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February 2008

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Addressing and Deciphering Green
By Kathy Lauerman, President
Printing & Imaging Association Mountain States

2007 saw a new round of green initiatives and green requests from clients, environmentalists, regulators and legislators. Being green and using green products & suppliers has moved from being a great marketing strategy to, in many cases, becoming a requirement to do business. Locally and nationally, the green movement has become important to individuals and industries, our collective industries are no exception. In some cases we have been a target with a big, fat bull's-eye.

Early last year, a group of environmentalists from New American Dream (NAD) began an aggressive attack across the country to eliminate direct mail. Although they likely had the best of intentions they were incredibly misinformed about all aspects of direct mail from the paper it's printed on, to other environmental impacts, to what they had no clue about with regard to the entire infrastructure that could be decimated by what they are trying to do. I say trying because direct mail is still on their radar screen. They reeked havoc, embarrassed rookie legislators with their inaccurate information, and in many cases downright lied - although it may not have been lying, it might have been lack of accurate research. We were fortunate that we pulled a great coalition together in Colorado that included every industry group that would be affected by the proposed legislation which also included the USPS and the AFL-CIO and were able to get the bill pulled before it made it into the legislative process. Never the less the issue we battled will continue and it appears that the environmental aspect of direct mail will be one of their key positions. The most frightening thing is that NAD did some bragging that the Colorado bill, in their eyes, was the best in the country.

At the same time Green was gaining momentum for just about everything. Clients large and small were asking their agencies and printers about what they were doing that was green but at the onset they weren't even sure what they meant by it. Was green a process, a product, the way a supplier conducted business? Many catalogers were being harassed about the paper they were using and “chain-of-custody” certification such as FSC and SFI* began to become important. Interestingly, and I'm sure coincidentally to my conversation with him about the misinformation being circulated about clear cutting trees for use in direct mail, the gentleman from NAD who had been spearheading the Do Not Mail initiatives and was planning to meet with our coalition and state Representative Sarah Gagliardi, left NAD and moved to “Forest Ethics” that promotes FSC certification and is no longer on the Do Not Mail bandwagon. That in itself is an indication that green is complicated.

According to Gary Jones, the Director of Environmental, Health & Safety to our national organization Printing Industries of America/Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (PIA/GATF), green printing includes the product, the process and the envelope that surrounds them. The product includes materials used to produce a printed piece, the process is how a piece is produced and the envelope is the building, grounds, energy consumption, employees and other supporting activities - virtually the same as every other industry. Most printers have become aware that they are more environmentally friendly than they even knew. It has been an evolution that has occurred over several decades assisted by evolving technology. That too is occurring in other industries as well.

Addressing and deciphering green means different things to different people. It is also something that is not just an industry responsibility - it is the responsibility of individuals in their daily lives. We, those who work in what has now been designated as a Non-Attainment Area** for ground level ozone (the entire Front Range from Castle Rock all the way north to the Wyoming border), need to be concerned about what steps we can take individually and collectively to avoid putting more pollutants into the air. There will be new regulations and new steps taken by the Regional Air Quality Commission, as well as the state Legislature to keep us from exceeding the EPA's thresholds this summer. I have had the opportunity to be involved in an Ozone Stakeholders Committee that is looking into what can be done to alleviate the problem. Over the last few months we have heard reports and presentations on everything from Oil & Gas emissions to tail pipe emissions as well as changing out gas powered lawn mowers to electric ones. But that's just air.

Deciphering and addressing green also includes waste, water, recycling, planting the proper trees, enhancing the power grid by “buying up” to purchase wind power, and simply stated “not being wasteful”. It also includes thinking about what goes into a landfill - no not paper, but computers, monitors, keyboards and the like (or paying a recycling firm to pick them up, dismantle them and find the proper disposal mechanism), which brings us full circle to the Do Not Mail initiatives that brought the green momentum to our collective industries one year ago.

There are as many perspectives regarding how to be as green as we can be and still continue to do business as there are perspectives as to the best way to do direct marketing. Some techies think that all direct marketing should be done electronically but studies have shown that more of that is “nuked” before opening and ignored on websites than what is tossed or recycled from direct mail. One thing is certain, properly prepared direct mail adds legitimacy to the company that is advertising and if used in combination with web and e-mail advertising it brings great results. The same holds true for being green - all companies should have a green position statement and as time goes on may have to have green certifications to legitimize that they are truly green. Down the road green will be the normal course of doing business, not something that is trendy. For now there are certifying bodies in place for paper, and one that I know of in the works from the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership will soon be available to certify “green printers”. Criteria for being a green printer will soon be available for both printers and print buyers to review and will be posted on PIAMS plans to hold a green event again this year, similar to the Green Industry Showcase we held last October to help the printing and print buying communities get a better understanding of green. What we do know is that this is not just a current fad - it is going to be an ongoing responsibility for all of us. What we must work on is how to continue to do business while addressing environmental impacts and realize that we are all in it together.

*FSC/SFI Chain of Custody certification simplified. In layman's terms:
FSC is the Forest Stewardship Council (a division of the Rainforest Alliance) which over the last year has become the premier auditing body to give their stamp of approval and use of logo to paper mills, distributors and printers to acknowledge that the paper that is being printed on comes from responsibly managed forests. SFI is the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, a similar body based in North America. At present environmentalists and therefore printing clients are being steered toward FSC certification. In essence each/either certification has been established as way to track back the paper that is being printed on through a “chain of custody” to the forest from whence it came.

** Non-attainment means simply - out of compliance with federal standards. When an area is out of compliance the state must establish new rules and regulations to get their region back into compliance.

Kathy Lauerman has managed Printing & Imaging Association Mountain States (PIAMS), an affiliate of Printing Industries of America/Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (PIA/GATF), for the last ten years after establishing and managing the affiliate association in Arizona. Prior to becoming a printing association manager, she has owned & operated a printing company, been in management positions and has done consulting for the printing industry. She can be reached at 303.771.1578 or by e-mail at

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