Is ‘green printing’ an oxymoron?
Printing has always been resource-intensive work. After all, our goal is perfection, and that’s near impossible to achieve on a first pass. Machines have gotten better and processes have gotten smoother. But printers still face an essential conflict between resource use and job effectiveness.
Here’s an example:
Our standard paper size is 12 ½ x 19”. That allows us to print 11 x 17” pages with enough room for a margin and bleed, or print smaller pages with either larger margins or more copies on a sheet. The excess is later cut off and then gets tossed. Could we print on smaller-size paper, effectively ‘wasting’ less? Sure. But with the time we spent breaking down the press to a different size, we’d get fewer jobs done per day. Turnaround time would go down. And job price would go up.
Or take another typical aspect of offset printing. Offset printing requires a precise balance of ink and water, pressure and running speed. Presses require time and make-ready to get up to speed, meaning that the first several copies printed are often more like very rough drafts.
Would you accept an annual report or a sales brochure with incorrect colors or smudged ink? The bottom line is that we want each of our customers to have the highest-quality print materials around. And we’ll do what’s necessary to deliver that.
But that doesn’t mean we tolerate needless waste. At Oregon, we’ve put into place a number of processes to minimize our environmental impact:
- Paper. Paper makes up a quarter to a third of a typical job cost, so we’re always looking for ways to cut down on use. We’ve been recycling scrap paper for about 20 years, and have gotten more and more effective over time. For example, we’ve made room for more bins to store paper before pickup, and we remove staples and other foreign matter from paper before recycling, which makes it more valuable to the recycle .
- Ink. Inks were once made with harmful, flammable chemicals and offset presses wanted isopropyl alcohol for a clean image. But today’s presses don’t need that junk—now, all of our inks and solvents are vegetable- or water-based, and technology lets presses print cleaner without the alcohol. And once we’re finished, ink & chemical containers are sent to a recovery center for reuse.
- Offset plates. There was a day when bulky (expensive) aluminum plates were needed for offset work—but they required considerable time and resources to Expose, develop, clean and store. We now use polyester plates, which are less expensive and also produce a better end product.
- Machinery. When a press, a cutter or some other piece of older equipment gets replaced at Oregon, that doesn’t mean it’s destined for the dump. There is a thriving market for used print equipment. Often, our machines find new life in developing countries.
So is being in the print business and being ‘green’ an oxymoron? We don’t think so. At Oregon, both resource conservation and high-quality print are important. We think we’ve found the right balance between the two.
Being green means using resources sensibly and mindfully—and we’re always looking for more ways to improve.
Got questions about resource use at Oregon? Drop us a line anytime.