Beautiful Signs for a Better Planet

OUR MISSION: SUSTAINABLE SIGNS

SUSTAINABLE SIGNAGE

Green Dot Sign® specializes in sustainable signage, focusing on eco-friendly ADA and wayfinding signs for LEED and Living Building Challenge projects and commercial buildings. We are based in Saint Paul, Minnesota and partner with brands, AECO project teams and sign companies across the U.S. 

 

fsc wood circle image
biodegrable
less plastic


Via patent-pending, low-waste manufacturing processes we 3D print raised ADA compliant signage content directly to responsibly sourced wood and other natural materials. Wood is durable, renewable, biodegradable and more aesthetically pleasing than plastic. By not including machined plastics, every Green Dot Sign® keeps 250 grams of plastic from being tossed into a landfill.  From material ingredient transparency disclosures to an end-of-life recycling program, Green Dot Signs® are better for the earth and future generations. 

If you can dream it, we can make it! Design custom interior and metal exterior ADA signs or order standard eco-friendly signs for fast delivery.

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Metal Exterior ADA Signs

Custom Interior Wood ADA Signs

THIRD PARTY CERTIFIED SUSTAINABLE SIGNS

Reflecting our commitment to world class sustainable signage, Green Dot Sign® works with top building product sustainability organizations to verify that our eco-friendly signs are sustainable and can contribute to certified USGBC LEED and ILFI Living Building Challenge building projects.

FSC WOOD

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) 100% certified wood is used for all quick ship ADA office signs and most custom wood signage. FSC promotes environmentally sound, socially beneficial and economically prosperous forest management. Our FSC Certificate is C019842.

RED LIST APPROVED DECLARE LABEL

Aspen Base ADA Signage is covered by a Red List Approved Declare label.  Declare is a transparency platform managed by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) requiring constituent disclosure to 100 PPM. Our Declare ID is GDS-0001.

GREEN BUILDING CONTRIBUTIONS

USGBC Member

 

As permanently installed products, sustainable signage can contribute to USGBC LEED® building certification credits. Under LEED v4 and v4.1 our LEED signage fits into the Materials and Resources category and Building Product Disclosure and Optimization Sourcing of Raw Materials and Material Ingredients LEED credits.

Green Dot Sign Aspen Base ADA Signage can contribute to ILFI Living Building Challenge projects under the Materials Petal.

 

MINDFUL MATERIALS LIBRARY

Mindful Materials LogoFind our sustainable signage listings in eco-friendly building product libraries, including Mindful Materials.

SUSTAINABLE SIGNS APPROACH

Eco-friendly signs - Red List Approved Declare Label Sign for LEED and LBC BuildingsMost of our sustainable signs are made of a wood base, non-toxic 3D and flat printing and a heavy metal free, bio-based furniture oil blend.

The additive material used for braille dots and other ADA required tactile characters is directly fused into sign wood fibers.  This means there is no adhesive to fail or letters to pick off, and the “ink” constituents are all Declare label Red List Approved.

Recyclable aluminum, brass and bronze are the sign base materials for our exterior ADA Signs.

Our patent pending green signs manufacturing technique creates very little material waste. Wood and sawdust waste from sign blank production is biodegradable and 3D printing of raised ADA compliant signage content creates almost no waste.

Green Dot Signs are shipped in cardboard boxes closed with paper based tape using water activated adhesive.  Inside boxes you’ll find paper void-fills and cornstarch packing peanuts securing your sustainable signs. 

You may occasionally notice gently re-used boxes and void fills. We re-use packing materials that are still in good condition.

Your sustainable signs are prepared for installation via one of two methods. For textured walls or for extreme durability, select biodegradable wood pegs and eco-friendly caulking compound to mount signs. Alternatively, ADA and office signs can be mounted securely with double sided foam tape and silicone.

Review our 6 Easy ADA Sign Installation Tips to ensure braille sign height and location meet federal ADA signage requirements.

Durable wood signs last a long time, however, almost every facility is eventually remodeled.  At the end of lifecycle, all sustainable signs are eligible for an Extended Producer Responsibility Recycling Program.

Upon receipt, raised braille, lettering and pictograms are planed off the sign base. The wood sign base is then shredded then recycled as animal bedding, and afterwards applied as fertilizer at a local farm.

NO MORE PLASTIC SIGNS

In recent decades, the majority of signs have been made from harmful plastics.  This has led to growing demand for eco-friendly signage materials in 2022.  

