Editor's Note: It's Not Easy Being Green

I have to admit that I’m a huge Muppets fan—and looking forward to the upcoming Muppet movie. But when I was looking for a headline to top off my column this month, the phrases “Going Green” and “Being Green” kept spinning around in my mind—and for a very good reason. In the graphic arts industry, we’ve been talking about green and sustainability for several years now. We’ve heard it all before: bio- this and eco- that. Remember to recycle. Be sure to cultivate sustainability practices. You need to reduce your carbon footprint. I’m sure most—if not all of us—practice sustainability to some degree. We probably recycle our bottles, cans, and papers. Some of us have probably switched out our light bulbs for the compact fluorescents. Some of us might even shop for organic products, sourcing our food and supplies from companies with strong commitments to rebuilding and giving back to the environment.

But when you look at the printing industry—full of chemicals and many media types which cannot be recycled, or even have to go through many steps in order to be recycled—is sustainability really an option? According to a recent InfoTrends/Wide-Format Imaging study (Who Buys Wide Format 2011) 78.4 percent of PSPs report that their customers are asking them for “greener” printing options and 75.5 percent of their customers are asking them to use more easily recyclable print media. But while many print buyers have a preference for “green” products and many companies are requesting “green products”, the reality is that most of them are not willing to pay the premium price for it. It’s really been a conundrum for many PSPs: do they start down the path of sustainability now—which requires a lot of time, effort, and long-term commitment—or do they wait until its more widespread and cheaper?

This issue of Wide-Format Imaging addresses sustainability throughout its pages—from a feature on UV LED printing (a much greener process) to a special section focusing on sustainability practices and highlighting the success of ARC Southern California, the 2011 recipient of the Green Reprographer Award, presented by Océ North America.

It really isn’t easy to be green these days—especially in light of an uncertain economy and customers who don’t want to pay more for their graphics and signage. But many PSPs have found that sustainability practices and processes have helped more than harmed and their customers have rewarded their efforts with business.

And maybe one day in the near future, we can all sing a much different song.