Ecological Framing

Ecological Framing

The Issue:

  • Framing photographic prints with the right materials is the best way to preserve them.
  • True eco-friendly frames are nearly impossible to purchase.

What you Need to Know:

  • Many pre-made frames are manufactured overseas.
  • Wood frames have a smaller carbon footprint than metal frames, though metal frames may be recyclable.

Greener Photography's Recommendations:

  • All frames are not created equal - consider frames made from reclaimed or FSC-certified wood, with natural finishes.
  • Choose cotton rag conservation mats; PH-neutral recycled mats are also available.
  • Choose UV-protected glass for best conservation, but know that it is not recyclable.
  • Educate clients about frame placement to avoid heat and light.
  • Ask questions about where all of your framing components come from, and choose local products to avoid the carbon footprint associated with shipping.
  • Ask your framer about their moulding suppliers, and look into these manufacturer's environmental practices.

Eco-frames!! Greener Photography believes that preservation is conservation; it is the first step to being greener. Framing is the single best thing that can be done to an image to preserve it while it is on display. The majority of professional framers are not offering green options for framing. But let's talk about what an ecologically sound frame looks like, and then take it from there!

Moulding: The moulding of an eco-frame is ideally made of wood or a natural fiber like bamboo. In anyone knows of some reclaimed steel options, we’d love to hear about it. The solid-wood in the frame should be recycled wood or US Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood. Wood is a renewable resource as long as it is harvested properly and replenished; the FSC has tough criteria for forest management. Bamboo is another possible option, but it is not free of controversy.

Please stop by your local frame shop and ask about where their wood frames come from. Most framers just haven’t thought about the origins of their products, and asking them to think about this is a healthy activity. Asking questions will prompt your framer to ask their suppliers and at least start thinking about their product in these terms.

Reclaimed Wood: Reclaimed wood is an excellent wood source. It is plentiful, it would otherwise end up in a landfill, and it s perfectly suitable for framing. This wood often comes from de-constructed homes, and each piece is absolutely unique. A wonderful frame shop for you West Coasters is Green House Framing; unfortunately their shop seems to be one of a kind. If anyone knows of another reclaimed wood frame shop (especially one on the East coast), please let us know. You can also search on; some artisans there offer frames from reclaimed wood.

Composite Mouldings: A new option is compressed, composite mouldings. Framerica is the only manufacturer we know of who is making moulding out of post consumer goods like pallets, skids, construction materials, trim ends and saw dust and wood chips. They call this material Bonaza Wood. Framerica is a wholesale supplier. You must find a frame shop that carries this product. The Framer's Workshop in Berkley California is one such shop.

Forest Steward Certification: FSC certification is great, At this time, there is no moulding manufacturer who is using FSC certified wood. If you see information that tells you differently, please verify this claim and contact us.  The best option at this time is reclaimed wood.

Bamboo: Bamboo is considered by some as a sustainable natural resource because it is abundant and grows rapidly (up to 47” in 24 hours). But bamboo is not native to the US. It is grown here but it is invasive – so is it the most ecological option? Well, it’s better than old growth redwood; especially if you are on the West Coast where it is grown locally. The biggest controversy with bamboo is that is it not regulated. It is marketed as a green product without any third party monitoring or confirming this. Also, as an invasive it is a dangerous crop to be cultivating. As it spreads, which it does very well, it displaces native plants.

Finish: The next step in framing is the finish. Conventional frames are often finished with toxic petrochemicals often applied in unsafe workplaces. Since we extend the term "greener" to include the principles of cruelty-free and fairly traded, conventional framing finishes do not meet this criteria. Natural finishes made from companies like Bioshield Paint are made from renewable, animal-free, and fairly traded ingredients; these types of finishes are our greener recommendation. Finding these may be impossible - but until we start asking for them, suppliers won't start offering them!

Matting: The type of mat board in a frame will determine the longevity of the print more than anything else. Since preservation is our top priority, we recommend using the best cotton rag mat money can buy. Cotton is both plentiful and renewable, but is also a very pesticide-intensive crop. At this time, we do not know of a source for organic cotton mats or hemp rag mats, but we hope to change that. Please contact us if you make a product like this or know a company that may be open to producing it.

Twisted Limb is a company specializing in recycled paper products; they produce recycled mats. The product is 100% recycled and is PH neutral, but is not conservation grade. Just thought we’d mention it; you can request information on their mats directly from Twisted Limb.

Glass: To finish your frame and protect your print, you need glass. Glass isn’t so bad. Isn’t that nice to hear?! Glass is made from sand, and when it breaks down it turns back into sand. Recycled glass has only slightly less embodied energy than new glass. Depending on your location and amount of light where you are displaying your framed images, you may want glass with UV protection to increase the longevity of your print. Just keep in mind that UV glass is not recyclable. If it is possible to get locally made glass, it is far better than foreign glass; the big polluting factor in glass manufacturing is transportation. So where does one find local glass? Ask your local framer, or look in the phone book under "glass works."

Placement: The best-made frame still can't protect a photographic print hanging in direct sunlight or above a fireplace. Keep in mind that heat and light are the two biggest factor in print deterioration, and choose placement wisely, encouraging clients to do the same.

And there you have it, an eco-frame! Our ideal frames are not easy to create. Our hope is that, armed with the knowledge of the ideal greener framing components, you can ask your framer for these. We hope to see change within the framing industry to use greener materials.

Eco-Frame Links:
Green House Frames - Reclaimed Wood Frames
Nurre Caxton Eco-Care - Wood from Managed Forests. (these claims have not been verified.)
Universal Framing Products - Naturewood is sustainable-grown pine (not certified, nor claim verified).

Wild Sorbet Frame Company

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