Commercial sign plastics are made by the polymerization of fossil fuels. As petroleum or natural gas are introduced to other chemicals at high temperatures, their single molecules link up to form long molecule chains called polymers. This process directly consumes fossil fuels, as well as other inputs. Stabilizers, colors, and other chemicals can be added to plastics, making them more durable or flexible but also more challenging to recycle. 

Unlike materials used in green signs, only some plastics can be commercially recycled, and most recyclable plastics cannot be recycled more than five times. PET (polyethylene terephthalate) and HDPE (high-density polyethylene) can be recycled, whereas it is difficult or impossible to recycle PVC (polyvinyl chloride), LDPE (low-density polyethylene), PP (polypropylene), PS (polystyrene), composite plastics or composite plastic and metal sheet. When plastics are incinerated, or melted as part of recycling, greenhouse gasses and other toxic chemicals are released into the atmosphere. 

As existing buildings are renovated or torn down, plastic and other non-eco-friendly signs will be tossed into a landfill for future generations to deal with. Fossil fuel derived plastics contribute to climate change and can be harmful to human health. To learn more about the impact of traditional plastic signage and advantages of sustainable signs download our free white paper, which was researched and written by a third-party environmental scientist.

 


This ceiling hung wayfinding sign is made with FSC baltic birch plywood and our standard metal hardware. 

TWELVE ECO-FRIENDLY SIGNAGE MATERIALS

Sustainable signs strengthen your brand and provides design, cost and environmental advantages.  In addition to wood, there are multiple other eco-friendly signage materials to consider.

Below is information about twelve common green signs materials and better signage alternatives.

Acrylic is a polymethyl methacrylate-based thermoplastic sheet material available in clear, white, as well as various colors. It is lightweight, can be clear to opaque, and shatter-resistant. Acrylic signage is used in various applications such as lobby signage, ADA signage, wayfinding, temporary event signage, POP signage, channel letters, cabinet signs and semi-permanent displays.

While investing in shatter-proof material may seem like a smart move to reduce costs for you and the planet, acrylic is neither biodegradable nor generally recyclable. It is also subject to fracture from many common household cleaners, such as window cleaners. As acrylic signs usually last five years outside and ten years inside in optimal conditions, it will cost less in the long run to invest in sustainable and durable materials.

ACRYLIC ALTERNATIVES

Glass is a great eco-friendly signage alternative to acrylic, as both materials share common attributes of transparency. However, glass has the added benefits of being infinitely recyclable, significantly more chemical resistant, and more durable when tempered. In many applications that commonly use pigmented acrylic, such as ADA braille and wayfinding signs, consider changing to sustainable wood or aluminum.

Adhesive backed polyester film looks similar to adhesive vinyl film, but is more costly and has the added property of thermal stability. For this reason, adhesive backed polyester is often used as labels and stickers on things that heat up, such as computers, printers, and machinery. Vinyl, having a higher rate of thermal expansion, warps in these applications causing it to fail faster.

Like vinyl, adhesive backed polyester is easy to use but generates a lot of waste. After an element is cut from the polyester film, the remaining sheet is thrown away. This it’s common for over half of the actual polyester film used to produce a run of labels to go straight in the trash can. Adhesive backed polyester cannot be recycled because the mixture of plastics and adhesive cannot be separated and processed by recycling plants. Obviously, it is not biodegradable or reusable. Because adhesive backed polyester has a relatively short useful life just like vinyl, it generates more cost in the long run than durable, sustainable alternatives.

ADHESIVE BACKED POLYESTER ALTERNATIVES

The most eco-friendly signage materials solution to adhesive backed polyester is to avoid semi-permanent signage and labeling altogether. If possible, labels and stickers should not be used, although paper-based stickers with paper-based adhesives could serve as a temporary, semi-sustainable fix. For equipment labels, the best sustainable alternative is direct printing to the machine surface. Screen printing is recommended for high-volume jobs, whereas digital printing works well for low-volume jobs. 

Green Dot Sign® is happy to offer digital printing resources, or help direct you towards screen printing partners.  Just contact us to start a conversation. 

Adhesive backed vinyl film, also known as adhesive vinyl, is a durable, water-resistant material used for everything from stickers and vehicle graphics to large commercial signs and wall murals. Thin, flexible, and cheap, adhesive backed vinyl is one of the most common sign materials. It is semi-permanent, lasting two to ten years outdoors.

Learn more about the drawbacks of vinyl in 10+ Vinyl Alternatives.

