Environmental Sustainability in the Printing Industry: How one Pioneer’s Efforts are Recognized
It’s a bright July morning, and a gathering of leaders in education, graphic arts, history, and environmentalism are convening in the beautiful, treasured venue of the Melbert B. Cary Collection housed at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), home of the School of Media Sciences, to recognize a true visionary, Dr. Laura Thompson.
Bridging time-honored tradition and innovative environmental stewardship, this is a significant event for the printing industry; not only because of the proud, highly deserving award recipient standing here today, but also because of her pioneering work to make the paper industry, and thus the printing industry, more environmentally friendly.
Laura Thompson, Ph.D , Director, Technical Marketing and Sustainable Development, Sappi Fine Paper North America, is the recipient of the 2013 William D. Schaeffer Environmental Award. Unable to attend the official ceremony during Printing Industries of America’s Spring Administrative Meetings, May 31–June 1, 2014, in Dallas, TX, Stephen Whittaker, the 2011 Schaeffer Award winner and collegue of Dr. Thompson, personally offered to present her with the award.
At the alternate presentation, held at RIT, Dr. Thompson commented, “It is truly an honor to be recognized by PIA with this award. I was disappointed to not be able to attend the ceremony in Dallas, but Steve Whittaker was able to arrange for a very special presentation at one of the most respected graphic communication education centers in the world.”
Also on hand to join the celebration were the Dean of the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences, Program Coordinator for the School of Media Sciences (Print), two company representatives from the new Veritiv (formerly Xpedx), and the Curator and Assistant Curator of the RIT collection.
“Surrounded by the treasures of the Cary Collection, members of RIT faculty and staff, along with fellow paper industry members,” said Dr. Thompson, “it was truly a special moment to receive the award.”
Dr. Thompson’s Impact
Dr. Thompson’s extensive work shows how one person can make a significant impact on environmental issues. The 2013 judges were searching for an individual who excelled in every area, including education, public relations, continuous improvement, compliance assistance, regulatory issue involvement, and pioneering efforts.
“She freely shares her knowledge and enthusiasm for sustainable practices,” said one of the Schaeffer Award Judges. This enthusiasm helps to advance the environmental performance of the entire printing industry. The Board of Directors of the national Sustainable Green Printing Partnership, many of whom are past recipients of this award, also added their congratulations on her many accomplishments.
In her role at Sappi Fine Paper, Dr. Thompson is responsible for working with the company’s leadership to set strategy, establish long-term goals, and drive key initiatives. She also serves as the thought leader behind Sappi’s eQ Brand, a multi-dimensional communication platform featuring videos, white papers, The eQ Journal (also available in print), and a blog, The Environmental Quotient.
One of Sappi’s recent environmental initiatives was to bring natural gas many miles to reach the Somerset, Maine, papermaking mill. Along the way, many small towns will take advantage of this fuel source as both the mill and individual households replace fuel oil as a primary source of energy!
From One Pioneer to Another
Whittaker understands what it takes to lead successful environmental initiatives. With nearly 29 years of organizing dozens of effective third-party quality system audits for Monroe Litho, Inc., 20 years teaching as an Adjunct Professor in the School of Print Media, College of Imaging Arts and Sciences at RIT, and other accolades, he received the Schaeffer Award in 2011.
As a fellow environmental pioneer, he was proud to be able to present Dr. Thompson with this award “What a remarkable woman!” was Whittaker’s exclaim as he reflected on the event. “What a special privilege it now is for me, on behalf of the Printing Industries of America, to present this very special plaque.”
A Work in Progress
If Dr. Thompson’s success has any bearing on our industry as a whole, it shows that the efforts to strengthen the development of a sustainable industry are enduring. But can this forward progress be sustained for the next generations?
Dr. Thompson thinks that, as an industry, we can continuously improve sustainable practices. “I have the pleasure of representing Sappi, an outstanding paper company that has fully embraced sustainable development. And I am equally proud to be part of an industry that uses renewable resources and high levels of renewable energy to make products that are recyclable. While there remains progress to be made, the paper and graphic arts industry is uniquely and inherently sustainable”.
Do you know someone who is making a significant impact on our industry? Honor them with a nomination for one of the Printing Industries of America Award Programs.