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green@work : Magazine : Back Issues : Sept/Oct 2006 : Marketing


Green Printing 101
To move your company's printing in a more environmentally conscious direction, there are a few things you need to know.

by Holly Bornstein

Today, the average American still uses 675 pounds of paper every year and, despite conscientious recycling, discards enough to make the stuff the single biggest component of landfills. This statistic, recently sited in a Barron’s article, speaks volumes about the paper problem in the United States.

The question is, how do we make a dent in this problem? For years, there have been progressive companies working with select printers and paper manufacturers to pioneer healthier and sustainable printing processes. So why haven’t more companies followed these leaders? Often, one of the greatest barriers is simply not having the time to gather information. Another is a lack of access to the experts to understand how to get started. This feature provides a quick reference guide on how to proceed.

According to Mario Assadi, founder of Berkeley, Calif.-based GreenerPrinter—an eco-friendly printing company—there are several things companies must consider as they transition their printing in a more sustainable direction:

• Use maximum-recycled-content paper. GreenerPrinter doesn’t offer anything below 80-percent-recycled content, with a minimum of 40-percent post-consumer content. The non-recycled portion should be from sustainably harvested fibers.

• Select papers processed chlorine free (PCF). This refers to recycled paper that is unbleached or bleached without chlorine or chlorine derivatives. PCF substitutes oxygen-based compounds like hydrogen peroxide for chlorine compounds. Chlorine usage in paper bleaching has been linked to breast cancer, as well as adverse affects on the immune and reproductive systems of humans, fish and wildlife.

• Go low volatile organic compounds (VOC). During both the manufacture and printing of ink, some portion of raw materials is emitted into the atmosphere. These VOCs can cause a variety of health effects. Also, when printed papers end up in landfills, VOCs are released into the groundsoil, causing cancer and birth defects.

• Request soy- and vegetable-based ink instead of petroleum-based inks. These alternatives are bright and vibrant, low in VOCs and competitively priced.

• Think renewable energy. Look for a printer that uses renewable energy sources for their shipping. All shipping produces an environmental impact.

Progressive Leaders
A real-life example of a company that follows these guidelines is the forward-thinking Aveda Corp. Aveda manufactures and markets a collection of plant-based hair- and skin-care products that are sold in more than 8,000 salons. Over the past six months, I have received a few eye-catching Aveda marketing postcards. The mail pieces impressed me with their visual beauty and simplicity. It was immediately apparent that they were printed differently, but it absolutely delivered an on-brand look. Kathy Sletten, the senior print buyer at Aveda, explains, “We feel that we have learned the necessary nuances to print with recycled, uncoated paper using soy inks, and still produce a beautiful high-end piece.”

Sletten offered insight into Aveda’s approach to print sourcing and production by explaining that the company strives to use the highest content of post-consumer-recycled paper on all collateral and direct mail printed pieces, with a goal of consistently using 100-percent-recycled paper. “We make every effort to continually use this percentage. It keeps previously used paper out of the landfills as well as avoids the cutting of additional trees.” Additionally, Aveda looks for post-consumer-recycled content because all paper fiber in this category has actually been used by a consumer and recycled, rather than consisting of trimmings from the paper mill or printer. The company also looks for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, which assures that all fibers in the paper have been harvested sustainably. Aveda likes to select paper manufacturers and printers that use wind energy to power their operations.

Other companies are embracing the concept of using recycled paper, as well. Josh Maddox, business development specialist at GreenerPrinter, recently shared some client success stories with me. Among them was the case of, a rapidly growing publicly traded company with more than 200 sales representatives throughout the world. doesn’t come to mind as an environmental steward; in fact, the company doesn’t mention anything about green initiatives (at least that I could find) on its Web site. Yet recently went from having non-recycled paper to using at least 80-percent-recycled content in its sales and marketing materials and annual report. Maddox was able to show the company how simply changing its print collateral paper would result in an enormous environmental resource savings over time, with no increase in cost.

Making it easy
When it comes to encouraging firms to make the change to better printing, one key component is delivering an easy and pain-free experience. Many companies have strong relationships with their existing print vendors, and know that they’ll get quick turnaround on quotes and production times. Sometimes a barrier to switching is fear of getting stuck in the queue with a new vendor.

GreenerPrinter has added an online quoting section to its Web site ( It provides-real time quotes for a range of formats and mailing services. This ensures that customers get a timely response. These quotes also underscore the comparable cost to traditional printing.

Maddox and his team have flexed their muscles even more in the online Web-to-print arena in an effort to make their customers’ processes run smoothly. Each year, Clif Bar’s Luna division hosts a film festival in more than a hundred different venues nationwide. Requests from the venue managers for posters, invitations, programs, tickets and postcards were overwhelming the Luna team. To streamline the process, GreenerPrinter created a private label storefront that allows each venue manager to order their own festival print collateral right on site.

“ Although it’s similar to GreenerPrinter online, the Lunafest storefront site is totally unique: We used all their branding, graphics, photo images, logos, and allow the venue manager to enter their own venue information right on the site: date, time, price, address and more,” Maddox says. The collateral is then produced with 100-percent-recycled paper with vegetable inks.

I hope this article has provided you with the information you need to change your printing or encourage others to do so. Over the past month, in the process of writing this article, I was able to usher two more of my clients into the world of environmental printing. Two down, just a few more to go …

Holly Bornstein is the founder and principal partner of Propel Marketing, LLC, a direct-marketing firm that specializes in green products and services. She can be reached at

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