Misconceptions and myths of green vol 1, pt 1

What do you think?

By Laurel Brunner, Verdigris
1 December 2011

There are other mountains harder to climb than coming up with an environmental policy for your business

This article is part of the Verdigris series of stories about understanding the environmental impact of print. The Verdigris project is supported by founder members Agfa Graphics, Canon Europe, Digital Dots, drupa, HP, Kodak, Ricoh and Unity Publishing, and associate members EFI, Pragati, and Xeikon.

This is the first of a two-part Verdigris article examining some of the myths and misconceptions preventing printing companies from adopting a more aggressive environmental strategy for their businesses.

There are still many printing business owners who believe that leading the company towards a more environmentally friendly direction is expensive and difficult. Printers want to improve the environmental footprint of their businesses, but they may hesitate for fear of unknown costs and consequences. They and their customers can be discouraged by a range of misconceptions and myths relating to print's green agenda.

Some of these concern problems beyond the control of most printers and print buyers, however, there are some misconceptions and myths that are less difficult to dispel. We look at the myths in the second part of this article, and deal here with some of the most common misconceptions.

Misconception 1: A green agenda will cost too much for my business

Cost is the most frequently cited reason for a printing company to avoid taking steps to reduce its environmental impact. However, cost doesn't need to be a barrier. Of course, there can be costs associated with, for example, installing solar panels or insulation. However, most investment into green initiatives should eventually generate a return. 

For companies who are not in a position to make capital investments, encouraging staff to turn off unnecessary lights, air conditioning and heating will at least help cut energy bills. Setting up recycling bins in offices, reception areas and canteens, and improving production workflows to reduce waste are also obvious aids to a reduced environmental footprint. The cost of such efforts is trivial and easily affordable. Indeed they may even save the business money.

Misconception 2: A green agenda is too complex for me to implement

Complex systems can begin with a simple idea or target, perhaps something as basic as a ten percent reduction in energy bills, or reduced fuel consumption for delivery vehicles. Deciding what you want from an environmental impact strategy is the starting point for your environmental policy, and this process is not complex.

Establishing the policy, liaising with customers and briefing staff are all relatively simple steps you can take to improve your environmental impact. You might find the thought of this complex or even overwhelming, but once you know where to start ideas for implementation will come in accordance with your business values and goals. It might perhaps be difficult to get started, but the process is as complex or as easy as you want to make it.

Misconception 3: A green agenda is unnecessary for the printing industry

Ignoring the market's interest in the environment will ultimately undermine a printing company's success, whether it's a newspaper printer or a producer of sign and display work. Giving up on print in the belief that it is doomed to disappear is a dismal and short-sighted response to market changes, and especially to the rise of digital media. Print and digital media are mutually supportive and print will be around for as long as it provides a value addition to other media. Consider the success of print titles such as Simon's Cat which started life as a YouTube video or digitally printed photobooks ordered via the web. Both of these examples demonstrate how digital and print media can be mutual beneficial.

Whether one accepts the climate change reality or not, all industries must understand that their activities contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. The printing industry needs a green agenda if it is to take its environmental responsibilities seriously and wants to be in line with the concerns of its markets and those of consumers. Printers should drive and participate in the conversation, rather than be subject to the whims of the wider market.

Click here to read volume one, part two.



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