Environmental Sustainability — The Greening of Print
PRINTING USED to be synonymous with pollution. But, not anymore. One thing that’s constant in this world is change. And 2007 was a milestone year for earth-friendly initiatives in the commercial printing industry.
Last year, lots of printers of all sizes started turning green, while many others turned greener still.
Printing companies are becoming stewards of the environment… in the paper they buy, the ink they use and the less VOCs they emit.
New and improved vegetable-based inks and recycled paper grades are more available. Paper manufacturers and print providers are earning Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) chain-of-custody certifications. Printers and suppliers are turning to alternative energy sources, such as wind-power-generated electricity. These are but a few of the changes going on in today’s printing industry.
The mantra for 2007 (and, more than likely, 2008 and beyond) was “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.”
Better known as the “Three Rs,” more printers are committed to ingraining this sustainability motto into the minds of their employees—and are incorporating it into the very heart of their operations. Here are just a few examples:
McNaughton & Gunn
The Three Rs are not only in daily practice at McNaughton & Gunn, they stand out like a banner ad in the printer’s Environmental Endsheet newsletter. The words, the symbols, the promise are also part of its Print Buying Guidelines.
“As a print buyer, you have the opportunity to make a positive impact on the environment,” the guidelines read. “One way to make a difference is to choose to do business with companies that practice sound environmental policies.”
McNaughton & Gunn has been committed to the environment since 1996, when it became the first printer in Michigan to be recognized for environmentally friendly practices by the Michigan Great Printers Project (MGPP), a statewide effort promoting pollution prevention.
“We’ve significantly reduced our amount of chemical wastewater, as well as the waste generated in the manufacturing process,” says Jim Clark, director of customer and business services, noting that the company accomplished these feats in a multitude of ways: by eliminating the use of 20,000 lbs. of isopropyl alcohol annually in the dampening systems on all presses; replacing chemical additive processes with aqueous-based plates; purchasing black ink in large bulk containers; modifying film processors to reduce wash water usage and to increase silver recovery; recycling aluminum printing plates; employing a scrap removal system and baler for recycling; and recycling plastic, including strapping from web press bundles and stretch and shrink wrapping.
McNaughton & Gunn prides itself as being an environmentally conscious book printing operation. Over the past 10 years, even though the company has experienced 40 percent growth, it has decreased its landfill waste from 1,660 cubic yards to 120 cubic yards.
McNaughton & Gunn has also obtained FSC chain-of-custody certification. “We have certified all of the white uncoated text paper that we run. This represents almost 80 percent of the text paper we put through our plant annually,” notes Clark. “And we have certified all of the 10-pt. and 12-pt. board we use, which is on 75 percent of the books we produce.”
The printer has received various honors and recognition over the years, including 1999-2007 Certificate of Partnership in the Community Partners for Clean Streams Program (for protecting local water quality); 1998-2007 Waste Knot Award (for waste reduction and recycling); and 1999 Washtenaw County Environmental Excellence Award (the county’s highest honor for leadership in environmental preservation and protection).
Geographics has been riding the “green wave” for some time, according to Norvin Hagan, president and founder. “However, as environmental, social and economic concerns become increasingly important to our customers, our efforts to maximize sustainability represent a promise that is being made to both our customers and our employees.”
The printer’s green initiative program, known as GeoGreen, involves a concerted effort in six specific areas. The first is FSC chain-of-custody certification, which Geographics has now earned. The second is monitoring air quality and emissions. To further combat VOC emissions, the company has installed afterburners on all of its web presses to capture fugitive emissions.
Additionally, a new high-tech UV printing press, which uses ink with almost zero VOCs, was recently installed. Other air quality initiatives include the elimination of alcohol-based dampening systems, a switch to water-based varnishes and the adoption of detergent-based plate developers.
All of Geographics’ standard inks are vegetable based. To improve performance and eliminate ink waste on-press, the company has installed canister ink dispensers on its sheetfed presses, and a tote tank ink system eliminates ink drums from the web presses.
