The Greening of Communications: Part 1


Keywest_Technology_logoKeywest Technology recently released a white paper entitled “The Greening of Communications,” which takes a critical look at the “green” aspects of digital signage. Sign Builder Illustrated is reprinting this white paper in two parts. Below is the first part, which looks at why digital signage is green, and the benefits of choosing to use this dynamic signage. Stay tuned for the second half of the white paper, which will be published at the end of May.


Often when the environmental impact of digital signage is mentioned, some valid, but rather well-worn, assertions are made.

First, when compared to printed signs, digital signage appears far greener. Digital signage messaging, which can be updated easily, eliminates the need to print new signs over and over as messaging necessities change. The fewer the signs that get printed, the fewer the trees that need to be cut, transported to mills, processed and made into paper. Additionally, with digital signage there is no need for inks and chemical coatings as with printed signs.

Waste disposal is also a common environmental concern with printed signs. Cutting out the need to replace printed signs eliminates the energy needed to dispose of or recycle the signs and —to the degree printed signs aren’t recycled— the impact of adding tons more paper, plastic, ink, chemical coatings and paints to landfills.

Another benefit to the environment is the ease with which digital signs can be updated. Sending new messages out via a digital signage computer network eliminates travel required to physically visit the location of each sign, which is necessary to replace old printed signs with new versions. Eliminating the transportation component reduces pollution and thus the impact of signage on the environment.

But these considerations are only one element of the green equation. There’s also the impact going green can have by reducing or entirely eliminating certain expenses.


Going green with digital signage isn’t simply a matter of reducing the environmental impact of communicating with the public; it makes good business sense. While that may seem a bit surprising, upon closer examination it becomes clear that communicating with digital signage can be less expensive than doing so with the print alternative. Interestingly, what makes it cheaper also makes digital signs more environmentally friendly.

What ties economy and being green together is the ability of a digital sign to display countless messages, which is something that would require innumerable, printed signs. Consider a casino that relies on backlit transparent signs to promote specials, entertainment acts and other features. In this instance, the sheer quantity of signs needed to tell patrons about frequently changing entertainment acts and special offers along with the expense of the backlit signage medium make using digital signs a cost-effective alternative.

With digital signs, updating ads and promotions is a matter of a few keystrokes. Equally important is eliminating the need to manufacture the transparent plastic film and specialized inks required to print backlit signs. Digital signs also answer the question of proper disposal before it’s even raised. Obviously, the specific type and expense of printed signs in use will impact when the financial break-even point is reached by choosing the digital alternative, but in the example of a high-volume signage use like a casino it can be two years or less.

Closely related to the cost benefit of digital signage vs. printed signs is something that could best be described as “message per meter.” Digital signage networks have an innate ability to playback multiple pages —one after another— in an endless sequence just as a TV channel plays back a ceaseless lineup of entertainment, commercials, news and other content.

That ability means a theoretically unending sequence of desired messages can be played back on a digital signage network in a finite space. It’s almost silly to conjure up how printed signs would do something similar —wallpaper the entire planet? Clearly, when it comes to the number of messages communicated per meter (or whatever unit of measurement desired) of space, digital signage is the clear winner.

From the perspective of being green, winning the “messages per meter” crown makes digital signage a far more environmentally friendly and aesthetically pleasing alternative. From a business perspective, the ability to playback the sequence means more goods and services can be promoted per unit of wall space, which should positively affect sales.

When it comes to actually producing the message to be communicated, digital signage is a better business and environmental approach. Whether it’s printed or digital signage, there is a pretty well established workflow to creating a message. The former requires transport of people and actual end product at several points in the process. From the moment paper stock arrives at a printer till the time someone in an organization —or an outside contractor— actually hangs the finished printed sign, transportation never ceases, nor does the environmental impact of that transportation.

On the other hand, the digital signage workflow is far more efficient. There literally is zero transport of physical media and people required between the point of origination of a digital signage page and where it’s displayed. Cutting out all of “the middlemen” needed from concept to delivery in the print workflow makes digital signs an attractive alternative from a productivity point of view, and reducing the transport of people and materials makes digital signs the greener choice.

Add to the efficiency equation the ability of some digital signage software applications to extract specific information from existing databases and facilities management software packages to automatically create digital signage pages, and the positive impact digital signage can have on the productivity of an organization becomes even clearer.