Printers are going green

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Printers are quickly joining in the battle against global warming, water pollution and the overstuffing of landfills.

Joe Muehlbach, director of facilities at Quad/Graphics Inc., said his company has been part of the fight since its founding in 1971. "Our President and CEO [Joel Quadracci] has always been sensitive to environmental issues," he said.

Whenever Quad has built additions, it has used recycled steel and concrete. In the early 1990s, it even introduced a mascot, Gruff the Goat, that addressed environmental issues. "Goats are natural recyclers," said Claire Ho, marketing communications manager at Quad/Graphics.

Now Quad/Graphics is trying to become the first major printer to have all its manufacturing sites LEED-certified, a designation given by the U.S. Green Building Council for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

Quad/Graphics is not alone in its environmental efforts. In January, Quebecor World became the first major printer in North America to get all three chain-of-custody certifications, which basically ensure that it is performing "responsible and verifiable forestry practices," said Tony Ross, director of communications for the company. The three certifications are Forest Stewardship Council, Sustainable Forestry Initiative and the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification.

Quebecor World, which filed last month for bankruptcy protection in Canada, also has a dedicated Energy Group, which recently led a workshop that led to more than 40 projects, reducing consumption of natural gas and electricity by 200,000 MMBTUs annually. The company is focused on reducing paper waste by offering co-mailing and services to help with mailing list hygiene, among other things.

Quebecor also uses soy ink and reuses its plastic distribution pallets. About 60% of those pallets are made from recycled materials. The company also prides itself on recycling nearly 100% of its wastepaper. In 2006, the company's North American plants sent out 683,355 short tons of paper for recycling.

Brown Printing Co. has been FSC-certified since last summer and is making a strong investment in virtual proofing. It also makes its own ink out of ink that is collected from the presses, and is creating a co-mailing facility to save its clients money and sharply reduce energy costs.

Fry Commuications has also attained FSC certification and has initiated many environmental projects over the last few years, including putting coatings on the roofs of its facilities to reflect rather than absorb heat and making its presses more energy efficient. The company is also moving toward using solar and wind power.

Quad/Graphics has made a big push recently to deal with water issues. "The lack of fresh water is soon to become a major issue," Muehlbach said. The company uses all of its gray (used) water again in other capacities throughout its plants. It also replaced all its light fixtures with ones that use 50% less energy. "That's eliminated a lot of heat as well," Muehlbach said, "and that eliminates the need to cool those areas as much. That's money we can reinvest in the business."

Muehlbach said that everything that Quad/Graphics has done has made smart business sense and wasn't undertaken just so the company could say it's green. "Sure that helps with some clients," he said, "but everything has to make sense for our budget. When making decisions, if it's good for the environment, it's generally good for business."

Muehlbach said the company philosophy for some time has been to maximize output while minimizing consumption of resources. "That's just plain good business and good for the environment," he said. "We've averaged better than a 3% improvement on energy efficiency and consumption for the last 14 years. We just keep setting new goals and going after them."

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