Computer-to-plate workflows have also been adopted to reduce waste. Any hazardous waste that is still produced is shipped to a fuel-blending facility for use in industrial waste-fired boilers.
GeoGreen also addresses recycling. Systems have been installed throughout the facility to extract, shred and bale paper waste for recycling. Corrugated is recycled, as is 100 percent of the printer’s printing plates. Pallets are recycled. Fluorescent bulbs, ballasts and batteries are recycled. Electronics and computers are recycled. Office paper is recycled, as well as all lubricant oils used in the plant.
“Encouragement of sustainability” is the last GeoGreen initiative but, as Hagan notes, not the least.
“We all play a role to promote sustainability so, as an extension of Geographics’ commitment, we actively encourage customers to make design and purchasing decisions that reduce the environmental impact of their printed materials.”
Random Lake, WI
Times Printing was the first printing company in the state of Wisconsin to join the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) Green Tier Program, which promotes businesses to adhere to strict environmental guidelines and standards. As part of its “staying on top” of the Green Tier Program, Times recently installed a new regenerative thermal oxidizer (RTO) unit that removes the VOCs from the exhaust of its web press. Additionally, all of the lighting in the plant was replaced with energy-efficient solutions, cutting more than 18.6 million kilowatt hours.
The printer has been greening itself for the past several years and boasts many eco accomplishments. Here are just a few, noted by Wendy Scholler, environmental, health and safety coordinator. Times Printing has promoted the use of soy-based inks. Contracting with an ink removal firm, 6,325 gallons of ink waste have been recycled and used for energy recovery. A solvent recycling unit is being purchased to reuse up to 90 percent of the wash from its presses. A recent changeover to acetone from methanol usage in its ink-jet process is significantly eliminating VOCs. A biodegradable citrus product has replaced one of its solvents.
Rather than disposing of 38 drums of oil-soiled absorbent press socks and pads each year, adds Scholler, the printer now processes them for reuse. More than 20,440 lbs. of plastic, including plastic strapping used on the shop floor, are recycled. Times recycles all of its scrap paper.
“Participating in the Green Tier Program has really brought the concept of environmental responsibility into our inner workings. Everyone is aware of its benefits to the company and to our surrounding neighbors and community,” Scholler states.
Another benefit of being in the program has been from a marketing standpoint. “I see so many more jobs coming in now requesting environmentally friendly inks and papers. Our salespeople tell us that customers look at this type of progress in vendors more and more,” Scholler reports.
Hi-Tech Imaging is a “greening-in-process” company that follows its woman owner’s values to a T. “As a mother of two young boys, I feel compelled to practice the values I want them to grow up having,” says Cara Kass, COO. “Our kids have been learning the importance of recycling in school since kindergarten. As role models, we need to walk the walk in our every-day life, as well as our business.”
Hi-Tech is walking the walk to greener printing in several ways. It’s FSC certified. It’s using soy-based inks. It recycles its waste paper and printing plates, and has recovery systems on its processors. And, it’s converting to a new blanket/roller wash system that will reduce VOCs by 35 percent.
“To truly be a green company, you must change your corporate culture, the way your employees think,” explains Kass. “We have notified our employees that by Q1 ’08, we intend to be as green as a printer can be. All chemistry, ink and water waste from the presses are hauled off by a third-party vendor. Nothing from our pressroom goes down the drain.”
The centerpiece of Hi-Tech’s greening process is its recent FSC certification. The impetus for becoming certified was an unexpected (and profitable) request.
“We have been recycling for years, but were never really aware of the certification process,” she recalls. “When a major client issued an RFQ requiring FSC-certified stocks, I started doing my homework and discovered that just buying FSC (certified) stock did not allow you to use the FSC logo. We discovered that many printers have been using the FSC logo on their clients’ work in error, unaware of the chain-of-custody requirements.
“Corporate social responsibility issues are becoming a core component of corporate brands,” Kass concludes.
“Dealing responsibly with your company’s footprint not only reduces risk, it can also enhance your brand—if you walk the walk and know how to talk about it.” PI