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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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Document and build on your success
Keeping a detailed record of what you implement and what works best in your shop is a big part of setting up en environment that’s committed to best practices. Once you’ve established those practices, it’s time to focus on continuous improvement and new goals. Your goals must be meaningful. They must be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound (otherwise known as SMART). An example of SMART goals include the implementation of a paper-recycling program in the front office to reduce waste by 20% within one month, planting low-maintenance, native plants in your landscaping to reduce water use by 10% by the spring, and purchasing supplies from a local company to reduce the amount of fuel used for transportation by 30% within the quarter. There are no set standards in regard to the magnitude of the projects or goals, but they should be able to stand on their merit.

Part of moving forward successfully involves creating a method by which your company evaluates what comes into and goes out of the facility. The approach you develop should allow you to identify concerns and then, based on risk ranking, find opportunities for improving sustainability. Each shop’s goals and targets are unique.

What’s it really about?
Sustainability is about looking at the materials we use and determining whether we really need to use them. If we do not, then we eliminate those materials—and in doing so, we also get rid of all the hidden, but associated, costs that come along for the ride.

You clearly can take a wide range of actions to demonstrate sustainability. It begins with employee time and commitment, moves into actual process changes and discussions with customers/supplies, and ends with major equipment purchases. Major equipment purchases are not always required. Some printers may choose to purchase more energy-efficient printing equipment. Others will evaluate their existing delivery truck and decide to go the biodiesel route for fuel—or downsize to a delivery car, or possibly an alternative/flex-fuel vehicle. Other printers may see a major purchase as a refrigerator or microwave for their employees and will select an Energy Star-rated appliance.


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