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Which rocks more: A greener CD package or a digital download?

October 7th, 2009 · 5 Comments


I recently completed a very fun project, the CD and package design for The Bent Nails, a band I have been involved with off and on for more years than I care to admit. I have always rather detested the classic ‘jewel case’, so I was eager to find a solution that was more compact and environmentally-friendly, but still provided room to feature the unique character of the band. In the age of downloads, the CD format itself may well be destined for the tar-pits (see comparison below) but it’s hard to sell downloads at a gig.

BentCD-inside_disk_smWorking with Hemlock Printers, I found a cardboard sleeve that could be digitally printed on FSC-Certified 100% post-consumer-waste recycled stock and sealed with a small perforated transparent tab to avoid plastic shrink-wrapping (and the inevitable search for a machete to cut it open after five minutes of futile fingernail-fraying frustration)

Further discussions with the printer revealed that there was ample room on the press sheet for a few more items to be printed. In a fit of design efficiency I wedged in a postcard, a coaster and two business cards, all printed in full colour on both sides. I’m sure some cutter operator at Hemlock is still cursing my name.

The result is a coordinated package of material which, thanks to the photographic mastery of Clinton Hussey, captures the eclectic, rootsy blues feel of the band without toasting too many trees.

What about the carbon footprint of the whole CD and DVD process?

cds-vs-digiA recent whitepaper on the Environmental Leader website, sponsored by Microsoft and Intel, examined the carbon footprint of music delivery methods, all the way down to the final trip home in your car. They found that purchasing music digitally reduced CO2 emissions associated with delivering music to consumers by 40-80 percent, as compared to buying a CD at retail. Of course, as a study funded by two giants of the digital delivery industry, they probably measured against a Hummer driver cruising to a cross-town mall at rush hour, buying a double-plastic-wrapped anniversary edition of Devo’s Greatest Hits complete with commemorative plastic hat.

I like to think if you took the bus to the Bent Nails Gig at the Cottage Bistro (4468 Main Street, Vancouver) on October 17th and bought one of our 100% recycled-packaging  CD’s straight from the band, the carbon footprint would be almost equal.

Production Notes:

Design: Lorne Craig, Unicycle Creative
Producer: Shelley Stevens
Photography: Clinton Hussey
Printing: Hemlock Printers – Digital 4 Colour Process both sides.
Stock: 130lb Mohawk Options Cover PC White 100%PC FSC RECYCLED
Car: The Termite Taxi – Original 1947 Chrysler Town & Country, courtesy Tevie Smith

Tags: Green Creative · Printing · Production · Research · Sustainable Lifestyle · Sustainable Products · Uncategorized · Unicycle Case Studies

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jane Eaton Hamilton // Nov 16, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    Well, I for one am gobsmacked by this CD cover. I think it is the most gorgeous thing. Congrats on the design, and also on its greenity.

  • 2 admin // Nov 16, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Thanks, Jane. Clinton Hussey was the shooter. It was a fun day with the band, the car and a sky that held off raining until we just finished. Very nice work on your web site as well – – I love the song that plays with the slideshow, and the full-screen images are really rich.

  • 3 Jenny // Mar 4, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    Nice design, and I like the detailed thought you put into a lower impact package.

    May be looking at something like this soon for DVDs. Was also thinking about putting movies on a reusable memory stick. . .but then I guess you are stuck using them on a computer. . .

    Don’t forget that download cards are also great to sell at shows. (No, I don’t work for CD Baby, but I’m going to link to their download cards here:

  • 4 admin // Mar 4, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    Thank you Jenny. I like the download card format as well. Or perhaps handed out on the back of temporary tattoos. Or printed onto a condom wrapper. Or as a free iphone app with a limited time offer… so many ways to do that sort of thing!

  • 5 Tevie’s Termite Taxi – I don’t know if it’s sustainable, but it sure is durable. // Feb 7, 2011 at 2:15 am

    […] first met Tevie when he agreed to let us photograph the car for the CD package I was designing for the Bent Nails Band. Vancouver shooter extraordinaire Clinton Hussey captured the quirky essence of the group and the […]

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