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Going greener

Sep 1, 2008 12:00 AM


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I'm a lifer in the printing industry,” says Kathy Lauerman, president of the Printing & Imaging Assn. Mountain States (PIAMS) (Denver). Prior to joining PIAMS more than 10 years ago, Lauerman helped found the Printing Industries Assn. of Arizona (PIAZ). Before becoming an association manager, she owned and operated her own printing company and also worked in sales and management positions in the industry.

Lauerman recalls that years ago, the industry (if not the nation in general) had a much more relaxed environmental outlook. Ladies working in the printing office who wanted to change their nail polish had only to duck into the pressroom and swish their fingertips around in some type wash.

Obviously, times have changed! Today, Lauerman chairs Colorado's Compliance Advisory Panel (CAP). The 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments required each state to form these panels to monitor the effectiveness of the small business assistance programs. The state legislature appoints the seven-member group, which is responsible for reviewing, assisting and advising Colorado's Air Quality Small Business Assistance Program. Lauerman has learned a lot about the environmental challenges facing other small businesses, such as dry cleaners and refrigeration and electric supply companies.

“I can speak green geek now,” declares Lauerman, explaining that clear communication is a CAP goal. “I don't own a smelter, but if I can figure out what [the environmental regulations] are saying and explain them to someone who does own a smelter, that is definitely plain language.”

Last year, Lauerman's CAP participation led to an outreach program for printers. “We have such a great working relationship with the state — that led to this pilot Environmental Results Program (ERP).”

Verified compliance

PIAMS is working with all the environmental regulatory agencies in Colorado to educate its printer members and help meet all areas of state-regulated compliance, such as air, water and hazardous waste. This program includes a self-audit, which can be used for internal purposes and then filed, thereby providing specific evidence of good faith compliance.

Launching the ERP served as a springboard for a broader PIAMS effort: the Green Member Program. In addition to successfully completing the ERP, Green Printers are in compliance with all federal, state and local environmental regulations. They have a documented healthy and safe workplace, pollution prevention strategies, a recycling program and a sustainability action plan. These printers also have a formal green position statement and are listed at www.piams.org.

“You can't just fill out the form and claim you are in complete compliance,” says Lauerman. “We have such a good working relationship with the state, [ that verification is easy].”

PIAMS members that completed the ERP as well as all other Green Printer requirements have been nominated as Bronze Achiever Environmental Leaders in the state of Colorado. The Environmental Leadership program is a statewide environmental recognition and reward program administered by the Colorado Department of Public Health. Until the Green Printer program, no Colorado printer had ever participated in this program. By implementing an environmental management system and meeting related criteria, printers step up to Silver Partner status. PIAMS will honor these environmental leaders as part of a green showcase slated for November 13, 2008.

On the national level, PIAMS is part of the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership effort (see www.sgppartnership.org).

Lauerman notes that many printers are quiet environmentalists. “We're not good at promoting ourselves in the industry. We do some of these things because it's the right thing to do. In other cases, the technology has changed for the better. But we don't tell people.”

Truthiness in direct mail

Last year, Lauerman found herself speaking up. “A group of environmentalists began an aggressive attack across the country to eliminate direct mail,” she recalls. “Although they likely had the best of intentions, they were incredibly misinformed about all aspects of direct mail. They wreaked havoc and embarrassed rookie legislators with their inaccurate information. We were fortunate that we pulled a great coalition together in Colorado that included every industry group that would be affected by the proposed legislation, which also included the USPS and the AFL-CIO. We were able to get the bill pulled before it made it into the legislative process. But the battle will continue.”

Green is our favorite color, too

We are excited to present the AMERICAN PRINTER Environmental Excellence Awards at Graph Expo on Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2008. Several of the winners made a point of thanking us for highlighting examples of environmental stewardship. A few, citing responsibilities to their families, employees and fellow citizens, said that this was the only way to run a business and expressed optimism that more people would embrace this perspective. “We thought everyone else would catch up with us a lot faster,” said one. “We hope they do!”