Has Green Turned Brown?

When one thinks about our industry’s green movement, we realize that most firms don’t sell a green product for its own sake.  We meet the demands of our customers.  If our customers want a green product, we’ll produce it, and if necessary, we’ll become certified.  Historically that has been the thought process of our industry.  We give the customer what they want. 

They want more color.  We buy the equipment.  Faster turnarounds.  Sure, more shifts and equipment.  Need shorter runs.  Yup, more equipment.  Oh, and are you willing to pay more?  Well, we know the answer to that question, but I’ll leave that discussion for another time.

Let’s get back to being green.  Needless to say, as the economy has continued to stagnate (don’t let the 10,000 of the Dow fool you), the demands for green printing has become dormant.  And that’s not good for us in the long run.

Because many companies are cutting ALL advertising expenditures, they are looking very closely at how they spend their dollars.  In light of the push to not kill trees (another story for another time), many have looked at printing as a dying communication media and not a relevant way of communicating.  Consequently, as the economy begins to revitalize, advertisers will consider the viability of our “non-green” industry.  Yes, ours is a mature industry and the halcyon days are behind us — but we need to find ways to be greener — and leaner.  Because doing the right thing can also be the smart thing to maintain the viability of print.

So, let’s look at this concept of green printing from another angle, and this is where many have got it right.  Sustainability.  In my mind, sustainability is about doing the right thing for the business, our customers, and our earth’s resources.  It’s about balance, or if you will, equilibrium.  Some “greenies” just want to put a spin on things while others are willing to destroy our economic engines to save the earth.  Both sides are only seeing one part of the equation – but not understanding that balance is necessary.

For years, many in our industry have been doing the right thing from a cost perspective.  They’ve recycled plates.  They recycle their paper.  While others have taken a much more progressive approach and looked at ways to minimize their VOC emissions by using soy based inks and safer chemicals in their operation.  Much of this has been done because of regulations, while many know it’s the right thing to do.  Recently we are starting to see companies adopt lean processes, a systemized process to improve productivity, but more importantly it’s a way to reduce waste and maximize how a company uses its resources.  And here’s where we as industry have missed it.  We are doing many of these things to be lean and green – but have failed to communicate this to our customers and the community at large.

There are dozens of ways a firm can become lean and green – and it’s important that this fact is communicated to print buying decision makers.  We have to help them understand that print can be environmentally friendly.  I assure you that many in the environmental community, who have a very loud voice at this time, don’t paint our industry as being earth friendly. We need to become proactive and demonstrate that not only do we provide a valuable method of communication – but it’s done with sustainable practices.

If you are looking for ideas — and by the way, becoming lean and green is not a quick fix, but a commitment — check out Printing Industries of America’s “The Green Guide for Graphic Communication.   This online guide is an excellent tool to help firms analyze and determine what they need to do to become lean and green and how to tell their story  – and it’s not just about certifications.  Check it out!


One thought on “Has Green Turned Brown?

  1. Good stuff, Joe, and highly relevant. I’ve often looked at the “Green” mantra as a sort of catchy marketing (perfection), and “Sustainability” as the real heart of the matter (achievable). I don’t necessarily see print as a “dirty” industry, in light of the massive increase in FOSSIL FUEL generated electricity usage to power and re-charge all these electronic devices & readers & such. And let’s not forget the mercury, lead, and other tidy things that make up such devices.

    Now there’s a marketing angle for Print: Perhaps we could apply this “carbon footprint” and sustainability factor to the collective footprint of all this electronic wizardry and COAL that keeps it running?

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