutions (CRS), The Green-e Renewable Electricity Certification Program is the nation's leading independent certification and verification program for renewable energy products. CRS established the Green-e Program in 1997 to help individuals and businesses make responsible choices about the power they purchase. Visit Welcome to Green-e! for more information. The base papers for all Neenah Paper heat transfer products are made with certified renewable energy.

CRS: The Center for Resource Solutions (CRS) is a national nonprofit working to build a robust renewable energy market by increasing demand and supply of renewable resources. CRS administers the Green-e Renewable Electricity Certification Program, which certifies renewable power products sold by marketers, utilities and energy service providers in wholesale and retail markets. Visit Center for Resource Solutions for more information.

Transportation of Hazardous Materials: There are significant requirements and penalties for shipping hazardous materials without the required reporting and record retention. Heat transfer papers made by Neenah Paper do not require any DOT reporting or training
 
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