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The Marshall Plan: Sustainability Starts with Action

(April/May 2018) posted on Thu May 03, 2018

Is 2018 the year your shop finally goes green?


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By Marshall Atkinson

You may be asking yourself what this stuff has to do with sustainability. They’re just printing techniques, right? Yes. Efficiency and performance all center on technique. When you do things the right way, you use less product. The same work takes less time. Using less product while getting faster throughput means you print more shirts in the same timeframe, at lower costs. Cha-ching!

Action Step Three: Training
Sustainability doesn’t impose itself in your shop: It’s a decision. It’s work.

It gets easier, though, when you are transparent about what you are doing and involve your team. This means that dreaded “T” word: training. Your crew needs to understand what’s going on and, more importantly, how they can help.

Ask each department what could be done to take a step out of the work process in their area. I’ll bet that if you ask every person on your staff, you’ll get a bunch of great answers, many that you hadn’t even considered. Try it.

Training your staff about sustainability isn’t lecturing about the need to turn off the lights or put soda cans in the right bin. It’s about getting people to think. Once your crew is empowered to help, the ideas will start flowing like a river. Training is simply sharing. You’re probably used to the boss telling everyone what to do, not asking the employees what they think. That might mean you need to be brave enough to lead your team differently.

So, in essence, you’ll be training too. Sustainability opens up a lot of great doors.

Action Step Four: Certification
Let’s talk about the money-making part of sustainability. That’s when your marketing department gets in on the program.

The first step along that path can be much easier if you have a guide. For that, I highly recommend getting involved with SGIA’s Peer-to-Peer Network, a group of like-minded shops that are all working to improve their sustainability.



The Network has webinars every other week that will teach you the finer points of building your sustainability program. One week, you’ll learn to measure your carbon footprint; the next, they may help you write your mission statement or set some goals. Other members of the group are learning, too, so you can compare notes.

When you do the work and get through the program, then you’ll have a foundation in place to consider going for a third-party sustainability certification. The best-known one in the printing industry is the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP) Certification. Your state or region may have sustainability certification programs as well that are worth exploring.

The reason certifications can be valuable for your company is that they are tough to get. An auditor will come out to your shop to review your program. In the case of SGP, if you have gone through the Peer-to-Peer Network program, you should be ready, as it basically teaches the answers to the test.

Most of what auditors want to see is your documentation. Do you have written rules and procedures for how your shop should operate? If so, are you using them? Working on this can be a challenge. But remember, no growth comes without friction.

Getting the certification is a big deal. Your shop will be one of the best in the industry in terms of sustainability. This is a highly marketable point. Remember, anyone can decorate a shirt. A sustainability certification puts you in a different league.

Go back to your “why” statement. If buying eco-friendly products matters to your customers, then this is the direction that you should take.

Read more from Screen Printing's April/May 2018 issue or check out more advice from The Marshall Plan.


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