Myself and many of my clients are conscious of the environmental impact of fine art printing. Through my research, I have not yet found any acceptable environmentally-conscious solutions to mitigate either the impact of the production of electronic equipment such as printers or the production of the inks used in color printing.
For black & white printing, I am a fan of piezography continuous ink systems that replace the manufacturer-supplied disposable cartridges with a more permanent cartridge that is fed by a larger bottle, as the quality of these inks is superb and the waste of countless disposable ink cartridges is averted. I personally am not comfortable with such systems for color work for a variety of reasons.
Paper, however, is one area where one can make an environmentally-friendly choice without sacrificing quality of the end result. Hahnemühle now produces two papers that I find to provide very high print quality while also providing desirable characteristics in terms of their environmental impact.
Their environmental bona fides come from their component materials. Hahnemühle Fine Art Bamboo Paper is made from 90% bamboo (a highly renewable resource) and 10% recycled cotton rag. Hahnemühle Fine Art Sugar Cane Paper is made of 75% of sugar cane waste byproduct (called bagasse) and 25% recycled cotton from Hahnemühle’s own mills. Hahnemühle also uses recycled materials for packaging, renewable energy to produce the paper, and donates a portion of sales to environmental projects. You can find many details of their environmental efforts at their oddly named but highly informative Green Rooster site.
My favorite of the two papers is Hahnemühle Fine Art Bamboo. Available in all standard sizes in both sheet and roll, Bamboo provides a reasonably heavy weight (290 gsm) matte paper with a lovely lightly textured surface and decided warmtone due to its lack of optical brighteners (OBAs). It is similar in print quality in many ways to Hahnemühle’s ubiquitous Photo Rag but significantly warmer in tone and with a smoother surface and a bit more dynamic range. I recommend this paper for warmer images, particularly natural scenes, as well as warm-toned black & white work for which it is particularly lovely.
Hahnemühle Fine Art Sugar Cane is another excellent matte paper that is environmentally sensible. A slightly heavier paper than Bamboo that is also available in all standard sizes and formats, Sugar Cane’s biggest distinction is its more heavily textured surface. The surface is a bit hard to describe but it makes me think of a subtle directional weave. I personally prefer a smoother surface such as that of the Bamboo paper, but such a preference is a personal one and others may prefer Sugar Cane for certain applications. I plan on using it with some clients for specific projects where its unique textured surface can be a distinct advantage. Sugar Cane free from OBA’s but not as warm as Bamboo (but is still on the warm side of neutral).