Sustainability is an issue faced by us all and those in the graphics industry are not immune. In fact, sustainability has become one of the issues at the forefront of the industry, causing long time operators to reassess their methods while giving them and others the opportunity to explore new products. Additionally, scarcity of natural resources continues to impact the way wide-format print providers approach their businesses, from the sourcing of raw materials and supplies to manufacturing and delivery.
Dave Sunderman, Sustainable Project Lead Coordinator at Visual Marking Systems, talks about the things brands may be looking for when choosing a PSP. “Sustainable brands are looking for sustainable-focused print service providers that can reduce time and money, add to their own sustainable programs and improve their bottom line,” says Sunderman. “This is measured using the three P’s - People, Profits, and Planet.”
One of the things that might be asked is how wide-format PSPs are affected differently than smaller presses when it comes to sustainability. Nicki Macfarlane President at ProGraphix addresses the issue: “The print substrate used by small format printers is primarily paper for indoor use. However, wide format printers have a multitude of printing substrates to choose from, depending on whether the print is for indoors or outdoors, rigid or flexible, flat or curved surfaces, with or without adhesive (removable, permanent, repositionable) and long term or short term. Other decisions include the type of ink to use and if lamination is required. Finding the right sustainable option is an extremely time consuming process and the choices are constantly changing. Sustainable materials for wide-format can be more expensive than convention materials which can be harder to sell.”
Dave Sunderman discusses the changes VMS has made regarding the use of sustainable and raw materials and supplies.
“When VMS became the 37th Certified Green Printer of SGP, we began to realize the importance of documenting what we were doing, almost in a way to benchmark off of our own performance,” says Sunderman. “Open and ongoing dialogue with our suppliers helps determine if any new or alternative methods or products/ materials could be used to improve the sustainability profile of our business. Sometimes it’s not selecting a “greener” product, sometimes; the reductions come from just using less of it. For instance a chemical that emits less VOCs into the air, might be more costly, and the operator might need to use more of the chemical to do the same job as before. Working with your suppliers to determine the most efficient use or a better way to apply the product will yield the anticipated reduction result without changing any product or supplier.”
“Our focus is providing products that are biodegradable, compostable, recyclable, recycled content, virgin fiber paper source, or reduced PVC content whenever possible,” says Macfarlane. “We educate our customers by passing out samples of sustainable print materials with symbols to highlight the sustainable characteristic. Our website also includes information on sustainable materials. Our primary banner and paper materials are now recyclable, and many of our rigid substrates are recyclable, biodegradable, or compostable. We also use adhesive backed products with no pvc content when possible.”
In addition to processes, PSPs must also look at the change in product availability and cost.
“Sustainability at the core is doing more, with less,” says Sunderman. “VMS is always looking for ways to take our sustainability commitment further; however, cost does play a very important role in a print buyer’s procurement decisions. We believe in order to do this we must look at those products not only in ways that encompass the economic dimensions but also the ecological and environmental and social dimensions as well.”