Although adhesive backed vinyl is cheap and easy to use, it generates a lot of harmful waste. After an element is cut from the vinyl, the remaining sheet and transfer tape is thrown away.  Waste rates of 90% or more are common.  Adhesive vinyl cannot be recycled because the mixture of the vinyl and adhesive cannot be separated and processed by recycling plants. Like most sign plastics, it is not biodegradable or reusable. Similarly, whatever the adhesive vinyl is adhered to usually ends up in a landfill as well. Because adhesive backed vinyl has a short useful life, it generates more waste in the long run than more durable materials.

ADHESIVE BACKED VINYL ALTERNATIVES

The most sustainable alternative to adhesive backed vinyl is to avoid semi-permanent signage altogether. Labels and stickers should not be used if possible, although paper-based stickers with paper-based adhesives could serve as a temporary semi-sustainable fix.

For customizable surface decals, the best eco-friendly signage alternative is to direct print to the surface. Screen printing is recommended for high-volume jobs, whereas digital printing works well for low-volume jobs. Green Dot Sign® is happy to offer digital printing services or help direct you towards screen printers.

In the past, for window and vehicle graphics, painting by hand or stencil was commonplace. This sign craft has gained popularity in recent years. We suggest using painted or gold-lettered graphics instead of vinyl for these applications.

Aluminum composite material (ACM) is a three-layer panel consisting of two aluminum sheets bonded to a polyethylene (PE) core. The PE core reduces cost and weight compared to solid aluminum, while ACM’s metal exterior provides the smooth surface and rigidity of aluminum. ACM panels are often used for indoor or outdoor signage applications such as point-of-purchase (POP) displays, outdoor signage, and other semi-permanent rigid graphics.

Using metal and durable materials is a step in the right direction for sustainability. Unfortunately, the mixed materials in aluminum composite means it cannot be recycled at most recycling plants. Additionally, polyethylene’s main material component is derived from fossil fuels.

ALUMINUM COMPOSITE MATERIAL ALTERNATIVES

If you appreciate the shiny surface of aluminum composite, consider switching to aluminum sheets!  Aluminum is infinitely recyclable, thinner and offers structural benefits such as weldability. Durable, attractive, and permanent wooden signage is an eco-friendly signage option that can also be used for indoor applications. An added advantage of both options is that the signs edge looks much more finished than ACM signs.

A type of temporary signage often used to advertise outdoor and indoor events, banners are most often made of a vinyl coating over a scrim polyester mesh. A polymeric plasticizer may be added to give the sign even more flexibility. Under optimal conditions, vinyl banners show signs of wear after several months and last a few years.

Although thin, reusable vinyl banners may appear to have a low environmental footprint, their production and disposal has a huge environmental impact. The production of vinyl is known to release carcinogenic dioxins, causing health complications for workers and bigger picture concerns for the environment. And, due to their mixed materials, vinyl banners cannot be recycled at the end of their useful life. 

BANNER ALTERNATIVES

Vinyl banners are single-use plastics and should generally be avoided. If you are looking for long-term outdoor advertising, consider aluminum sheet with direct printing. Companies such as Ultraflex advertise promising biodegradable banner alternatives such as cotton. Using eco-friendly signage materials is a step in the right direction. Still, production methods, inks, sealants and other processes are as non-toxic and sustainable as possible.

Corrugated plastic sheets are structurally similar to cardboard. The plastic sheets consist of a zig-zagged layer of plastic sandwiched between two layers of smooth plastic sheeting. This arrangement is also called twin-wall plastic sheeting. The outer plastic sheeting can be easily printed on, usually using UV printing, screen printing or vinyl.

Also known as coro or Coroplast® in the sign world, corrugated plastic is a lightweight plastic often used for short-term applications such as yard signs, estate sale signs, garage sale signs, and product displays. In the sign industry, corrugated plastic is made from polypropylene (PP). Many other corrugated plastics are popular in the construction industry.

CORRUGATED PLASTIC ALTERNATIVES

Although most corrugated plastic signs can technically be processed with curbside recycling, mixed materials (such as attached metal or wooden stakes) complicate the process, resulting in less than three percent of PP being recycled each year. However, yard signs are almost never marked with their recycling stream and are simply thrown in the trash.

Even worse, the production and recycling process of plastic releases dangerous toxins into the environment each time plastics are heated.

Fortunately PlyCorr™, Falconboard®, and DuraTex EcoDisplay use a paper-based core, eliminating the need for a plastic foam core. Without a mixed materials plastic core, each of these three products can be easily and safely recycled. Just check that any adhesives, ink, and other sign content applied to the surface are similarly compatible.

If your budget permits, investing in long-term exterior metal signage will save even more resources than temporary boards, and dramatically reduce the financial burden of purchasing new signage in the future.

