In Pursuit of Sustainability
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.
• Monitor the sustainability initiatives of other environmentally responsible companies in the industry.
3. Energy Savings/Energy-Efficiency:
• Create incentives to encourage carpooling and other ride-share programs, as well as the use of hybrid vehicles, bicycles and public transit for getting to work.
• Consider installing ventilating windows in new construction buildings and design offices with natural lighting, using LEED-inspired site planning.
• Consider installing carpeting made from recycled materials.
4. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle:
• Implement recycling programs.
• Print on both sides of the paper.
• Provide employees easy access to recycling areas.
• Include a compost bin in the office building break room or cafeteria.
• Provide mugs instead of paper or Styrofoam coffee cups.
• Discourage the use of disposable plastic-bottled water and encourage the use of reusable/refillable five-gallon bottles or install water filtration as an alternative.
• Use recycled paper for internal documents, marketing materials and business cards, and buy office supplies made of recycled materials.
5. Water Conservation:
• Install low-volume flush toilets.
• Landscape with native vegetation that’s drought-resistant to use less water.
• Reuse gray water or capture rain water for landscaping.
Our economy is geared to drive costs down, use more “stuff” and make this “stuff” cheaper. When we have this mentality, we devalue our raw materials to the point of commoditizing them—viewing them more as a means to a profit than a natural resource. We leave an ecological footprint regardless of our activity. The key is to reduce or minimize that footprint however we can, be it through reuse of materials, recycling or recapturing our waste byproducts.
When our society as a whole takes sustainability seriously, we can enjoy the benefits of lower energy costs, less pollution, the preservation of our forests and a healthier lifestyle, while knowing that we’re leaving our kids, and their kids, a world worth having.
Tom Kemper is CEO and founder of Dolphin Blue, an online retailer of environmentally responsible office supplies, and is available for speaking opportunities. Since 1993, Dolphin Blue has promoted the responsible stewardship of the Earth’s resources by encouraging the conscientious purchase of everyday business supplies. All products sold through Dolphin Blue contain, at minimum, 20 percent post-consumer recycled material, most being made of 100 percent post-consumer recycled materials. Packages and labels are made using only post-consumer recycled materials and are printed using only soy- and vegetable-based inks. The Green Office Guide is available for free download at www.dolphinblue.com.
For more information, call (800) 932-7715.