Julie Holcomb Printers | Letterpress

REDUCE, REUSE, and RECYCLE—this is our environmental policy: to use as little as possible, reuse as much as possible, and recycle the rest. We make every effort to conserve water, energy, and materials. For our own safety and for the benefit of the environment, we always use least toxic materials and processes, and dispose of all waste safely and responsibly.

Our invitation paper is tree-free, made from cotton linters, the residue of fine fuzz that remains on the seeds after cotton is ginned for textile manufacture. Ginning removes the long fibers, which are used to spin thread that is woven into fabric, and leaves the short fibers of the linters, which have other uses in addition to papermaking. Our cotton paper is made from an agricultural byproduct; it does not increase the amount of land under cultivation for cotton.

Our envelopes are are made from recycled paper (30% postconsumer waste) that is manufactured using nonpolluting, wind-generated electricity, certified by Green-e®, the nation's leading independent certification and verification program for renewable energy products. It is processed without the use of elemental chlorine.


We use very little ink, no more than five or ten pounds a year (less than a gallon in volume). In fact, a typical wedding invitation order uses only about one teaspoon to one tablespoon of ink. We don't use soy-based inks, since they are too thin and transparent to work well for us. Soy-based inks were designed for offset printing, which does consume large amounts of ink, especially in the production of newspapers, books, and magazines. Substituting soy-based inks for those uses can conserve a significant amount of petroleum. The benefits may be arguable, though, since soy-based inks are generally only 20% to 30% soy oil, and soy is unlikely to be on any environmentalist's list of favorite crops. Although it is a renewable source of oil, it is cultivated in a pesticide- and herbicide-intensive manner, and many areas of the world are currently being deforested to prepare for its cultivation. Soy-based inks are no less toxic than petroleum-based inks, and must be disposed of as toxic waste in the same way. Paper is equally recyclable when printed with either kind of ink.


For more than two decades, we have been using a solvent which contains very low levels of VOCs—Volatile Organic Compounds. Organic compounds are necessary to dissolve the ink, and the volatile ones remove the ink/solvent residue from the surface of the press by carrying it into the air. Because of our solvent's low VOC content, it doesn't remove the residue very well, and so we have to wash it off with water. Fortunately, this year California Air Quality Standards are finally going to require that all California printers use solvents which meet the VOC standard of the one we've been using all along.

Plates and Platemaking

Many, if not most, letterpress printers now use plastic-backed photopolymer plates, which are affixed to a base with double sided tape, and neither the plates nor the adhesive tape can be recycled. We use only steel-backed plates with magnetic bases, and take all used plate material and trimmings to a metal recycler. Our platemaking process produces only nontoxic and biodegradable waste water. And we return film negatives that we've used to make our plates to the service bureau that produces them for us, so they can be processed to recover the silver present in the emulsion.