Flexible magnetic sheeting is composed of a steel-vinyl matrix with vinyl on the face. A design is printed on the outer layer of vinyl. In the signage world, flexible magnetic sheeting is often die-cut and used for magnetic stickers and decals. Flexible magnetic sheeting is also found in hardware applications such as refrigerator doors. 

Although investing in a reusable magnetic sticker might seem like a smart move for the planet, flexible magnetic sheeting is more harmful than you might think. First, it causes a commonly recyclable material—steel—to be sent to the landfill. Because of the mixture of vinyl and metal in the magnetic sticker, it cannot be recycled. Second, it uses an outer layer of vinyl, which is a material to be avoided by mindful consumers. Third, magnetic sheet is subject to rusting and can easily fall off vehicles at highway speeds or when driving over potholes.

FLEXIBLE MAGNETIC SHEETING ALTERNATIVES

The most eco-friendly signage alternative to flexible magnetic sheeting is to avoid semi-permanent signage. Labels and stickers should not be used if possible, although paper-based stickers with paper-based adhesives could serve as a temporary semi-sustainable fix.

For customizable surface decals, the best sustainable alternative is direct printing to the surface. Screen printing is recommended for high-volume jobs, whereas digital printing works well for low-volume jobs. Green Dot Sign® is happy to offer digital printing resources or direct you to local screen-printing partners. 

In the past, for window and vehicle graphics, painting by hand or stencil was common. This sign craft has regained popularity in recent years, offering an eco-friendly signage material alterative to vinyl lettering. We suggest using painted or gold-lettered graphics versus vinyl for these applications.

Foamcore (also known as foam board) and Gatorboard® (also known as gator board or gator) are both lightweight display boards with foamed plastic interiors. Gatorboard® has a rigid exterior veneer that is water-resistant and protects the board from breaking and bowing. Foamcore is cheaper but, with a paper-based exterior, is not as durable. Foamcore is generally a short term use product, while gator may be used for several events or seasons.

Although both Foamcore and Gatorboard® are common solutions for restaurant menus, indoor wayfinding, point-of-purchase (POP) displays, and other semi-temporary advertisements, the foam interior materials add up to long-lasting environmental harm. The cores are usually made of polystyrene or polyurethane foam, both fossil fuel-derived plastics. Styrofoam, an expanded version of polystyrene, is already infamous for its harm to nature. At their “core”, Foamcore and Gatorboard® are styrofoam made into sheet and should be avoided.

FOAMCORE & GATORBOARD® ALTERNATIVES

PlyCorr™, Falconboard®, and DuraTex EcoDisplay use a paper-based core, eliminating the need for a plastic foam core. The entire product can be recyclable, depending on the adhesives, ink, and other sign content. All three options are are a big step for sustainable signage materials. Additionally, investing in long-term wood or metal signage will save even more resources and dramatically reduce the need for purchasing and recycling new signage.

Also known as expanded PVC and by trade names such as Palight®, Sintra®, and Komatex®, foamed PVC is a closed cell, expanded polyvinyl chloride sheet material. It is lightweight, rigid, scratch-resistant, and water-resistant. Foamed PVC is popular in outdoor signage, point-of-purchase (POP) displays, wall paneling, office furniture, vehicle manufacturing, and many other applications. Although the material may last for many years, colors fade with UV exposure.

FOAMED PVC ALTERNATIVES

For outdoor applications, metal signage is a durable, fade-proof, and recyclable alternative. For indoor applications, sustainable and biodegradable wood works well for signage, paneling and other decorative elements.

For thinner, more lightweight applications, PlyCorr™, DuraTex EcoDisplay, and Falconboard® are recyclable and thin sign base materials. For all eco-friendly sign materials switches, remember to use compatible and/or sustainable inks and to be sure signs can be disposed of properly at the end of their useful life.

Often recognized as bulletproof glass, Polycarbonate (PC) is a lightweight, transparent plastic. Within the sign industry, it is purchased as a clear or translucent white sheet and is more durable than acrylic. Polycarbonate is semi-flexible at room temperature, an attribute that increases its impact resistance. Polycarbonate treated with UV inhibitors is the material of choice for outdoor pylon signs, marquis signs, strip mall signs, and other large signs. Polycarbonate signage is also used for indoor applications such as lobby signage, wayfinding, and displays. 

While investing in strong, flexible, shatter-proof material may seem like a smart move to reduce costs for you and the planet, polycarbonate is neither biodegradable or recyclable. So you get 5 to 15 years of use, but when the sign face goes to the landfill it will sit there for thousands upon thousands of years until we develop a way to process it. 

