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Printing for the planet

Bringing sustainability to the publishing industry

There is something extraordinarily special about cosying up with your son or daughter and reading them a book that fosters their fascination with the world. The sensory magic that comes from flipping a page with anxious excitement, waiting to find out what comes next, while admiring the beautiful illustrations, is not an experience that can be easily replaced (and certainly one that isn’t quite the same on an iPad). But should this experience come at a cost to the environment? 

Here at Ethicool, we don’t think it should. We won’t let it. 

As an entirely eco-conscious publisher, we’ve extensively researched the printing process, including interviewing and visiting our suppliers to ensure they adhere to the highest standards of sustainability. It’s for this reason that we've specifically decided to use soy-based ink, and we’d like to explain more about our choice here. 

What ink is typically used in publishing? 

Traditionally (and often, still), the publishing industry uses petroleum-based ink, which, in a nutshell, is pretty terrible for the environment. 

Firstly, as the name suggests, petroleum-based inks are made from crude oil, the very stuff we know is responsible for emissions that are causing climate change. We certainly don’t need books that are contributing to the problem we’re trying so hard to solve! 

If contributing to climate change wasn’t enough, petroleum-based inks are also toxic to humans. When these inks dry, they emit VOCs (volatile organic compounds), including compounds such as toluene, benzene and xylene. Frighteningly, these compounds can be very harmful to people and the planet. Benzene, for example, is a carcinogen (known to cause cancer). 

But fortunately, there’s a solution! Enter soy-based ink: the renewable, environmentally-friendly based ink that all Ethicool books are printed with. Here’s a bit more about it, and why we think it’s such a great ink for environmentally-conscious publishers. 

What is soy-based ink? 

For Ethicool, soy-based ink was an easy choice. As the name suggests, soy-based ink is quite literally made from soybeans, not petrol. Beyond that, the refinery process for soy-based ink is much more sustainable. During production, the initial soy oil that’s produced is mixed with other environmentally-friendly compounds, such as natural resins and waxes. 

But that isn’t the only great thing about soy-based ink. Here are five other reasons we think it should be the preferred choice - and indeed, the only choice - for publishers going forward: 

Soy ink is renewable 

It’s no secret that here at Ethicool, we’re on a mission to make the planet a better place for future generations. To do that, we as a company - and we as individuals - need to do whatever we can to limit our use of fossil fuels. But we’ll need alternatives. Enter: soy oil! Soy can be grown and replenished indefinitely and doesn’t contribute to climate change. 

Soy oil can be sustainably farmed 

Industrial agriculture, and the chemicals and processes we use throughout it, are big contributors to climate change. But in good news, farming soybeans doesn’t require heavy industrial agriculture. Soybeans are easy to grow, and require relatively small amounts of irrigation and fertilizers to thrive. 

The life cycle of soy ink is much shorter 

We’d like to think that you’ll keep your Ethicool kids’ books for ever and ever, but in reality, you may need to try and recycle them one day. And if you do, we don’t want them harming the planet. 

This is yet another reason we’ve chosen soy inks: they’re biodegradable. As soy inks are made with soy oil, which is a natural product, if you do ever dispose of your books, the ink will degrade an incredible four times faster than petroleum-based inks. 

Keep your books inside the house (which, of course you will anyway), and they’ll still remain vivid and brightly coloured for decades to come, though, so there is also no concerns with durability.

Soy ink is more effective for printing - so you need less of it 

If you print a book with soy ink, and then you print one with petroleum ink you’ll discover something pretty quickly - your petroleum ink will soon run out. For any given printing job, you need far less soy ink than you would petroleum ink to create the same, great quality and effect. 

Less ink is great news for the environment. As with any other commodity, ink requires energy, such as electricity and water, to be manufactured. When you need less of it, you need less of these resources. Less ink also means less rubbish, which is always a good thing. 

Soy ink can be recycled more easily 

Here at Ethicool, we love recycling! It helps us create a greener, more sustainable planet. 

The ease with which you can recycle paper embedded with soy-based inks is another reason we chose it. When you recycle paper, you essentially need to remove (or wash out) the ink, so the paper can be prepared for the next time it will be used. Soy ink is much easier to remove than petroleum-based ink, which has some important benefits. Firstly, as soy-based ink is easier to remove, the resulting recycled paper is higher quality. Secondly, the ease with which the ink can be removed helps lower the cost of the recycling process, meaning that it’s easier to recycle. 

Like we said, we hope you’ll love your Ethicool books for ever and ever. But if for any reason you need to move them on, know that they’ll easily be able to be recycled for future generations, saving our trees and saving our planet.


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    sheekly on
  • Thrilled to find you and hear of your wonderful efforts. I am an author and editor, and believe your focus is the most important one for future Planet People. Good job!

    Ruth Garland on
  • I had switched my kids toys from plastic to more sustainable and less toxic options, such as wood and wool but I had not thought about books! I am so appalled that such an important thing like reading can be having harmful effects too. Is there any baby and kids books printed with soy inks? Where can I find them?

    Gemma on

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