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In Pursuit of Sustainability

Steps printers can take to reduce their carbon footprint

July 2008 By Tom Kemper
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Green printing businesses are not just about the products produced, such as those manufactured using FSC- and SFI-certified paper stocks. The role of sustainability in the printing industry also encompasses all support activities, the grounds and the physical plant. Measures that go beyond the scope of offering environmentally friendly paper can be as simple as installing energy-efficient lighting and Energy Star-compliant computer systems.

Because our population is expected to reach 9 billion in less than 50 years, and our natural resources continue to diminish, doing the minimum in regard to sustainability is far from a sufficient action in the 21st century. We will eventually reach the point where certain consumables are too expensive to produce or we’ll run out of the natural resources required to produce them. Therefore, businesses must constantly raise the bar in terms of their sustainable practices—before it’s too late.

For example, using soy inks in printed material is a popular way to express one’s commitment to the environment. Though these inks are far better than what was used 20 years ago in terms of their ecological impact, they’re not always an eco-friendly alternative, since rain forests have been cut down in some instances to grow the actual soy beans. While researching where the soy oil is coming from might not be practical, you can express an interest in products manufactured in the United States to your ink suppliers and manufacturers. When discussing sustainability, a key component is sourcing materials that are as close to your locale as possible. Products sourced locally, rather than globally, may assure more sustainable practices—from production and harvest, to transport of the product.

Tips for the Trade

For an organization seeking to become a more eco-friendly operation, there are a few easy ways to start moving in a greener direction.

1. Reduce Chemicals and Toxins:

• Buy nontoxic, low VOC (volatile organic compounds) office paints and coatings, and furnish with VOC-free fabrics/materials throughout the facility.

• Use environmentally friendly cleaning products rather than toxic chemicals and solvents.

• Seek sources for organic, locally grown food for the building cafeteria or kitchen.

• Use pavestone as surface material in driveways, approaches, parking lot surfaces and all paved ground surfaces to absorb oil-laden run-off.

2. Sustainability Education:

• Encourage employee involvement in environmental activities, such as joining local sustainability groups.

• Read “The Sustainability Advantage” by Bob Willard, “The Ecology of Commerce” by Paul Hawken and “Mid-Course Correction: Toward a Sustainable Enterprise” by Ray Anderson to better understand the business case for sustainability.


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