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Green initiatives & common sense

Jan 1, 2011 12:00 AM


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Many “green” programs are hogwash, hence the term “greenwashing.” When someone does something that is both sensible and sustainable, it deserves to be recognized.

Green is suddenly everywhere. Hardly a month goes by without an ecology minded group promoting a new green incentive. Kermit the Frog would be proud.

Our story

My company, Copresco, found ways to dramatically impact our energy consumption:

  • A new lighting system reduces shop electrical consumption by 75%, provides a better working environment and improves color management by putting 5000K lighting everywhere.
  • Motion detectors were added to the warehouse to automatically turn lights on and off to reduce unneeded electrical use. (Thanks to plastic printer Jet Lithocolor, from whom I blatantly stole that idea after noticing it during a plant tour.)
  • We brought in energy consultant Tenesis (www.tenesis.com) to make recommendations, to make sure any new system was really sustainable and met U.S. Department of Energy EPACT standards. After all, we are just printers.

What do we know about being green?

Quite a bit, it turns out. We've been following common-sense business initiatives since we launched the company.

The digital printing process is inherently greener than traditional printing methods, or at least has the potential to be so. Our implementation of digital printing is a chemistry free system that doesn't produce hazardous waste.

Targeted short press runs, the essence of print-on-demand, mean we print only what actually will be used, and only when it is needed. This reduces waste and energy use throughout the supply chain: paper, print, distribution and storage.

Go beyond

Paper is a renewable resource. We have learned to carry recycling to the point that the amount of waste leaving our company as refuse — going to a landfill — is not much more than an average family throws out as garbage.

That's great, but it seems that many printing firms attempting to go greener become fixated on recycled paper and paper recycling. There is so much more you can do. Sometimes the better answer comes from common sense, not just certification programs. Paper arrives in truckloads, packed mostly in junior cartons. Rather than just recycling the boxes, we began an initiative in the mid-1990s to donate the containers to the Northern Illinois Food Bank. This humanitarian organization packs the boxes with food distributed through a charitable network of more than 660 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, group homes and other food assistance sites.

It takes zero energy to reuse our cartons, and the benefit to society reaches far beyond the “chain of custody.”

I mentioned earlier that digital printing has the potential to be greener than offset. No one knows this better than Tony Federico. Federico is chief engineer for Xerox Corp. He is best known in the digital world as a tireless and tenacious evangelist for the iGen3 and iGen4 color press series. Within his own company, however, he might never live down his most famous statement:

“The toner we created for the iGen is so environmentally friendly, you could eat it,” Tony declared. He means it. I don't think he's ever actually eaten iGen toner, but he stands by his statement to this day.

If Tony ever did organize a toner-eating contest, he might want an antacid, but some of his digital press rivals likely would need an undertaker. Xerox has many green programs, but, to me, nothing speaks more clearly of its commitment than Tony Federico's single-sentence declaration.

Steve Johnson is president of Copresco (Carol Stream, IL), a pioneer in digital printing technology and print on demand. Contact him via www.copresco.com.

e-what?!

A signature tag line I append to my e-mail messages says it all: “If this message was not important enough for you to print, I would not have bothered sending it to you.”