The recently inaugurated Environmentally Friendly Printing Association (EFPA) is designed to be not only a green certification body for environmentally conscious printers, but also a marketing and education association for the industry. It is the brainchild of Joe Grape, Director of Operations for Color Vision Ltd., a mid-size commercial printer based in Eau Claire, WI. EFPA officially launched on October 1, 2010, and in November started its marketing efforts in earnest. Last week, I spoke with Mr. Grape, recently elected President of EFPA. What was the inspiration for EFPA? I created the program myself through Color Vision Printing. People would come to us and say, “Hey, we want FSC-certified printing because we’re looking to print green.” FSC does not really promote a green aspect at all of printing; they’re really about managed forestry. As we started looking into the cost and everything involved in becoming FSC-certified, it was astronomical, with the fees involved, the chain of custody requirements, the paperwork. You’d have to basically hire one person just to handle the certification program. And then there are the audits; you have to pay for a guy to come in, pay all his expenses—all for a little logo on the paper that says “FSC-certified.” We lost a very large job to an FSC-certified printer because we wouldn’t get certified for the job—and it wasn’t really what the customer wanted. But it’s the only thing out there that’s been promoting green. So I sat down with the owner of Color Vision and told him my ideas [for EFPA] and he said, “Well, if you want to do that, we’ll be the first certified company.” So I worked on it for a year and a half and we created EFPA. What we want to do is make [green printing] affordable for all printers. We also want it to be better than any other certification program out there. And we want it to be easy. What background research did you do? I did a study of about 150 people who buy print and asked them about green and what they were looking for. And we found that the reason they don’t print green is that it’s not affordable. As a printer, if you’re FSC-certified and you’re paying $20,000 a year to be certified, I have to pass that cost to my customer. Also, if I want to purchase FSC-certified paper, it’s 20–30% more than regular paper. So the consumer already has a 30% increase in printing with FSC certification. The consumer wants recycled content in their paper. Sure, they all want 100% recycled content but once you quote them the price, they ask, “Do you have anything a little less expensive.” And we found that 10% [post-consumer waste] still showed a recycled content in the fiber to get the customer to say, “That’s recycled content.” And the price of it is very close to virgin paper. So, it became affordable to them. What are the EFPA certification standards? Number one, when it is EFPA-certified print, it must be on at least 10% post-consumer waste paper. That’s the minimum. It can be more, but that’s the minimum. We wanted to expand the program for printers, so...inks. No one really talks about inks from a green standpoint in any certification program, so we made the next standard, standard #2, that the product must be printed with soy- or vegetable-based inks. Then we added one more requirement. Standard #3 is that all post-product [printing waste] must be recycled. As we talk to printers, they are saying, “We are already doing these three steps,” and I say, “I know that, that’s great, that’s what the consumer wants. But right now I’m going to say, ‘Prove it.’” Printers will be able to [prove it] with time, but they don’t have a lot of time to look through everything and find FSC sheets, receipts, and all the stuff from the paper companies. They want to print. So where the EFPA comes in is, we help them prove it. How does the certification process work? To be an EFPA-certified printer, they have a job log entry on the [EFPA] Web site in which they have to put their job information—sheet size, where they purchased the paper, they have to upload the MSDS sheets for their ink, and it’s all stored on the EFPA’s system. So now if a customer were to call and say “We don’t think that was done with soy or vegetable ink and yet it’s certified,” they can call EFPA instead of having to call the printer, and EFPA can pull all that data, contact the paper company, get that information and provide it to the customer for proof. So we as EFPA take a lot of the responsibility away from the printer so they can continue to print. We provide proof for them. The other thing our program offers is SEB (Statement of Environmental Benefits) reports—basically it’s an environmental calculator, you see them online a lot of the time. When the printer enters the required info whenever they run an EFPA-certified print job, they can automatically, based on the data they enter, click an SEB Report button and it generates a Statement of Environmental Benefits, stating that print job saved so many trees, it saved so much water, it saved so many pollutants in the air, it saved so much energy, it saved so much oil, and so much landfill space. Therefore, that printer can take that SEB report, print it out, put it in their statement, and send it with the print job. When the customer gets it, they get their invoice but it also have a little statement that says, “Thank you for using us, and by using the EFPA standard, this is what impact your print job had on the environment.” So they’ve got some proof. That calculator is based on government data, FSC information, information from environmental groups—it’s just a standard calculator available on the Internet. We included it in our program and it automatically bases those calculations off of the job information the printer enters when they enter their job information. How are audits performed? The printer logs in each job by job number [on the EFPA Web site]. When EFPA does an audit, we don’t have to go and charge them to sit at their facility and look through all their paperwork. We can audit everything online with the printer not even worrying about it, not even having to be there, or providing any information because they’ve already done that. They’ve uploaded it every time they’ve run a job. So it saves money there. Is it the printer who gets certified, or is it the job? If a printer only does some percentage of jobs that meet EFPA standards, can they still be considered an EFPA-certified printer? The printer itself gets certified. They get a certification number that goes with the logo when they print it on the piece. They can use it on any job they want over