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Industry Insight

Learn from the Winners: Spirit Graphics, Thought Leader, 2009

Thomas Ackerman Jr, owner of Spirit Graphics, and his business partner (and mother) have been working diligently for approximately 12 years in the printing industry to change the way they do business as a whole with the environment, their employees and themselves in mind. Learn what initiatives earned them the coveted WTT award.

By Gail Nickel-Kailing
Published: October 3, 2010

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On the 39th Anniversary of Earth Day, April 22, 2009, WhatTheyThink announced the winners of the 2009 WhatTheyThink Environmental Innovation Awards, given in partnership with Unisource Worldwide, Inc. and the Unisource respect™ Printers’ Program. The Environmental Innovation Awards recognize companies that are making real and concrete contributions to innovation, implementation, and communication of environmental solutions. Five awards were presented to industry leaders who have developed environmental solutions within the design, production, and delivery value chain for printed graphic communications. Our 10-week series - Learn from the Winners - introduces each of the winners of the Environmental Innovation Awards for 2009 and 2010 and highlights their award-winning programs and initiatives. By the end of the series, we will have described real and concrete innovation, implementation and communication of environmental solutions, and you will have a checklist for a lean, green, and sustainable printing company. Spirit Graphics & Printing, Chula Vista CA, was the winner of the 2009 WhatTheyThink Environmental Innovation Award for Thought Leadership, which recognized Spirit Graphics as a company that best represents the "new, green graphic arts company." Thomas Ackerman Jr, owner of Spirit Graphics, and his business partner - and Mother - have been working diligently for approximately 12 years now in the printing industry to change the way they do business as a whole with the environment, their employees and themselves in mind. They have been working hard to control and manage VOC’s, solid waste, recycling, water, and resources.  This has been achieved through constant management by all of the owners and staff. Thomas filled us in on his company's efforts and initiatives.
  • We started 12 years ago by simply looking at we could do at the time. We decided to recycle and try to start to buy recycled stocks. We planned our delivers to use less gas.  We planned our print jobs by color for less wash ups. There was little in the way of green products and papers or any type of recognition at this time.
  • As the ink and stocks and chemicals got better and more readily available we purchased them and experimented with them. They eventually improved to what we use today. Now all of our inks are soy and linseed based. Toyo’s High Plus 100 is what we use.
  • When we were growing it was time to look at buying our building. We chose to buy in the city of Chula Vista where all but one person lived. Chula Vista is a very green city with many stringent building codes.  We have taken full advantage of those green attributes which include low flush toilets, auto shutoff faucets, and the proper lighting fixtures.
  • By moving we figured that we save no less than 80,000 lbs of carbon per year based on the commute reduction alone.
  • We then bought a CTP system that allowed us to finally dispose of our film processor, plate processor and proof processor. Utilizing the latest technology in processless plates. This allows us to save water and get rid of harmful chemicals for good.
  • We then became FSC certified, SFI certified, PFEC certified, joined Green Seal, joined Chlorine Free Association.
  • At this time we offset all of our energy through the Judith gap wind farm in Montana. This is done through 3 Degrees.  We are hoping to have Solar Panels on the roof in the next year.
  • We have a marketing program that reaches out to all of our clients and potential clients highlighting all of our environmental programs.
  • Our program was named “GREEN ESSENTIALS”.  It is highlighted on our website.
We have literally become a new business.  We have changed the way people think about buying their printing.  We have consulted with many of our clients about changing their buying habits to better the planet.  We have a program that we started with our clients giving them environmental awards based on their buying practices and the choices they have made especially where paper is concerned. At this time all equipment and business decisions are made from a standpoint of how will it better the environment or how will it adversely affect the environment.
  • Our old folder was sold because it was wasteful.  Our new folder is digital and sets up in 1 to 10  sheets and requires less energy
  • We purchased a newer Van that gets better gas mileage.
  • We replaced all of our old monitors CRT monitors and replaced them with more energy efficient flat panel monitors.
  • We are currently replacing all of our lighting with LED or Induction lighting.  It is approximately 50% more efficient and there is no mercury in the bulbs. LED’s last up to 15 years.
We have made it a practice to hire people that are recovering drug addicts and that have been previously incarcerated.  We have since hired 4 individuals and to date one has stuck with us for 3 years.   Joe Encinaswas a drug addict that lost everything.  Joe lost his wife, kids, job, everything. Joe was sent to jail and was rehabilitated through a religious program called Victory outreach.  A friend of mine is a pastor at this church.  I explained that we are having trouble finding good employees with strong work ethic.  He suggested we try some of the men from Victory.  This proved to be a great avenue.  Joe now manages our production.  I personally gave Joe my car for 1 dollar because he had no way to work.  We helped him pay his arrears to the state and got him back on his feet.  I am proud to say that we have seen a huge transformation in Joe’s life.  He is now a very productive member of society and is all about helping Spirit become a great sustainable company.  He has been very energetic about helping the environment part of his new life. Spirit has and continues to donate printing to organizations in and around our community that are helping children and the environment.  We donate 4 jobs a year to the Chula Vista Nature center alone.  We also donate many jobs to the City of Chula Vista (where we operate) for environmental programs that are helping people and especially children get more involved with correcting bad habits when it comes to the environment.  It is our children who are going to be left to clean up our mess. Environmental Benefits Our success is not measured in money.  If that were the case I would have not chosen to be so environmentally aware.  In fact our upfront costs were higher than we expected.  The result of us presenting a greener shade of printing to the public at large was very positive for us.  We started to notice that we were attracting a different type of clientele.  We started to notice that they were more concerned about the stocks being chlorine free and that it was FSC certified or SFI certified.  They wanted Soy inks and were willing to pay a little more for that service.  I found that we had less client attrition. Once people saw what we were all about they were happy to plug into our green machine.  The relationships that we are creating through this green movement are more genuine.  We are connecting with our clients and vendors on more levels than how much money can we make from you today.  Yes, it is important to be profitable.  But not at the expense of our planet and our precious resources. I am a much much  happier business owner and person knowing that I am doing all I can to help our clients and others be aware that there better ways to produce printing and marketing materials. To say you’re a green business you must look at all aspects of your personal and business habits that are affecting the environment. As a direct result of our Green Essentials program we have won a 2008 EARTH AWARD. We also received a very large printing contract through the city of Chula Vista. They have asked personally to participate in the Chula Vista Clean Business Program. A direct result of my being a green printing business has been old boss’s calling me to ask advice on how to set up a green program like mine.  To date I have helped two personal friends of mine to be FSC certified.  I am willing and have already helped other printing companies become more green. We have also offered companies like Angel printing our help to become FSC certified as well.  The result of more green printing companies will eventually benefit everyone involved. It will eventually GREEN THE SUPPLY CHAIN.  Green will just be the normal way of doing business. About Spirit Graphics Family-driven since 1947 and family-owned and operated since 1983, Spirit Graphics and Printing, Inc. offers a personalized, panoramic approach to all of your printing and design needs. Let us animate your business one idea at a time. At Spirit Graphics and Printing, our sterling reputation is built on a commitment to excellence at every level possible. Our equipment is state-of-the-art. We use the newest software and technology available, continually reaching for the cutting-edge. We are ecologically and environmentally responsible, using products and processes that won't harm people or their surroundings. And we consistently look for ways to keep costs down so that we can offer fair and reasonable prices to you. For more information, visit: www.sgink.net



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