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Sustainable Best Practices: A New Approach to Printing

(August 2009) posted on Fri Aug 07, 2009

The popularity of sustainable printing is gaining momentum in the screen-printing industry. This discussion describes some of the ways you can actually make your operation more sustainable and highlights the cost savings associated with eco-friendly business decisions.

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The envelope
The envelope includes all the manufacturing-support activities and the building, grounds, utilities, employees, and other functions at a site. Let’s look briefly at shipping, with a more detailed look at energy/utilities.

Shipping is part of the best management practices within the envelope. Take time to evaluate your packaging materials. For shipping activities, have you established procedures to minimize packaging waste, and can you reuse packaging whenever possible?

Another area for review under the envelope is utilities or energy usage. The first step is to conduct an energy audit. The audit results enable you to investigate alternative energy sources and new trends in energy-reduction opportunities and solutions. Conduct an energy audit once every two years and be sure to document the process and results. Local utility companies usually provide this type of service for free or at a very low cost to their existing customers. Some third-party energy providers will also provide this service upon request. Others choose to pay external consultants for this service.

Keep track of your annual energy consumption. Many printers now monitor energy consumption on a monthly basis to help them identify the sources in their shops that impact utility costs and to identify new ways to reduce energy consumption. Many printers changed their lighting sources years ago to more efficient bulbs or to task-oriented from area lighting, but it’s time to revisit this topic. Consider installing motion-sensor-triggered illumination for areas with low or infrequent light usage. These systems ensure lighting is used only when a person is in the room and that the lighting will automatically be turned off when no one is in the area.

Exterior lighting is another factor in your shop’s overall consumption of energy. You can improve your efficiency in this area by installing either motion sensors or energy-efficient dusk-to-dawn lighting. Sometimes just paying attention to the lighting in the parking lot or building as you drive up to work one morning may provide another opportunity for improvement. This simple inspection of your dusk-to-dawn lighting may reveal a burned-out sensor that results in the light being on continuously. This is a problem you can quickly address by installing a new light fixture, thereby avoiding the long-term energy cost of that light being on all of the time.


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