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Printing for Less wins Sustainability in Your Plant Environmental Innovation Award

Published on May 23, 2011

Emma Fuller, Director of Manufacturing at Printing for Less shares some of their innovations that led them to win the Sustainability in Your Plant award at the 3rd annual Environmental Awards.

Richard Romano: Hi, this is Richard Romano. I’m Managing Editor of the WhatTheyThink Going Green Blog and we’re here in Atlanta Georgia for the Third Annual Environmental Innovation Awards. And we’re talking with Emma Fuller who is the Director of Manufacturing for Printing for Less who was this year’s winner in the category of Sustainability and your Plant. So first of all congratulations.

Emma Fuller: Thank you very much.

Richard: And if you’d just tell us a little bit about Printing for Less, where you’re located, how long you’ve been in business, what types of work you do; that kind of thing.

Emma: Of course, Printing for Less is located in Livingston Montana. We’re about one hour north of Yellowstone Park, in a tiny town about 9,000 employees. Printing for Less has been around for 15 years, started on the internet 11 years ago and we have a number of customers. We especially focus on small business owners.

Richard: Now your facility has been custom designed to sort of take advantage of all sorts of energy saving and employee protection facets. What are some of the examples of the way you’ve custom designed your buildings?

Emma: When our building was put in it was actually built as a zero scape environment. So we have very little water usage. Montana is a drought state almost all the time. I think we’ve been in a drought for 12 years right now. So use very little water, all natural trees, all natural flowering, bushes around our building. We also have a very low scape so we’re built into a hill so you can drive by and our building does not block the beautiful mountains around it. We have 250 plants in our building, literally green growing plants. We also have a very large amount of natural light. One of the reasons for that is that we actually have natural light in our manufacturing area. Very unusual I think in many print industries. So we have large sections of our building we don’t need to have any type of light. All of our lights over our sales pods are actually directed upwards with a gentle reflecting back down so our employees are not working in a very bright light environment.

Richard: So now you recycle an awful lot.

Emma: Yeah.

Richard: Why don’t you benchmark that and how you are using…

Emma: We do. We have a number of recycling programs that goes on and recycling looking at many different ways but we have radiant heat in our building so that we can monitor; so our electrical bills. We’re also wind powered and we can tell that by the reduction of our electrical bills and the reduction of our carbon footprint in our community. We have a self-started employee recycling business that is, all of our garbage goes through and gets picked up and taken out to recycling centers. All of our scrap paper from any of our cuttings from our business goes to Seattle, is actually recycled and comes back as part of our local newspaper. We even use our tops and bottoms of our sheets. Instead of throwing them out, we donate them to the local school programs. And they use that and then, of course, the paper is recycled. So a number of different ways.

Richard: Cool, now you just mentioned that you generate your own wind power. Now you’re 100% powered by wind.

Emma: We are.

Richard: Now talk a little bit how that decision was made and how the process went and sort of what some of the benefits of that have been.

Emma: One of the great joys of living in Montana is we have plenty of wind so we seem to support our local commerce, our local resources as well. But a couple years ago, and we, of course, had a large carbon footprint. We run three presses. We run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and this was our great opportunity to just be landmark, be progressive, support a local industry that was going in a few hundred miles north of us and just sort of – it seemed the right way to go. And Printing for Less has always been progressive in what we do and this just seemed the natural next step.

Richard: So you found that it’s paid for itself.

Emma: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Richard: So now is your commitment to sustainability something that’s been generated from within or did you find that your customers were demanding it or how did the whole sort of mindset come about?

Emma: The mindset came about in a number of ways. We are a very bottoms up/top down type of a company. Our employees demanded that… continued to demand that we have a very healthy great place to work. We live in a beautiful state. So we have a number of employee started programs one of which we actually have the Clean the Highway Program so Printing for Less owns two miles of highway off the interstate and our employees go out and clean that up; clean up all the garbage twice a year. And they also started up a recycling program. We look at that in a number of different ways. We have a great rest area for our employees; a great lunch room; lots of natural light, very comfortable couches. We even have a fish tank in there so people can come in and relax and enjoy where they’re working. And then, of course, from the sense of a business it makes tremendous sense to be recycling. We don’t want to be filling the landfill. It makes sense for us to send our paper out and have it recycled. We send out our plates to be recycled. So while we do get a little bit back from that, it also is the best decision for us as a contributor to our community.

Richard: What is in a way that you communicate your sustainability to your customers?

Emma: We actually, we listen to our customers. We are very high touch model so we talk to our customers when they call, answer questions. We have been asked about the paper certifications and we wanted to make sure we were fulfilling that so we became FCC certified, and then only SFI and PEFCC Natural to follow. We have had our customers call up and say hey, what about your packaging. So we’re looking at our bubble. We use bubble envelopes. We’re looking at a different type of a bubble envelope. Can we have something with a higher post consumer recycled waste in it? We would love to call our customers back and say we’ve heard you, we’ve listened to you, we wanted to make your life easier. We want to make you feel really comfortable buying print from us, here’s what we have done to address that. All of our cardboard, of course, is corrugated recycled; trying to keep up on that. Making sure we have a good product that we can send our products out that arrives safely.

Of course, it’s on our website, we have little windmill, all of our certifications and just talking about it. We’re very open and receptive to new ideas and just making sure that print is not dirty and that it actually is one of the most sustainable activities we can do.

Richard: What advice would you give to other printers, large or small, who maybe are still on the fence of haven’t yet committed to any kind of sustainability initiative; who might think that it’s sort of really unwieldy to do or really expensive.

Emma: I think you have to look at the commitment and you have to look at the big picture because I think it’s very easy to look small and say well if I just take this to the landfill it’s out of my mind and it’s done. If you look at the bigger picture and the type of commitment and partnership you want to have with your community, how you help your community become better, how you help it become cleaner, it’s not only about providing salaries and good money and wages to your people, but it’s about making sure that they have a place that we can hand off probably to the future generations.

Richard: So you find that to be the value proposition sustainable printing?

Emma: Absolutely and it’s actually not that hard and if you listen to your customers, they really enjoy seeing their ideas enacted. If you listen to your employees, they feel engaged; they will work harder to make sure that those ideas keep going. So I would recommend it. I mean it’s actually very easy to do and it’s something I just learned a number of things today, I would like to go farther on with those ideas as well as talking to other printers about what are they doing. Plus, it just saves you money in the long run.

Richard: That’s a thing a lot of people forget is that it actually does save money in the long run.

Emma: It does save you money. Yes it does and we all could do with more of that.

Richard: Well you’ve got a great story to tell and I congratulate you again on winning the award.

Emma: Thank you.

Richard: Thank you very much for talking to us.

Emma: Thank you very much.

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