POLYCARBONATE ALTERNATIVES

Glass is a great eco-friendly signage alternative to polycarbonate, as both materials share common attributes of transparency and shine. Glass, however, is more transparent and scratch resistant over time. Additionally, glass has the added benefits of being infinitely recyclable.

Polyester fabric and polyester mesh are often used to manufacture plastic-based fabrics. Polyester fabric is often used for banners, flags, and trade show booths. The usable life of polyester fabric is short and recommended only for temporary use.

Polyester mesh is lightweight, repels water, is UV-resistant, and is often used for indoor displays such as banners and screens. Polyester fabric mesh banners are similar to vinyl banners, but more flexible and transparent.  It is often use in tradeshow and display applications, stretched over a frame.

Although polyester fabric is cheap and easy to customize, they generate a lot of waste. After an element is cut from the plastic fabric, the remaining fabric sheet is usually thrown away.

POLYESTER FABRIC ALTERNATIVES

Choose cotton, and the host of other natural fabrics, before selecting polyester.  Polyester fabrics are often made from recycled plastics.  It’s great that recycled materials are being used, but as the polymers degrade each time they are recycled, it means that the beautiful display you are seeing may not have a very beautiful future, and certainly did not have a bright past.  Ask for natural fabrics made using dyes, rather than inks, whenever you select digitally printed fabrics, and you’ll be building demand for eco-friendly signage materials.

Polystyrene plastic, also known as styrene, is hard, white, and lightweight. Styrofoam is a type of extruded polystyrene. Polystyrene is often used in point-of-purchase (POP) displays, indoor wayfinding, and other semi-permanent applications. It is not used often for outdoor signage because it does not last long outdoors.

POLYSTYRENE ALTERNATIVES

PlyCorr™, Falconboard®, and DuraTex EcoDisplay use a paper-based core, eliminating the need for a plastic foam core. The entire product can be recyclable, depending on the adhesives, ink, and other sign content. All three options are much more sustainable. Additionally, investing in long-term wooden or metal signage will save even more resources and dramatically reduce the need to purchase new signage.

THE CASE FOR GREEN SIGNS

The ADA office sign industry almost exclusively uses acrylic plastic. While acrylic is cost-effective and chemical resistant, it is derived from fossil fuels and almost never recyclable.  Additionally, for each pound of signage manufactured, there is usually another pound of plastic waste created.

In U.S. commercial buildings alone, at least 243 million pounds of plastic ADA signs are in use today and will eventually end up in a landfill. Each eco-friendly Green Dot Sign® you choose addresses this challenge.

To learn more about sustainable sign benefits read “The Case for Green ADA Compliant Signage,” researched and written by an environmental scientist.

 


This custom room number sign is part of a package made for a high-end condo building in Nashville, Tennessee. It is made of walnut, brass and slate. 

BEWARE OF GREENWASHING

Unfortunately, many trendy eco-friendly signage materials are too good to be true. When considering ADA and wayfinding signage and other building products, confirm that the materials they are made of are actually sustainable.

For example, 3M Envision films have a great intention, but they still use toxic chemicals in their production such as solvent and non bio-based materials. Similarly Falconboard®, PlyCorr™, and DuraTex EcoDisplay incorporate wood-based materials for their core and fiber but may still use toxic inks and other chemicals in their manufacturing processes.  And so far as we know, none of these paper-based products are FSC certified.

Digital signage is another industry trend. Replacing many different static signs for one changeable LED sign may seem like a smart and sustainable way to cut back on production and material costs. However, digital signage is usually powered on at least 50% of the time, which most frequently consumes fossil-fuel derived electricity. Furthermore, malfunctioning digital signage is a common sight, and difficult and expensive to repair.  Additionally, the components in digital signs have many substances of concern and know carcinogens, and disposal is usually just finding the nearest trash can.

When selecting and specifying signage and other building products, know that your choices matter. AECO professionals, brands and everyday consumers have the power to influence signage manufacturers to create a more sustainable industry through eco-friendly signage materials.

GREEN COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

One Tree PlantedGreen Dot Sign partners with One Tree Planted.  One Tree Planted is a non-profit organization that plants a tree for every dollar donated. Trees are planted around the globe, including in areas most in need due to forest fires and deforestation.

 

ASSESS compliance > DESIGN thoughtfully > MANUFACTURE sustainably > INSTALL skillfully

From ADA signage needs evaluation to sign design, fabrication, project management or installation Green Dot Sign® handles any part or all of the signage needs for your next building project.  Message us today for a no obligation sustainable signage consultation, fast quote or free samples.

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