Print On Demand Sustainable Business Practices

Wed Mar 22 20236 minute read
Image of author Marequitta D.
Marequitta D. - Author
Marequitta has over 8 years of prior writing experience plus 6 years of customer service experience. She's successfully worked with many companies of all sizes.

Is it possible for print on demand to be sustainable? If you consider the state of the planet and the most pressing problem of climate change, this becomes a legitimate question. As more and more consumers become aware of this inconvenient truth, they’re also voicing their concerns to companies through their websites and social media business pages. People are crying out for print on demand businesses to reshape their business practices to focus on sustainability while serving their customers.

Going back to the question, the answer would be a resounding “Yes.” Print on demand sustainable business practices can be incorporated into all businesses operating in this industry. From the materials they’re using to the production process, sustainability can be infused into these areas seamlessly, which can significantly reduce the company’s carbon footprint.

In this article, we will learn how print on demand companies can transform their business into one of the sustainable and eco-friendly entities that balances all 3 crucial aspects of any business.

  1. The demand for profitability by company stakeholders
  2. Compliance with the COP 21 Paris Agreement
  3. Maintaining quality products and services for the benefit of consumers

Reducing Material Waste

The print on demand business model is very economical and also very profitable at the same time. If you’re wondering just how profitable, you need not look any further than the Amazon Fulfilment Program. Suddenly indie authors and publishing companies can sell their books without risking tens and possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars on printing books that will be placed in inventory but may not sell.

But book publishing is just one of the dozens of examples of print on demand sustainable business solutions.

The beauty of print on demand is that it leaves no room for creating waste because the traditional print business requires an inventory, inventory that will go to waste if unsold. However, the print on demand model will only require products to be printed if the customer makes an order, therefore there’s almost zero waste created in the process.

trash can with arrow down to show waste reduction

Water is Used Efficiently

Most of the traditional printing methods require the use of water – lots of it in some cases, which not only increases the demand for tap water but also may create water pollution. On the other hand, the technologies behind ethical print on demand use 70% less water, which makes it eco-friendly and sustainable for the foreseeable future.

Less Storage Space Needed

Storage space and maintaining a warehouse for your products will cost you money for renting the storage space, electricity, and other utilities. This will be deducted from your profits and you may realize that 3% - 10% of your profits are lost to storage space and utilities. That doesn’t happen with a print on demand business. That’s because orders are being fulfilled (products printed) per consumer demand, which essentially takes away the need for storage space.

Using Lesser Transportation to Ship Goods

Whatever product the customer orders will be sent to the customer directly. By comparison, traditional businesses will probably take the manufacturer to hire several transportation systems in order to deliver the products ordered by the retailers and then be shipped again by another courier to customers. However, in the print on demand/dropshipping business model, it will only take a single courier to accomplish the same task, even though the customer makes an order through the online vendor or retailer.

less transportation to ship goods

Product Quality Ensures Lesser Waste

Another benefit of print on demand and dropshipping is that e-commerce stores will want to sell the best quality products from the manufacturers to their customers. High quality products, say, t-shirts for instance, are fashionable, feel good to wear, and last longer than other low quality products. This ensures that customers will less likely throw them away even if they’ll buy new products. This reduces the energy, manpower, and logistics used in creating and shipping such products; and it also reduces waste.

Using Eco Inks

In the past inks used for printing were made from harmful chemicals, but with the increased awareness of climate change, more and more companies have not only shifted to the print on demand business model but also came up with the means to create eco-friendly inks. Eco inks are made from natural materials and do not cause harm to the environment when disposed of. Creating them also uses less energy whenever waste is produced during manufacturing and will also not cause harm to the environment.

eco ink vector

Using Sustainable Packaging

The age of plastic packaging is fading away and more and more e-commerce stores are using paper and other environmentally friendly materials to pack their products when they ship them to customers. It not only benefits our soil but also prevents plastics from ending up in the oceans which causes microplastics, which are extremely harmful to human and animal health.

Sustainable Materials

Many countries and even the UN have created sustainable development plans, which include a designated area where fast-growing trees are being planted and harvested for industrial use. This is done in order to protect rainforests and avoid cutting down trees that serve an important part of an ecosystem, that if cut down may endanger various species to extinction. Another example is using recyclable materials like paper, plastic, and tin cans. Some have even suggested the use of industrial hemp or marijuana trees, as they have been proven to be very useful and eco-friendly.

stack of paper and a pop bottle

Sustainable Practices

Print on demand sustainable business practices may include:

  1. Less Power Usage
    Because the printer will only be used when there’s an order from the customer, the printing machine is used less often compared to typical printing services. Low energy consumption means less fuel or coal is burned in power plants, which reduces CO2 emissions that damage our atmosphere.
  2. Good Chemical Disposal
    To avoid harming the environment with artificial chemicals in the ink cartridges of your printer, find ways to dispose of them properly. If you live in the United States, then you can contact your local council to get instructions on how to do it. Otherwise, you can use eco-friendly ink to not have to worry about these things in the first place.
  3. Clean Motor Fuel
    For couriers, they can transition from gas-powered vehicles to electric vehicles for transporting goods. Boats, on the other hand, have yet to harness the power of electric engines, so in the meantime, they will have to settle for gasoline and diesel fuel until the technology becomes available.
  4. Good for Business
    While helping our planet is obviously a good cause, print on demand doesn’t have to be entirely altruistic. For instance, about 78% of consumers are more aware of climate change and how the things they purchase can affect the planet’s ecology, so they always prefer products that are environmentally friendly. Yes, you can still make a profit from your print on demand business even as you do your part in saving the planet.


Thanks to the advent of ecommerce and dropshipping, print on demand sustainable business practices have made a huge impact on the environment and more and more companies' carbon footprint has been reduced. Scientists even estimate that if the major economies of the world adopt this business model, we may still be able to reverse the catastrophic failure of climate change within our lifetime.

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