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Sign Strategies Today for Sustainability Tomorrow
By: Wayne Hebert

Your church most likely already has a green initiative to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Since signs play such an important role in communicating your identity and community awareness, it just makes sense to consider signage that is also as “green” as possible. The ultimate goal in a green initiative that includes signage is to reduce material, minimize energy spent to produce and maintain the signage, and reduce labor maintenance costs. In response, the sign industry has developed composite material substrates made of recycled plastic, fiber-reinforced plastics, and alloys made of recycled aluminum.

Finding sustainable materials for use in signs is easier today than it was even 10 to 15 years ago.  These sign materials can not only improve the longevity of your investment; they can reduce your life-cycle cost, while helping the environment.

Today’s sign industry has come a long way since the days of manufacturing using wood, metal, and toxic lead-based paints. Many sign manufacturers today offer material options, including  recycled and recyclable plastics (polyvinyl chloride - PVC), HDPE (high density polyethylene), and aluminum composites. Because these materials offer a longer lifespan than signs of yesteryear, this means your signs will look fresh and bright years longer with less maintenance, less waste in landfills, and less energy consumed to make and maintain the sign.

Here are some eco-friendly signage options to consider:

HDPE signs are so tough they can withstand desert heat, arctic freeze, and graffiti. Available in a variety of color combinations, one style of HDPE signs are made from three layers of High Density Polyethylene (recycled milk bottles). The inside core of the signboard material is a different color than the outside layers, so when the text is engraved, this inner color becomes exposed, giving you the color contrast desired. Unlike other sign products that use wood, the solid core material found in HDPE signs does not warp or rot. After years of use, these signs can be recycled by industrial plastics recyclers in most any town.

Another option is building grade PVC signs that last years with no maintenance other than an occasional wash with soap and water. After years of use, these signs can also be recycled. PVC signs are another example of how choosing a recyclable signboard can prove beneficial. Not only do they last for years while looking great, they save you money because they don’t need to be replaced as often as signs made from older technology. When you are all done, they can be recycled. The same goes for PVC posts when used for mounting; they look great for years and never need painting.

There are other newer options to consider with electrical signage. New high output transformer technologies for backlit (fluorescent) style signs use far less energy than older transformers. And LED lighting can use even less. LED has the added benefit of lasting for years without any bulb replacement, so that means less cost for maintenance, less waste in landfills, and less fuel wasted in repair trucks. The life of a high-power white LED is projected to be from 35,000 to 50,000 hours, compared to 750 to 2,000 hours for an incandescent bulb, 8,000 to 10,000 hours for a compact fluorescent, and 20,000 to 30,000 hours for a linear fluorescent bulb. Conventional light bulbs waste most of their energy as heat. For example, an incandescent bulb gives off 90 percent of its energy as heat, while a compact fluorescent bulb wastes 80 percent as heat. LEDs remain cool. In addition, since they contain no glass components, they are not vulnerable to vibration or breakage like conventional bulbs. LEDs are thus better suited for use in areas like sports facilities and outdoor signage.

It makes good sense to use “green” signage materials whenever possible, if your goal is environmental responsibility Taking pride in protecting our planet's resources should be on top of everyone’s list.

Wayne Hebert is president of www.EZSignsOnline.com.

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