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How to Design With an Eco-Friendly Initiative In Mind

Sustainable design utilizes an environmentally friendly approach that values natural resources as part of the design plans. In architecture, sustainable design produces buildings meant to exist harmoniously with nature.

In web and graphic design, sustainable design continues to emerge as well. Web and graphic design are solidifying their roles as key visual communicators online, working in conjunction with content and marketing to project a culture and vibe for a brand. Sites that wish to exude an eco-friendly commitment are wise to incorporate designs with sustainability in mind, with considerations including the design itself, materials, paper and ink.

Designing with an eco-friendly initiative in mind involves a thought-out process from start to finish, with sustainable steps in the delivery, production and ideation. Several aspects that should play a large role in this process, for an eco-friendly initiative, include:

Conserve Paper and Printing Ink Usage

Paper is often an afterthought in the age of digital media, where emails, digital ads and eBooks have seemingly taken over the paper medium. Still, printed materials remain an integral aspect of the graphic design process. Print advertising remains a strong source of local demographic targeting and general engagement, while many graphic design projects involve outlining on a paper medium.

Consequently, eco-friendly initiatives need to closely consider paper usage, since recycled paper can help consumption of forest resources. In that same vein, graphic designers should think about their printing ink consumption, especially since some printing inks contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which contribute to climate change and global warming. Mixing with vehicle exhaust, VOCs can also form photochemical smog.

The age of digital media has cut down on printing ink usage, but ink remains needed in many design projects. When ink is a part of the process, be sure to use it wisely to help reduce waste.

Avoid Resource-Intensive Features

Paperless digital design isn’t without its share of environmental concerns, too. Digital work requires electricity, which contributes to climate change. In response, companies like Apple use sustainable practices to both help the environment and improve their users’ experiences. Specifically, Apple halted support of Adobe Flash on its mobile devices, simultaneously reducing electricity consumption while providing users with more battery life.

Essentially, businesses should make an effort to avoid resource-intensive design platforms like Flash, instead opting for a more minimalistic presence that echoes eco-friendly practices while also making the user experience more seamless.

Make Your Workspace Eco-Friendly

Your workspace, where most of the creative magic happens, should align with the project’s eco-friendly intentions. In addition to previous tips like conserving paper and ink usage, by using VOC-free inks and Chlorine-free paper, it’s recommended that you use recyclable materials whenever possible within your workstation.

To effectively display to customers your eco-friendly commitment, also provide them with eco-friendly options. Even if the option is a bit costlier, consumers will enjoy knowing there’s an option to help the environment as the designer crafts their project. Overall, graphic designs adapting sustainable guidelines will help the environment while also effectively showcasing to clients that they’re serious and genuine about their sustainable efforts.

There is an abundance of businesses that feign a passion for eco-friendly initiatives, so these extra efforts can go a long way.

Use Eco-Friendly Packaging

If you’re delivering any physical medium, strive for an eco-friendly package. Utilize a Life Cycle Assessment tool to inquire about a package’s environmental impact, helping to evaluate each aspect of the packaging. Reusable materials are ideal. Even though the packaging is responsible for less than 10 percent of a product’s carbon footprint, switching to sustainable packaging is often an easy process that can improve your brand’s eco-friendly reputation while helping the environment.

Eco-Friendly Web Designs

Now that your design process is eco-friendly, the ideation process for web design with eco-friendliness in mind may come more naturally. There are several great examples online of websites that effectively tout an eco-friendly feel in their design alone.


One common way to exude an eco-friendly appeal is with heavy use of a vibrant green color. For example, Lipton is passionate about their sustainable efforts and their website matches that passion. Their homepage and “Sustainability” page are both heavy on the green, with the latter page showcasing a vibrant nature photo while visually explaining their partnership with the independent organization Rainforest Alliance.

The combination of environmentally friendly copy and design makes for a genuine feeling regarding Lipton’s eco-friendly commitments.


Meanwhile, brown also works great in eco-friendly design. After all, brown is the color of soil, from which much of organic life springs. For example, the preview page for garden design app Flowersnap features a pretty purple flower and a brown, wooden backdrop that resembles a forest’s trees. The design, in general, evokes nature, which aligns well with the app’s garden-centric purpose. Certainly appealing to an eco-friendly audience, Flowersnap does an eco-friendly design right, even if it’s minimalistic.


Blue skies as a backdrop also work effectively for eco-friendly design initiatives. The sight of a clear, blue sky evokes the beauty of nature, which is precisely why eco-friendly initiatives like The Conservation Fund utilize blue skies as their header backdrop very nicely. The skies combine with an overhead shot of a forest and a message that says “Nature needs you!” Again, a nature-friendly design combines with eco-friendly sentiments for a very effective call-to-action with eco-friendly initiatives in mind.

Eco-friendly design practices combine with web designs that align with eco-friendly sentiments to result in a genuine user experience, where those stumbling across the website will not doubt their authenticity.