LEWISBURG, Pa. — The green printing movement is having a big impact on college printing operations across the country. We ask Lisa Hoover, director of Publications, Print and Mail at Bucknell University, to tell us about these changes and how they're making a difference. || Ask the Experts archive
Q: First, what is green printing?
A: Green printing is anything you can do to lessen the impact on the environment - whether that's a choice of paper, printing fewer of copies of something, recycling what we have printed already, utilizing chemistry-free systems, working with FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) or SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) certification processes, or reducing overall energy consumption.
Take stationery, for example. All of Bucknell's stationery items — everything from letterhead and envelopes to business cards — are made from paper that is made from 100 percent post-consumer waste. That paper is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council and is Green-e certified, which means it's made with 100 percent renewable energy. It's a really high-quality sheet, too.
Some people think recycled paper may not be as good, but many people find it difficult to tell the difference at this point. So, when we're looking at papers for other projects and print pieces, we also look at all these types of things — whether it's chlorine-free, how much of it is recycled content and its certification.
Q: What is the impact of these changes?
A: Over the course of one year, using 100 percent recycled Bucknell stationery has saved a total of 85 trees or 26,732 pounds of wood. Those 85 trees supply enough oxygen for 43 people annually. In addition, we saved 39,037 gallons of water, enough water to take 2,270 eight-minute showers; 8,105 pounds of emissions, carbon sequestered by 94 tree seedlings grown for 10 years; and 27,370 pounds of solid waste, equal to the amount of trash thrown away by 515 people in a single day.
Bucknell updated its digital production printing equipment this past summer. That's part of the green printing revolution, too, because it's printing on demand. We are migrating away from printing large quantities and warehousing them. Many times, data would change and then those documents would become outdated and need to be recycled. We're moving toward printing only what we need for the moment and, if there's a change, reprints can happen pretty quickly.
Q: Publications, Print and Mail has some other new systems on campus. Can you give a couple thumbnail sketches in how they contribute to the green equation?
A: Our new digital printing equipment uses a new kind of toner - an EA, or emulsion aggregation toner. EA toner is grown in labs in very small particles, much smaller than traditional toner. Because the particles are much smaller, it uses about 40 percent less toner on a page. The melting point is much lower, which means it doesn't require as much energy to fuse it on the paper. And, as an added bonus, it's an oil-free fusing process, which means better quality and less waste.
In 2008, we upgraded our offset plate-making equipment to be completely chemistry-free. Prior to that, we were using developing chemicals that had to be stored in hazardous waste containers and disposed of by safety services. Now, it's a completely water-based process.
We're also using vegetable-based inks on our printing presses. They're eco-friendly compared to the petroleum-based inks. Everyone seems to have heard about soy inks. Ours are not specifically soy-based, but they are vegetable-based, which is equally environmentally friendly.
And, as far as our copiers go, a few years ago we moved to a 30 percent recycled sheet for all the copiers and printers on campus. We stock 100-percent recycled copier paper for departments that want it.
Q: It seems like the smallest products can make a green difference.
A: Take the University calendar, for example. By using paper manufactured with 10 percent post-consumer recycled content, a print run of 20,000 saved eight fully grown trees, nearly 3,600 gallons of water and 2 million BTUs of energy. That project reduced greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 750 pounds.
That may not sound like much, but those small changes over many projects add up to real benefits.
Another example of our sustainability efforts includes Bucknell Magazine. Beginning in summer 2011, Bucknell Magazine is printed on paper that is FSC- and SFI-certified and contains 10 percent post-consumer recycled content. It was our goal to find a paper for the magazine that was environmentally and economically responsible, and we are pleased to report that we have been able to accomplish that goal this year.
Q: What about industry trends?
A: The big trend really started with the paper mills. They were a forerunner in sustainability in that they became accountable to ensure that the pulp they were using came from managed forests. FSC, the independent, nongovernmental, not-for-profit organization that was established in 1993, promotes responsible management of the world's forests and a lot of the paper now carries that certification. That means they are guaranteeing that the pulp they're making the paper from was made from trees that were specifically farmed to make paper and other wood products. There are several paper and wood product certification organizations throughout the world.
To follow that through, print vendors now receive certification to ensure that they guarantee a chain of custody of where that paper and pulp product came from and verify it has not been co-mingled with any other paper. Our print vendors know that we take this seriously. All of our primary print vendors are FSC-certified, and many hold multiple certifications.
Q: Does the green process point to a time when hard copy print disappears?
A: I don't think it will disappear completely. Obviously, if there are others way to communicate — through e-mail or the web, for example — that's been happening. Naturally, print volume has been declining over the past few years. But I think there is always going to be a place for print communication. I think we're going to be smarter in how we produce them — printing on demand instead of stockpiling printed materials and being smart about the papers, inks and processes we use to produce those print pieces.
In the future, the key is going to be tying it all together — the print side and the electronic side. The buzz right now is about QR codes — quick response codes, a two-dimensional bar code that ties in a piece of printed literature with the Internet and smart phones. That's really hot right now. We printed one in the fall print edition of Bucknell Magazine. We printed the code in an ad that highlighted the value of internships at Bucknell. The code linked readers to a video they could view on their smart phones featuring students talking about their successful internship opportunities.
QR codes are an excellent way to add dynamic content to a printed piece. For example, a QR code may be linked to additional interactive information about a particular story or event. Using a QR code on an event program can link attendees to live streaming data about that event, easily notifying them of changes in schedules, updates and additional information. It's a tremendous leap in making a printed piece less static.
During the summer, we will repost several "Ask the Experts" selected from among our most-read editions. New editions of "Ask the Experts" will appear on the Bucknell website on most Thursdays during the fall and spring semesters. If you have ideas for future topics or are a faculty or staff member who would like to participate, contact Molly O'Brien-Foelsch.
To learn more about faculty and staff experts who can speak on a variety of news topics, visit Bucknell's searchable Experts Guide.
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