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(March 2010) posted on Mon Mar 15, 2010

Five shops report that ‘going green’ continues to have both challenges and rewards.

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By J.P. Pieratt

Modernistic obviously considers sustainable to be about more than purely production: “It’s about continuously improving multiple areas of your operations, from the chemicals you use in the bathroom to the type of salt you use on the sidewalk,” says DeAnn Strenke, the company’s marketing manager. Modernistic also has garnered certification from the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP), the printing-industry-specific organization that has established standards and criteria that allow print buyers to more easily find “green” printers. “A lot of companies were asking about green certifications,” Strenke says, which prodded Modernistic to begin looking into SGP.

CR&A Custom makes energy conservation and operational efficiencies part of its overall sustainability initiatives. “We’ve also retrofit our building. We’ve put in new ventilation and new windows; so when you’re trying to be green, you should really start with your facility,” says co-owner Carmen Rad. “And we just bought a new printer that runs at a very high speed, which helps in shorter run times and thus less power is used.”

Every little bit counts, including how media is allocated for a job: “You wouldn’t think of this as being a green initiative,” Graham says, referencing how his shop squeezes as much as it can out of each sheet of substrate, “but, in the long run, if you’re throwing less away and getting more out of each sheet, it helps production time, it helps cutting time, it helps finishing and backing times, everything.”

Ink also should be considered, says Print Art. “In the inks, there’s a little bit of a balance,” Nardi says. “A lot of times, if you go with a better ink, then you have to lay less down. Maybe the inks cost a little bit more, but you don’t have to lay as much down, so it offsets costs a little; not entirely, but it offsets a little.”

Cost and ROI
Cost, real or perceived, as well as return on investment,
can influence how much a company is prepared to invest
in green initiatives.

Some of the most common reasons given by print shops resistant to implementing sustainability are that the shop is too small or that the shop can’t afford to spend a lot of resources on such initiatives, particularly if they cannot pinpoint a tangible return on investment.