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Commentary & Analysis

Tackling the Green Issue

By Margie Gallo Dana A few weeks ago,

By WhatTheyThink Guest Contributor
Published: July 19, 2007

By Margie Gallo Dana

A few weeks ago, I moderated a panel discussion called "Bringing Green into Your Design." The panelists represented a good mix of professionals who are knee deep in Green - a senior executive from the Rainforest Alliance, an executive with a paper company, a graphic designer, and a printing company representative.

Liza Murphy is the Senior Manager in the Sustainable Forestry division of the Rainforest Alliance (www.ra.org/). The Rainforest Alliance is a nonprofit organization based in New York. Among other things, it "sets standards for sustainability that conserve wildlife and wildlands and promote the well-being of workers and their communities."

Representing the paper industry was George Milner, Senior VP of Environmental Affairs for Mohawk Fine Papers (www.mohawkpaper.com/).

Pam Fogg was the customer on the panel. Pam is the Art Director at Middlebury College in Middlebury, VT.* She is also President of the Board of Directors for an association of her peers - the University & College Designers Association, or "UCDA." Their site is www.ucda.com/

Rounding out the panel was Heather McCoy from Hull Printing in Barre-Berlin, VT. Heather has one of the coolest titles I've come across in a long time: she is Hull's Enviro & Customer Service Manager. Hull Printing (http://www.hullprinting.com/) is FSC-certified (one of only two printers in VT that can claim this).

A few days before the panel, I wondered who would be in the audience, mostly manufacturers or mostly customers? It turned out that among the 80 or so attendees, there were 20 graphic designers; 10 art directors; 15 marketing communications managers, directors or marketing staff; and 13 owners or partners from design firms. Few printing company employees were there, and several folks from the paper industry attended.

It is notable that mostly customers of print - and most of them designers - showed a real interest in this session. From my experience attending industry conferences over the past 2-3 years, this observation is consistent. The customer, whether she's a designer or a print purchasing specialist, is pushing for green.

Before the panel began, I asked for a show of hands from anyone in the audience who felt he or she could stand up and adequately define FSC. Narry a hand was raised. (I know the paper people there could have met this challenge. They must have been shy.)

I think that the majority of print customers, including graphic designers, are still unfamiliar with FSC (as well as SFI and other green acronyms). In fact, I know a lot of printers who aren't familiar with FSC.

FSC stands for the Forest Stewardship Council (visit www.fsc.org/ or www.fscus.org). It is an international organization that certifies that paper used for printing can be traced to logging sources that are sustainable and legal.

Through the FSC, independent certification organizations audit paper manufacturers, paper merchants and printers, and award them certification.

Among other things, the FSC logo tells a customer that a firm's products (paper) support the growth of responsible forest management.

As Liza Murphy said, "FSC is all about the paper." The FSC web sites have a ton of good information. For one thing, at www.fscus.org, you can access lists of all of the US paper manufacturers, paper merchants, and printing companies that have FSC Chain-of-Custody certification. According to this list, 181 US printers are FSC-certified. As there are approximately 40,000 printers in this country, this is a tiny minority. However, last fall, only 80 US printers had FSC certification. Things are clearly happening here. Another great resource is www.rainforest-alliance.org/smartguides.

Customer Driven

As the panelists made their points about the value of going green with printing/paper, it became clear that it takes a person with passion, vision, and determination to guide a company into the arena of working with FSC-certified suppliers or becoming one of those suppliers. Both Pam Fogg and Heather McCoy had this 'green vision.' Both women were and still are instrumental in their employers' green initiatives. Their ideas for going green were met with enthusiasm by upper management.

The green-in-print movement is being fueled by customers. Printing companies that are FSC-certified have a terrific opportunity to market themselves as such. Paper manufacturers are leading educators about FSC. They cover it in depth on their web sites and host events for customers to teach them about FSC.

I'd encourage all print customers to seek out and attend every FSC seminar you can. Your paper reps will know all about it.

Just bear in mind that going green in print is not limited to FSC certification. Printing companies have various ways of supporting environmental initiatives - like converting to wind energy or reducing/eliminating hazardous wastes. It's not a new trend, either.

Attendees at our panel session made a good point: there are too many acronyms and too many logos in this environmental space. A lot of people equate going green with recycled paper. More plain-English information and education is clearly needed.

What do you think?

Does working with a printing company that has high, measurable standards for maintaining a healthy planet matter to you? Please send me your thoughts at mailto:mdana@bostonprintbuyers.com.

Finally, I welcome articles and/or white papers about this subject of green print and design. If they are appropriate (informational, not promotional), please send them along and I will post them in our Resources section.

Is it a coincidence that two of our panelists were from Vermont? Vermont's nickname is "The Green Mountain State" because of its Green Mountains. These mountains support a boreal forest, which partly explains why the mountains are so very green. In fact, the state is named after the mountains. "Vermont" is derived from the Latin "Viridis Montis" (translation: "Green Mountains").



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