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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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But the story does not end there! The delivery driver (let’s call him Fred) did double duty as the shipping manager. Fred decided to put his newly found free time to good use. After performing a survey of operations and materials entering on a routine basis, Fred was able to identify selected material that he could collect and reuse in place of virgin packing materials in the shipping department. Not only did this reduce materials going to the local landfill, thus reducing monthly trash costs, but it also prevented unnecessary expenditures on virgin packing materials.

All of this led Fred to think about the kinds of materials entering the facility that he could not reuse or recycle at his location, such as shrink wrap, and he opened a dialogue with the various suppliers that send in those materials as part of their normal shipments. Some suppliers changed to materials that could readily be used by the print shop in its internal reuse program or could easily be recycled. Several suppliers switched from shrink wrap to metal banding, which the printer recycled for a small profit instead of paying for disposal of the shrink wrap; other suppliers began an active internal campaign in their own organizations to eliminate use of those materials, which resulted in further cost avoidance from their reduction in generated trash.

Not exactly the most direct route to an answer, but the printer was able to reduce energy costs for deliveries and costs related to the purchase of virgin packing material and fees for trash disposal. The printer certainly didn’t seek out these additional answers, but the company was quite pleased to find them and benefit from the cost reductions!

That’s really what sustainability is about: looking at your operations and eliminating unnecessary practices or modifying existing practices for more useful purposes. Many changes made in the name of sustainability bring with them opportunities for cost reduction or avoidance. With cost savings comes the increased profitability for your long-term operation.


Karen Gross is executive director of the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (, an organization that promotes sustainable printing practices and certifies print providers that meet established criteria and performance standards for sustainability. Her background includes more than 20 years of experience in the environmental, health, and safety field with a number of those years specifically in the printing industry. Gross also is a former OSHA-approved trainer and ISO 14001 auditor.


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