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Sustainability Guidelines for Creatives

RGD proposes the following tips and best practices to incorporate sustainability into your work and office. These resources are not meant to be seen as a set of rules, but are intended to help you question current practices and improve your process.

“Sustainability is not a product or application, but an ongoing professional approach that permeates every aspect of the way projects are developed, designed, and implemented.” — SEGD, Green Paper

At Work

  • Provide reusable dinnerware and cutlery to discourage single-use items.
  • Offer sustainable, locally-sourced snacks for staff and at meetings.
  • Decrease the environmental impact of your office coffee station: choose a machine that does not use pods, provide reusable spoons for stirring, avoid single-use sugar packets.
  • Clarify recycling codes with signage in common areas to encourage good recycling habits; Recycling Codes Summary and Recycling Codes Detailed.
  • Reuse packaging materials that you receive to protect goods you ship out.
  • Source eco-friendly office supplies; The Raw Office is a B Corp alternative with affordable purchasing options.
  • Support your local community; purchasing goods from locally-based suppliers creates nearly twice as much benefit to the local economy as buying from multi-national chains.
  • Add plants to your office to reduce stress, increase productivity and improve well-being.
  • Set up sensors and timers to optimize the energy performance of lighting, printers, electronics and more.
  • Work with your IT team to set the printer to automatically print double-sided to save paper.
  • Skip printing documents for review; view them digitally and provide feedback by email or digital mark-up.
  • Encourage sustainable transportation such as walking, biking, public transit and carpooling with subsidies or incentives.
  • Ensure new employees are aware of sustainability measures in place at the office; encourage your HR team to include it as part of on-boarding.
  • Start a Green Team at your office and put these tips to use.

Physical Goods

Think Before You Print

  • Use sustainable vendors when possible; B Corp is a helpful place to start—these businesses meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.
  • Avoid using glue or mixed materials like paper and plastic so that when the life cycle is over it does not become a recycling contaminate.
  • Start working with your printer at the beginning of the project to talk about paper selection—choose options that are at least FSC-certified or contain recycled content—and to determine sizes based on the paper reams in order to produce the least amount of trim waste possible.
  • Work with your printer to use organic or water-based adhesives and inks when possible; inquire about eco-conscious disposal of vapours/chemicals/scraps.
  • Consider the longevity of the piece you are designing; this can affect material selection, design and manufacturing processes, and graphic quality.
  • When designing signage, strive for modularity—it allows components to be more easily changed and broken down into their parts to simplify reuse and recycling.
  • Where possible specify screws instead of glues for assembly and mounting.
  • Create a salvage, recycling, reuse plan for materials—what will happen to your materials at the end of their life cycle.
  • Source materials, suppliers, fabricators and vendors locally to save on transportation waste.


  • Project how much “swag” you will need for upcoming events based on past quantities and avoid over-ordering.
  • Encourage the use of reusable water bottles in messaging before the event and with signage at Hydration Stations at the event.
  • Spec recyclable materials such as Falconboard instead of foam core for large poster-sized prints and EcoSpun for banners, awnings and other fabric structures.
  • Consider eco-friendly building materials for your booth such as cork flooring.
  • Tailor sign dimensions to efficiently use standard material sheet sizes.

Digital Design

Lighten the Load

  • Create websites with faster load times by reducing both bandwidth and CPU demands. Visitors will conserve energy navigating your page which ultimately contributes to better usability.
  • Export images and video at either the exact sizes necessary for the end user, or at the maximum necessary size if you are using a server-side service to deliver optimized assets for the end user’s device.
  • Use resources like ImageOptim to reduce image file sizes. Consider using a server-side image optimizer to ensure that all image assets are delivered with the minimal necessary bandwidth.
  • Prioritize the more efficient image format WebP over GIF, JPEG, and PNG.
  • Data compression is very energy intensive, so avoid compressing any asset more than once. If you are using a server side service that compresses uploaded assets (including Vimeo & YouTube), upload uncompressed files. The increase in bandwidth usage will likely require far less energy than pre-compressing the files, and this will also deliver higher quality media assets.
  • When possible, use system fonts or support variable fonts (using subsetting if applicable), instead of requiring the user to use bandwidth downloading specific fonts for your website.
  • When coding, pay attention to the client-side CPU load incurred by your CSS and Javascript. If possible, experiment with different combinations of CSS, custom Javascript, and pre-existing libraries such as JQuery, in order to discern the least resource intensive technological implementation.
  • Keep clean code, optimize scripts and remove dead code.
  • Encourage clients to remove any irrelevant or unnecessary content.
  • Avoid the use of carousel banners that increase load times, and make use of lazy loading and other just-in-time data loading technologies.
  • When choosing pre-existing libraries and themes, look for lightweight assets with a minimal footprint.
  • Minimize the amount of complexity and data required for email signatures and auto-replies.
  • Test performance and load time by using resources such as Ecograder, GTmetrix and Website Carbon.
  • Avoid using colour schemes that might require the user to turn up the brightness on their display.

Sustainable Practices for Digital Devices

  • Consider the energy sources used by your service providers, particularly for web hosts.
  • Set your screen to the minimum necessary brightness for the work you are doing. Experiment with “dark mode” and “light mode” to see if one requires less brightness on your screen. Note that “dark mode” requires less energy on CRT and OLED screens, but may require more energy on the more common LCD/LED screens.
  • Set devices and peripherals to use sleep mode whenever possible, and shut them off entirely if they are no longer in use.
  • Instead of printing files or documents, consider where you can digitize your content or request digital signatures.


  • Tab for a Cause: a Chrome extension that raises money for charities each time a new browser tab is opened.
  • a search provider that uses ad revenue from your searches to plant trees where they are needed the most.
  • Cloverly API: a check-out option that allows customers to offset the carbon footprint of their online transactions.

Related Resources and Guides