According to Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary, one of the definitions of “sustainable” is “of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged” and “of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods.” But for an industry that uses chemicals and produces a high volume of disposable signage—some of which cannot enter the recycling stream—what does it really mean to “go green”?
For some it’s just a state of mind, offering some “feel good” points and some financial savings. Some know they need to recycle and they separate their waste into the appropriate recycling bins. They turn off their lights or use automatic timers and may have even changed the bulbs in their facilities. Some may even be using more recycled and biodegradable media and processes.
But for others, it’s a much more involved process. As difficult as it may be, many PSPs have the goal to make a zero impact on the environment and even produce a negative carbon footprint, leaving it better than they found it.
“Going green is commonly associated with ecological sustainability, more so than social and financial sustainability,” said Marco Perez, director of marketing, Point Imaging. “Recently, our industry has made great strides in developing eco-sustainable technology and media. To us, going green means evaluating our impact on the environment in every aspect of our business, then implementing measures to reduce those impacts.”
According to Stephen Goddard, environmental leadership program manager, HP, there are four key elements PSPs need to address when looking to go green—and it’s all based on a long-term view of the future.
First, PSPs need to build a long-term commitment to sustainability. “Management needs to decide—and begin communicating—that they’re in this for the long term,” said Goddard. “It will require new knowledge, committees, policies, procedures, analysis, programs, investments, and likely also certifications for the business. It also requires a long-term commitment. Only then can a sign shop demonstrate to customers that they can be a great partner in sustainability.”
Secondly, PSPs need to be sure they’re working with the right partners. “Moving to printing solutions and substrates with a better environmental profile can play an important role in both reducing the environmental impact of a print shop and being able to produce ‘greener’ wide-format graphics for customers,” said Goddard. “Although there are a host of options available, in the end it comes down to a few key issues: moving away from PVC printing materials towards recyclable alternatives, sourcing papers that bear responsible sourcing certifications—FSC in particular—and even trying to find substrates with recycled content.”
Next, PSPs need to take it to the people and engage their client base. “PSPs need to learn about their clients’ sustainability priorities, demonstrate suitability as a partner in sustainability, and help to educate their customers on the issues and options open to them,” said Goddard.
Lastly, PSPs need to be able to provide the solutions they’ve talked about. “Ultimately PSPs have to leverage the sustainability know-how that they have built up, the printing solutions and substrates that they have in their portfolio, and knowledge of the specific needs of the client to provide them with wide-format graphics that can best help them to meet their sustainability goals,” said Goddard.
While that four-element approach may seem like a no-brainer to some, I’m sure some owners are reading this and saying to themselves “it’s just not that easy”. And they’d be right.
Creating and maintaining a long-term focus on sustainability is not something that happens overnight. And it’s also not something that will happen on its own. If upper management it not committed to creating a sustainable business plan for their companies, by and large, it won’t ever happen.