While many people think that a graphic designer does not have real power to make environmental change the fact is that everyone can lead change. If you are knowledgeable in the processes and materials that you have access to you can lead you client down the green path and not only help them but help the world as well.
A client asks you to design a new promotional piece for a product launch - Give green options, reduce the packaging , make the promotion the package, use cardboard embedded with seeds that can be buried to become a herb garden instead of discarded, find unique handmade or recycled papers, choose ink colors with the least metal content, avoid plastics and coatings.. the list is endless.
Many website are sprouting up that celebrate Green Design & Products such as http://www.ecospotting.com , submit your green designs to sites such as these to gain recognition not only for your clients but for your own work. Green design does not mean "bland design". If use your imagination and make the packaging reusable not only will you help the environment but that branded package that you created for you client will live on longer and will have a greater chance if influencing more people.
A great example of a simple package design that reduces waste is a yogurt package lid that becomes a spoon (http://ecospotting.com/?p=585). This design by Cho Hye-seung is simple. Requires no extra add-ons for the package yet serves a great service.
Other times the package becomes the product, Tap Water Bottles (http://www.tapwater-bottle.com/) are a reusable glass water bottle that is a beautiful classic design with "cheeky" text on each bottle explaining why tap water is better the single use plastic bottled water. Their current text on their 32 oz bottle says:
In the good old days, mineral water and spring water didn't come in the "convenient" plastic bottles they do today. Bottles which, after a single use, find their way to our oceans breaking down into millions of pieces. These pieces are gobbled up by marine animals which are then eaten by other animals and so on until eventually those bottles end up in the food on our plates. So next time you pass up on tap water for that "healthier" option, do us all a favour, eat the bottle too.
Seeing this bottle in someone office you would not think "eco" or "green" you would think great styel and design. That is the ultimate in a Green product.
So next time a project lands on your desk say to yourself how can I do an amazing job for the client AND help the world at the same time.