So you want to “go green”

Who knew this time last year that 2007 was the year when sustainability and environmental sensitivity would become buzzwords. “Green” is in, and not just for St. Patrick’s day!

Big businesses obviously think being green is a good thing. In 2007, Xerox announced that it had reduced greenhouse emissions by 80% over 2002; HP projected that it would reach its goal of recycling 1 billion cumulative pounds of hardware and print cartridges globally by the end of the year; and Wal-Mart has launched a packaging initiative that will reduce carbon dioxide by 660,000 tons by 2013. By the end of 2006, recovery rates of paper increased to 53.4%.

What’s happening in our own industry, our small part of the world? Just check out the press releases. For example, Quad/Graphics, considered to be North America’s largest privately held commercial printer, has registered all 10 of its core U.S. printing plants for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

Canon U.S.A. launched an initiative called “Generation Green” that offers products that provide paper saving technology, minimize product packaging, and incorporate energy-saving technology. Canon has actively supported the industry’s longest-running toner recycling program.

Scholastic, publisher of the Harry Potter series, together with the Rainforest Alliance and other environmental groups, has committed that 30 percent of the publication paper the company buys will be Forest Stewardship Council-certified within five years. Further, 25% of the paper it uses will be recycled, and 75% of that paper will be post-consumer waste.

Every day, more and more environmental initiatives—from companies of all sizes—are being announced. We read almost daily of printers becoming FSC and SFI Chain of Custody certified. Paper companies are adding wind power or buying carbon offsets. Equipment companies are delivering energy-efficient printers or presses.

Where to Start? Certification!

First consider the fact that paper manufacturing is the 5th most energy-intensive industry in the US, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Paper manufacturing consumed 14.32 BTUs of energy for every dollar of product shipped to market in 2007, surpassing aluminum (12.48 BTUs), mining (9.34 BTUs), and glass (9.28 BTUs).[1]

If you want to start decreasing your environmental footprint, begin at the beginning. Paper is the most common substrate on which we print, and paper contributes the largest part of the cost of the final product for print buyers. For any given print job, the cost of the paper may account for 30%-50% of the overall project cost.

Chain of Custody Certification—whether through FSC or SFI—need not be the expensive and time consuming process that most of us have been lead to believe. According to Linda Kramme, Chain of Custody Associate, U.S. Region, of the Rainforest Alliance (an FSC-certification auditing group (

“The certification process usually takes about 10-12 weeks from the time we receive a signed Service Agreement. Costs depend largely on the costs of auditor travel to your location, and number of facilities an auditor would need to visit, but typically costs for a single-site printer range from $3,200—$4,000 annually. Certification lasts 5 years, and annual audits are done so that we can confirm that processes are still being followed and so you can update us on any changes. You can also decide anytime during that five years to cancel your certification.”

While the actual cost of the certification process is extremely reasonable, it’s just the last step. The processes and procedures required to manage and maintain the “audit trail” for certified paper is unique to each company and requires a commitment of your time and energy to complete.

Selling Green

Just this time last year, I spoke to a number of printers about the growing environmental awareness of their customers. They all said, then, that their customers were just beginning to ask for recycled and certified papers, though there were certain clients that demanded green business practices. The good news is that the prices for these papers are coming more in line with traditional paper prices.

After a year in which “green” became a watchword, print buyers are more and more likely to ask about environmentally sensitive production. The very simplest step you can take is to always offer the most environmentally friendly papers, inks and processes as an alternative on every quote. Yes, that means doubling your estimating effort, but you will find your buyers will consider those alternatives when it’s obvious that the premium they might have to pay is within reason.

A more intense effort—but one that will pay off in the long run—is to educate designers and buyers on ways they can improve their design processes to use paper more efficiently and cost effectively, such as:

Optimize press sheet utilization—Gang projects on common substrates, adjust piece sizes to maximize the number on a page, and design in standard sizes. For high volume projects order custom sheets to reduce off-cuts.

