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Sustainability in Practice: Yunker Industries

(April/May 2018) posted on Tue May 29, 2018

A seventy-year-old retail graphics and d├ęcor provider takes its impact on the environment seriously.


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By Kiersten Feuchter

The late Warren Yunker always said he wanted his company to have fans, not customers, and he wanted a family, not employees. Seventy years after he founded the company, Yunker Industries still holds those values in the highest regard. 

Nadine Seitz, marketing manager, says that the company’s dedication to sustainability is simply an extension of those family values: “What matters to Yunker is we’re a family here. It’s the environment that we live and work in. It all matters.”

Yunker is a retail graphics and décor provider based in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, and is the only printer in the state to be both SGP- and Green Tier-certified. SGP is a nonprofit that certifies printing facilities’ sustainability practices, spanning process, product, and social areas. Green Tier is a program run by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources that helps companies work toward a green bottom line. 

SGP certification is a rigorous, ongoing process that Seitz says should be taken very seriously by those considering it. Yunker’s sustainability efforts are led by its SGP committee, which is spearheaded by Seitz and includes Kari Yunker, company president and CEO; Doug Oakes, VP of operations and client services; and Phil Dantuma, purchasing manager. But beyond these ringleaders, it’s a company-wide effort. 

“People look at it on the outside and they think it’s just sorting garbage,” says Oakes. “That’s a really small portion of the whole task.” At Yunker, sustainability means mindfulness in terms of employee wellness, recordkeeping, hazardous waste handling, health and safety procedures, training, shipping – all the way to the parking lot where the snow removal company lays down salt. And that means departments like human resources, accounting, maintenance, and more have to be in the loop, too. 

In addition to using LEDs, investing in UV print technology, upselling sustainable substrates like Falconboard, and carefully sorting waste, Yunker has gotten creative throughout its facility. One huge area where companies can make a difference is packaging and shipping. Yunker has invested in a machine that makes bubble wrap out of biodegradable materials as well as a box maker that allows them to create shipping containers that are the exact size needed for each item. As often as possible, they ship using the UPS carbon neutral program, and they’re also working on obtaining an eco-responsible shipper certification via UPS. 

As Seitz says, it’s quite a commitment. But is it worth all the effort? The Yunker team’s answer is a resounding “yes.” Beyond the impact these efforts have on both people and the planet, it’s become a differentiator to Yunker’s customers – fans – too. Seitz says questions like “Are you sustainable?” and “Are you a green company?” pop up on RFIs all the time, and even “Are you SGP-certified?” is becoming more and more common.  

“That’s a big deal,” she says. “That’s what makes us stand out a little bit more by going that extra mile.”

Read more from Screen Printing's April/May 2018 issue.


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