the course of a year as long as it meets the three EFPA standards. Maybe they always print on 10%-post-consumer-waste paper and soy inks, and they always recycle. For each job, they put that logo on it, and market it as green. They can use it as much as they want, as long as the job meets those three standards throughout the year. The fees they pay are annual. What is the cost structure? We wanted to make it affordable for printers. [The certification fee] for printers is based on their annual gross sales. The highest cost now is, for anyone who does over $10 million a year, it’s $5,000 a year. $3,000 a year is the next level for those doing $5–10 million a year. What other benefits does the EFPA program have? By becoming an EFPA-certified printer, they get listed on our Web site, with contact information so people can search them out. They also have the opportunity to have banner ads. The newest thing we added to our home page is, when consumers go to our Web site, they can click on a button where they can request a quote. Any time a consumer logs on and says, “We want environmentally-friendly print,” they can click right there, enter the job specifications and contact information, and when they hit Submit, it automatically gets sent to all EFPA-certified printers, requiring that when they quote that job, it has to meet EFPA standards. So it brings business to the printer. Beyond certification, what are some of the other missions of the EFPA? We’re trying to create a true association to not only educate the general public on printing and what we’re doing for the environment, but also create a member association through which hopefully printers can get together and save money on what they’re doing or what they’re purchasing. It’s a nice program in that you just don’t get a logo and a certification to promote that you’re green. You’re also going to get discounts on purchases through EFPA members. We’re also setting up a mailing program through which EFPA printers can get mailing lists of green businesses that buy print so they can market their certification to them. We’re helping business out there looking for affordable green printing solutions find printers who are doing it. And we’re helping printers market their green practices to the end consumer who is looking for them. We’re trying to set some standards. Printing is the fourth largest industries in the nation. It’s used over and over, so we need to make some environmental impact. The print industry is not promoting it because there is nobody out there promoting and marketing that they’re green. Individual printers are, as best they can, but there is no overseeing entity that is helping them do that. And that’s what EFPA’s goal is, to show that printers across the nation are trying to have better print practices, they’re more environmentally conscious, and bring down the costs, so that someone who wants a good printed piece with high quality, can afford it and still help the environment. We’re not the solve-all association, but what we are is trying to help the print industry get some credit for what they’re doing. One of our taglines is, “What has your print done for you lately?” Well, we’re saving energy, we’re reducing pollutants, we’re helping printers market, we’re reducing landfill space, we’re saving trees. That’s a lot. That’s a statement that printers aren’t saying—or it’s not relayed to the general public. And I think it’s about time we do that. And that’s why EFPA was started, because I got tired of being told what we can and cannot do by forestry companies. Who are EFPA members? Are they printers, or can other types of companies become members? Members are not [only] certified printers; they’re members in that they believe in the core standards of what we are trying to do, or they are suppliers or related to the industry. An example would be G&K Services. They are working right now with us to become a member. By being a member, they are going to offer member benefits back to other members and EFPA-certified printers, such as discounts. If an EFPA-certified printer goes to our Web site, they can negotiate better terms or better pricing [with other members] because they are an EFPA member. We’re also setting up a credit card processing program where [printers] can get discounts if they use this company for credit card processing. We’re in talks with UPS and Federal Express. We’re talking with paper companies so we can get our logos put on the paper. What I’m having a problem with is FSC and other forestry organizations saying, “By using virgin paper, we’re actually creating more forestry. We’re planting 3–4 trees for every tree we knock down, and we’re trying to be more careful so we don’t disturb habitats.” And that’s great. That’s wonderful. But we’re trying to get away from the forestry standpoint. We’re saying, let’s help save some forest, save habitats and vegetation, the pollutants of the logging trucks, by reducing some of it. Not all of it. Some of it, by using post-consumer-waste paper. I had the paper company contact me and they said, “If we put your logo on our paper, it’s kind of contradictory to what we’re saying, that by using virgin paper, we’re growing forests.” But what EFPA is saying is that we require 10% post-consumer waste. So where do you think the other 90% is coming from? Virgin wood fiber. So technically, EFPA is working both sides of the fence. We’re saying that by using 10% post-consumer waste, you’re not only saving trees, you’re having more trees being planted. What are the long-term goals for EFPA? We’re always looking at ways to receive brands for EFPA so we can set up scholarship programs for students going to college to go into the print industry. That’s another thing we’re trying to do. We’re trying to find ways to get money to help grow the industry. My goal in 1­–2 years, we’re going to have our own trade show. Maybe one day we can even have it set up so that we can get better paper pricing, because more people are using recycled paper. I’m hoping one day we have buying power. We have some power to really start being more environmentally conscious. Our three core standards are pretty simple, and that’s what the consumer wants. And the printer doesn’t have to spend a ton of money to make changes to their shop. And we want to educate them. [Right now,] we’re setting up Board of Advisors, which will be not just printing companies, but binding companies, logistics companies, ink companies, paper companies, to really make it a worthwhile production association. For more information on the EFPA, please visit (h/t Pat Berger)