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Seeing the printing forest for the trees

Apr 1, 2009 12:00 AM

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Who doesn't love pine trees? We decorate them at Christmas time and dangle Little Tree air fresheners from our rearview windows. But if you want to do business with's Charlie Corr, think twice before you put that tiny pine and winding road icon at the bottom of your e-mail.

Corr is fine with the picture. It's the taglines he hates: “Think before you print,” or “Please consider your environmental responsibility before printing any documents.”

In some cases, says Corr, companies are using the environment as a convenient excuse to reduce their mail costs and shift printing expenses to customers.

Don't be a paper basher

“It is increasingly popular to bash the use of paper,” declares Corr in a January 2009 white paper. “Despite the many environmentally friendly actions taken by the paper, printing and publishing industries, little is known of these efforts due to a self-inflicted inability to publicize them. Unlike the auto or fuel industries, we don't spend any money as an industry on effective green promotion.”

Despite its Rodney Dangerfield-like reputation, paper is the carrier of most of what is printed and published. “The estimated value of shipped printed products in the United States was $393 billion in 2007,” reports Corr. “There are almost 175,000 establishments in this segment and they employ 2.9 million. To put this in perspective, employment in auto manufacturing is around 1.2 million.”

Most paper producers are doing their part. “From water to air pollution, reducing the use of dangerous chemicals and improving energy efficiency, paper manufacturers' have improved dramatically,” says Corr. “Associations such as SFI and FSC work on ensuring sustainable, environmentally sound forestry practices. The estimated value of FSC labeled paper is over $20 billion. Paper manufacturers have also introduced a range of recycled and certified sheets.”

Sustainability is everyone's responsibility, according to Corr. “We should do whatever we can to improve our personal environmental footprint. That doesn't mean we should stop printing.” Corr's suggestions include the following.

Concentrate on reducing the cost of recycled papers. “The [paper companies] should spend money to effectively market the value of paper and the environmental actions that they have taken.”

Educate vendors or employees who add an anti-printing message to their communications. “We have stopped it at Mimeo, and after we objected, an equipment salesperson and travel agency changed [their policies]. Be proactive!”

Walk the talk. “If we believe paper based communications are viable and add value, we should use them,” says Corr. “If we think they are not necessary, or too expensive, our clients will, too.”

As chief strategist for, printing is Corr's business. Founded in 1998, combines the efficiencies of Internet-enabled online ordering with a “print factory” strategically located in the shadow of FedEx's main hub.'s customers can order presentations, RFPs, brochures, manuals, posters and other products as late as 10 p.m. EST and get their completed jobs delivered as early as 8:30 the next morning.

Not surprisingly, Corr isn't a fan of paperless meetings. “I am committed to providing hardcopy of my presentations, specifying FSC, recycled paper and duplexed, 2-up print. I think it is worth the investment.”

Going greener

AMERICAN PRINTER conducted its inaugural Environmental Excellence Awards program last year. As publisher Scott Bieda explains, “AMERICAN PRINTER's goal and that of our Premier sponsor, Kodak, is to heighten the awareness of environmentally sound practices in the commercial printing industry and to honor the commercial printers who are leading the industry in environmentally conscious manufacturing.”

Awards are scheduled to be presented at Print 09. Environmental Excellence Award winners will be recognized at a brief ceremony, and our September 2009 issue will profile the winners.

Alonzo Printing, a 55-employee company based in Hayward, CA, earned gold Environmental Excellence honors last year. Over the past few months, Jim Duffy, president of Alonzo, has shared his company's strategy with printers across the nation. He proudly notes that the company went from a neutral to negative carbon footprint in 2008.

“Care for the environment is built into every job we produce on our digital, sheetfed and web presses,” says Duffy. “We use recycled and FSC-certified papers and low-VOC, vegetable-based inks. Our prepress process is chemistry-free and we have an extensive company-wide recycling program. Does this cost a bit more? Sometimes. But isn't our environment worth a bit more?”

You'll find the 2009 Environmental Excellence entry form on pgs. 33-34. Hope to see you in Chicago in September.