Sentinel Printing: Building a Community
"We don't want to just run out and buy from sources that are polluting because they're cheaper."
Founded in 1858, Sentinel Printing in Hempstead, New York, is one of Long Island's oldest companies, "perhaps the oldest company that's still in the original business," says company president Glen Boehmer. Sentinel had its beginnings as a town newspaper, but in 1950,when the paper folded, the company re-branded itself as a commercial printer. Boehmer's family, printers for generations themselves, bought the business in 1983.
Today the company employs 12 people and occupies four buildings. Two of the buildings are devoted to digital or hybrid printing: one contains a Heidelberg DI, and the other holds two Xerox DocuColor 5000s. "We use the DI for short-run nonvariable color work, says Boehmer. "Business cards, brochures, fliers – anything that fits in a 12.5 x 18-inch footprint. The Xerox footprint is 13 x 19 inches, but it allows us to do even shorter-run color work plus variable data. Personalized newsletters and postcards are a big part of what we run through them, plus small jobs like PowerPoint presentations and seminar materials.”
The company currently has just one wide-format printer, a 60-inch HP Designjet. But, Sentinel is in the process of acquiring a wide-format print company, and bringing that shop’s equipment in-house as well. Although details could not be released as this article is written, the deal will certainly expand Sentinel’s wide-format toolbox, providing clients with even more output choices.
Sentinel is also currently a candidate for SGP certification. "What I like about SGP is that it's a full philosophy of how your company behaves in its responsibility to the environment." To Boehmer, it's not enough to simply buy sustainably produced paper: "That doesn't mean my company is green," he says. “All it means is that I'm buying green paper. But that's just one element in a printing company."
But Boehmer's efforts didn't start with his determination to seek SGP certification. "There were common-sense things that we had started to do before we went into SGP," he recalls. "For example, we looked at the cleaning we were doing, and we removed bleach from the building. Then one guy I knew started pushing certification and told me, 'You've been environmentally responsible for years, why not just go through the process?'"
"Now, every action we take is putting us in the proper place,” he continues. “From a purchasing standpoint, we want to make sure we're using people that are going in the right direction. We don't want to just run out and buy from sources that are polluting because they're cheaper."
The whole-business aspect of Boehmer's approach to green printing is exemplified by his decision to install solar panels on one of Sentinel's buildings, which houses the DocuColors. "Once we get to the spring and summer months, we'll have enough power to drive the two Xeroxes," he says.
"There's always another project, though," Boehmer continues. "Within the next year we want to reduce our energy consumption by five to 10 percent. So right now we're changing all the lighting in our buildings. After that, I want to take a look at the VOCs we emit and figure out what's a reasonable reduction I can make. We'll reach out to our ink manufacturers for help with that."
And sometimes Boehmer's commitment extends to helping his clients be greener, too. "We had a local not-for-profit, the Family and Children Association," he recalls. "They have about 15 or 20 different brochures, and before they came to us, they were printing 500 or 1000 copies of each. But they probably used no more than 100 of each one before they were updated, so they'd throw the extras out and print 500 more. So we built a Web storefront, put all their brochures on line, and created an on-demand solution for them. So now they order between 25 to 100 at a time. They're only printing what they need and not throwing anything out."
Like many print shops that have embraced the sustainable philosophy, Sentinel led the market rather than responding to it. "Customers weren't asking for this when we started it," Boehmer says. "But now there's definitely a community out there that's asking for it. It's still not the majority of our clients. They're really trying to get jobs done, and there's no question that the economy raised the fear of green being more expensive. But [being green] doesn't necessarily have to be. I think in the next year and a half, we're going to be hearing a lot more about it – we're going to be hearing from corporate sources that are looking for companies that have been doing this stuff already. So I'm excited about that."