As you know, signage can make a significant impact for your brand in the marketplace. There are countless ways signage can spread your message, create brand awareness, and keep your brand top-of-mind with your customers. An effort this extensive doesn’t come without impact on the environment.
So, how can you approach rebranded signage in a way that’s not only good for the brand, but is also good (or at least better) for the environment? The good news is that like products and packaging, signage represents one of the biggest areas of opportunity to adopt sustainable business practices.
When it comes to sustainable signage vendors: talk, shop
Sustainability in signage comes down to partnership. Choosing the right vendors, contractors and third parties can make a world of difference when it comes to achieving, say, that coveted LEED certification. And it certainly pays to look around to find a partner who is both passionate about and capable of helping you achieve your sustainability goals.
Consider your options for local procurement — having signs manufactured locally reduces the environmental footprint and can be more time-efficient to boot. In the past, we’ve seen clients partner with local suppliers who not only operated within a smaller radius, but also shipped their goods exclusively in recyclable cardboard containers: a brilliant move well received by all involved.
Don’t forget that stewardship of the community is also an important aspect of sustainable business practices. Reputable partners comply with labor laws and required licensures, operate within health and safety guidelines, have inclusive policies and ensure their employees are paid a living wage.
Not all vendors practice sustainability. If you’re curious to see what your potential vendors can do for you, be sure to include questions about environmental and corporate responsibility in your RFP. Chat with your facilities team and bring them into the conversation early. Make a checklist of your must-haves and your nice-to-haves. Putting your sustainability needs upfront will help immediately highlight which vendors are the best fit for your project, allowing you to get to the rest of your signage rebrand quickly.
Recycle, reduce, reuse, rebrand
We’ve all heard the three Rs of environmental conservation, but what does it mean to recycle in the context of a signage program? Well, in some cases, vendors partner with suppliers that allow them to trade in your acrylic and polystyrene shavings and cut-offs for a discount on their next purchase; this, in turn, can help keep your vendor costs lower.
Your vendors may also be able to find more efficient components with which to install your new signs, making installation safer and quicker. Efficient components are also manufactured through lean practices, which save on time, energy and rework. ISO certifications (particularly 9001 for quality, 14001 for environmental standards and 15001 for occupational safety) add an additional layer of quality by ensuring manufacturers’ products and services meet statutory and regulatory requirements.
If you’ve made the decision to de-brand areas with a surfeit of signage, look for vendors that are willing to take your old sign components to be stripped down and recycled to minimize landfill waste. This is may not always be possible — materials such as aluminum and acrylic can be recycled and reused, but fiberglass, for example, cannot. Be sure to ask your vendor for their recycling policies for signage materials.
You can also retrofit an existing illuminated sign if it’s still in good shape; this can be done to almost any type of illuminated sign. Simply replace the older halogen or fluorescent lighting system with energy-efficient LEDs, which have a wide variety of applications. You’ll break even on the cost in five (or fewer) years.
Regardless of whether your signs are new or retrofitted, regular maintenance is important to make sure your signs look tip-top. Consider green cleaning and maintenance of your signage to reduce the release of harsh chemicals into the environment. Maintaining your signs extends their lifespan and ensures you can go longer without manufacturing and installing a replacement.
Your branding method for interior signage and branded environments can also play a role in how sustainable your rebrand is — using eco-paper and low-VOC paint are both great ways of creating eye-catching, environmentally-friendly graphics. Using eco-solvent inks instead of petroleum-based inks can go a long way to softening your ecological impact while still maintaining vivid high-quality prints.
Lastly, consider the type of signage you are installing — digital signage allows for messaging to be cycled out more frequently without the need to hire an installer or disrupt your day-to-day activities.
The benefits of being green with your signage
Going green can be costly, but there are benefits, too. Tax benefits, to be exact — in certain areas in the U.S., a LEED-certified building can qualify for a tax break of up to 2%, provided the proper criteria are met, with partial credits available. Be sure to check what incentives your federal and state governments are offering for green businesses.
If you are in a geography where it is feasible, consider supplementing your energy needs with renewable sources. Solar panels can come with a significant price tag up front, but with their judicious use we’ve seen clients eliminate the cost to power up their company. Solar panel technology is also evolving at a meteoric rate, and is becoming more cost- and energy-efficient every year.
Eco-friendly, recyclable alternatives can also replace traditional sign materials. For example, wood components can be replaced with composite-based substances such as compressed fiberboard, and slate can be replaced with metal. These alternate substrates can be finished in a variety of ways to mimic the look of the authentic material. These substitutions do affect the cost and longevity of the sign — in the previous example, composite materials will outlast wood several times over, albeit at a higher initial cost. Metal will be cheaper, easier to acquire and lighter to install than slate but may have a significantly shorter lifetime — so consider your priorities when exploring these alternate materials.
The bottom line
Signage is an expensive and highly visible branded asset, and the upfront price tag of implementing sustainable signage practices can sometimes be quite high. However, there are always ways to think about reducing your footprint, whether it’s through an extensive sustainability-focused vendor RFP to find like-minded partners or making the decision to switch to lower-energy lighting. Sustainability is also a joint effort; partnering with vendors who themselves work with sustainable manufacturers ensure accountability throughout your entire supply chain.
The key takeaway? Thinking about the right questions to ask will help you get the most comprehensive idea of how you and your partners can make your activities as sustainable as possible… without compromising your brand priorities.