Avoid bleeds or solid borders to allow for “dead cuts.” “White space” can be a good thing!

Manage order quantities—digital and direct imaging technologies make it reasonable to order and reorder smaller quantities, thus ensuring fewer pieces go to waste.

Implement versioning and personalization to increase the effectiveness of direct marketing and reduce generic mass marketing. Unfortunately, traditional mass mailing campaigns have historically produced response rates in the low single digits, which means that often 95% or more is simply tossed by the recipient.

Suggest that the designers you work with become certified as FSC Xperts‚–¢. The objective of the FSC Xpert‚–¢ program is to create a network of professionals that will support FSC-certified printers and paper merchants by developing and applying the knowledge and skills to effectively source and manage projects using FSC-certified paper products.

Steps You Can Take

You don’t have to be Xerox, Canon, or Quad/Graphics to run a Clean and Green operation. Here are a few steps—both printing-related and general—you can take to turn your company into a good corporate citizen:

  • Encourage the end user of your printed pieces to share or recycle them.
    When sending email, you might add the following below your signature: “Please consider the environment before printing this email.”
  • Use 100% post-consumer recycled paper in copiers and desktop printers.
  • Install double sided printing capability on office printers and use on all reports, or consider printing in “draft mode,” as appropriate.
  • Provide employees with ceramic mugs rather than Styrofoam cups.
  • Institute an office recycling program.
  • Recycle hard and soft plastic containers.
  • Re-use incoming cardboard boxes.
  • Compost paper towel and food waste.
  • Use “energy saver” features on computer equipment.
  • Donate old office equipment to schools.
  • Shake toner cartridges occasionally to lengthen life.
  • Implement computer controls for heat and air-cooling to ensure optimal energy efficiency.
  • Add parabolic fittings in fluorescent lighting to reduce the number of fluorescent bulbs required for adequate lighting.
  • Install light sensors in low traffic areas to reduce power consumption.
  • Explore additional insulation and/or roof coatings to reflect more heat in the summer and retain heat in the winter.
  • Use alternative modes of transportation such as the bus, train, or even a bicycle.

Dick Kouwenhoven, President/CEO of Hemlock Printers, encourages his employees to tread lightly on the environment by regularly bicycling from downtown Vancouver to work in the plant, which is headquartered in Burnaby.

To learn new ways to be easier on the environment, explore initiatives from other industries. For example, BMW powers a plant in South Carolina with methane gas. Or you can read about how car mechanics deal with what is traditionally considered a dirty business in “Grease Monkeys Go Green,” as described in an article published in the Aug./Sept. 2007 issue of Plenty magazine (

A Note of Caution – Walking the Talk

“Greenwash – the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.”

You can’t just “talk the talk;” those who advertise that they are “green” without having invested in environmentally sound practices are at risk of being exposed as greenwashers. Out and out lies, unsubstantiated claims, irrelevance, and vagueness will trip up those who try to take the quick and easy way to respectability.

While Kermit the Frog may sing “It’s not Easy Bein’ Green,” environmentally sensitive business practices do not have to be complicated or expensive. Develop an initiative for your organization and go for it!

FSC Chain of Custody Requirements:

  • Quality System—These cover the company’s internal procedures, staff training, record keeping and the scope of the certificate, the groups of products and product lines that are included in the certificate.
  • Wood and Fiber Sourcing—Identification of the materials that can be included in FSC certified products, the company’s written specification for materials, and the requirements for receiving and storing the above.
  • Production Controls, Record Keeping—Monthly records of FSC production that track the quantity, batch number, the average content of FSC material in each product group, and identification of FSC claim period are required. Identification of the materials that can be included in FSC certified products, the company’s written specification for materials, and the requirements for receiving and storing these.
  • FSC Labels—FSC labels identify the quantity of FSC, reclaimed, recycled and/or controlled material in the final product.
  • Documentation—Sales invoices and shipping documentation are needed to track FSC materials and/or product materials.