In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations
That quote is from The Great Law of The Iroquois Confederacy. Native Americans always did have it about right in terms of the impact we have on the planet and how to minimize one's footprint while here on Earth. Thinking forward seven generations about the decisions we make today and what type of impact those decisions will have will enable us to ensure we make good decisions that minimize our environmental impact.
The environmental impact of the printing industry, especially as it concerns paper, was on full display in Cincinnati, Ohio last Thursday at the xpedx Cincinnati division's "Green Living Expo". I saw the news come through WhatTheyThink the previous week and decided I'd make the short 2 hour drive down from my home in Columbus to see what xpedx had in store for it's customers. I was really glad I made the trip. What I witnessed in Cincy was a wonderful example of a company taking a leadership role in educating their customer base in sustainable products and practices.
The xpedx Cincinnati division is one of the largest in the xpedx network by volume and size of operations. It operates a 250,000 square-foot Class A distribution and logistics center and offices, which serves as a hub for their operations in Dayton, Columbus, Indianapolis, Ft. Wayne, Louisville, and Lexington. The facility employs 200 and serves thousands of customers in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.
The event was primed for fun upon arrival as attendees were greeted by a tree. An xpedx employee that I'm going to guess got the short straw was dressed in a tree costume and was happily handing out bags to be used to collect schwag. His willingness to cast aside looking silly set a fun mood for the event, and also was a good way to kick things off. The first to add schwag to my bag was xpedx themselves who had some goodies for me upon registering at the front of the show. They were even giving away an iPod by allowing you to get a sheet stamped by each of the 36 tabletop vendors at the expo. Smart way to get everyone to mingle with the vendor tables and learn all they could while there!
The event itself was thrown as a way to educate xpedx customers on what sustainable alternatives were out there and was pushed into existence by questions from xpedx customers themselves. Sustainable, or so-called "green" initiatives have gone from something once only talked about by environmental activists, to something that has entered the mainstream consciousness. More and more companies are seeking ways to not only cater to this increased awareness, but improve their bottom line in the process.
This aspect - the good business of " being green" - was highlighted in a talk by invited speaker and paper and environmental consultant Derek Smith. Smith is a long-time paper industry executive who started Derek Smith & Associates in order to help companies understand how to become more environmentally friendly and take advantage of the burgeoning green market. I thought Smith's one hour presentation was the perfect compliment to the activity in the downstairs expo. His overall message was "green is good for business", a point he makes with expert research and compelling stories which highlight his passion for the environment. Though he spoke with a British accent, Derek Smith might have some Native American blood in him. He clearly understands the Iroquois concept of the 7th generation. He spoke many times about his kids, their kids, and even our kids (as in all our kids).
The thing that struck me most about this event was how well organized it was and how much effort was obviously put into it. xpedx is serious about helping their customers understand green products and technologies and they left no stone unturned. One example of this attention to detail was when I took a break to grab some lunch - always a sucker for a free lunch - and noticed the many products used that demonstrated sustainability concepts. Over 200 people were treated to recycled fiberboard bowls of chips, recycled napkins, and even dinnerware made from sugar cane which are completely compost-able.
I understand xpedx plans to have more of these expos and if this one is any indication, they will be well received and well run. Thanks again to the entire team down in Cincinnati who let me be a part of it.
I had a chance to catch up with the General Manager of xpedx Cincinnati and we spoke about the Expo and why it was important for xpedx to host it: