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For Quad, It's Easy Being Green

November 2008 By Cheryl Adams
AS THE largest privately held printer of magazines, catalogs and other commercial products in the Western Hemisphere—and the third-largest printer, public or private, in the nation—Quad/Graphics employs more than 12,000 people worldwide in 10 core domestic printing plants, as well as operations in Poland, Argentina and Brazil. Providing services ranging from front-end design and photography through digital imaging, printing, finishing, mailing/distribution, and data-driven marketing solutions (data optimization and analytics), the company’s annual sales surpass $2 billion.

With a resumé like that, it’s no wonder that being “green” is extremely important to this mega printer.

“Why wouldn’t you be green?” questions Joe Muehlbach, director of Facilities and Environmental Policy. “At Quad/Graphics, our focus on green not only helps protect the environment, it makes good business sense. Everyone is paying attention to green practices these days, but it’s really not anything new for us.”

Quad has strived to be green since its founding in 1971, always being proactive in finding ways to maximize output, while minimizing use of resources and emissions. “Starting up a business on a shoestring budget,” Muehlbach explains, “we reused and recycled anything we could. As we grew, our commitment to recycling, reusing and minimizing waste became ingrained in our culture. Being environmentally conscious is not an option; it’s a way of life.”

Harry Quadracci, the company’s founder, promoted “practical environmentalism,” balancing what’s good for the environment with what’s good for business. Which, according to Muehlbach, means that any environmental initiative Quad/Graphics undertakes must be rooted in good business practice or it won’t be sustainable.

Here is a sampling of Quad’s green initiatives:

Air Emissions. Quad/Graphics’ web offset presses have integrated thermal oxidizers (ITOs) that use the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in ink as a supplementary fuel source. Just like a catalytic converter on a car, the thermal oxidizers collect the VOCs, so they can be reabsorbed at the point of ignition. The printer’s 10 newest presses, installed primarily in Quad’s Wisconsin network of plants between 2004 and 2006, are all equipped with thermal oxidizers.

Muehlbach points out that the ITOs dramatically minimize the need for natural gas on-press. The company uses 45 percent less natural gas per page, he says, while achieving a 99 percent cleanup efficiency. Since 1992, Quad/Graphics’ web offset pressrooms have reduced air emissions by 62 percent, relative to output.

 

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