Archive for the Sustainability Category

Print, the sustainable media

Posted in Print Media, Sustainability on March 22, 2011 by multimediaman

Benjamin Franklin was the first to suggest the idea of Daylight Savings Time.

I am writing this on March 13, 2011, the day we “spring forward” into Daylight Savings Time (DST). With spring arriving presently, it is a good time to consider the ways that print media is contributing to environmental sustainability.

It is none other than American printer, inventor and statesmen Benjamin Franklin who is credited with the idea of saving daylight. It is believed that Franklin was first to suggest moving daylight hours to the end of the day between the vernal and autumnal equinoxes as a means of conserving resources. In a 1784 letter to the editor of the Journal of Paris, Franklin joked that if Parisians would break their habit of sleeping late and not seeing “any signs of sunshine before noon,” then the six hours of missed daylight in the morning could be used to replace six hours of candlelight in the evening.

As Franklin wrote, “I say it is impossible that so sensible a people, under such circumstances, should have lived so long by the smoky, unwholesome, and enormously expensive light of candles, if they had really known, that they might have had as much pure light of the sun for nothing.”

You can read the complete text of Franklin’s letter here:

The modern concept of sustainability is very similar to Franklin’s simple idea: it addresses the complex and long-term problems of environmental, economical and social well-being; it teaches that satisfying needs and managing resources in the present is also about ensuring the same for future generations.

In this respect, the paper and printing industries—as well as the consuming public—have made significant progress. Although we still have much work to do, we should use this occasion to celebrate print media as among the most sustainable communications, marketing and publishing choices of the day.

The following are some of our important green accomplishments:

  • Print helps to grow trees
    According to the USDA Forest Service, about 4 million trees are planted daily in the US, 1.7 million of that total by the wood and paper industries. Most paper now comes from sustainable forests. These forests are essentially “tree farms,” where trees are grown as a crop, just like broccoli or wheat. When these trees are harvested, new stocks are planted. Print on paper gives landowners a financial incentive to renew forests rather than convert them for other uses, such as agriculture or development.
  • Paper is a renewable resource
    One-third of the fiber used to make paper comes from wood chips and sawmill scraps; another third comes from recycled paper. Overall, in the United States nearly 80 percent of the almost 400 paper mills use recovered fiber to make some or all of their paper products, and of these, approximately 200 mills use recovered paper exclusively.

  • Post-consumer paper recycling is at record levels
    The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) reported that a record-high 63.4% of the paper consumed in the US was recovered for recycling in 2009. This exceeds the industry’s 60 percent recovery goal three years ahead of schedule. This is a tremendous achievement by the both the public and the paper recycling industries.
  • Print is often greener than electronic media
    All communications media leave a carbon footprint. Making a CD or DVD, both of which are difficult to recycle at best, generates around 300 to 350 grams of CO2 per copy, while printing a 100-page four-color annual report releases about 80 grams. Even Web-based communications have a carbon impact—both in terms of the electricity needed to power the computers involved and the metals, plastics and other materials that go into their construction.

It took about 135 years for Benjamin Franklin’s brilliant idea to be realized (DST was officially implemented in 1918 when Congress adopted “An Act to preserve daylight and provide standard time for the United States”). Obviously Congress did not heed Poor Richard’s dictum: “You may delay, but time will not.” We need not delay in promoting the uniquely sustainable qualities of print and paper-based media. Let’s start today!

Why are we “going green”?

Posted in Sustainability on July 16, 2008 by multimediaman

As previously mentioned, I bought the book by Peter Senge, The Necessary Revolution: How Individuals and Organizations Are Working Together to Create a Sustainable World. I wanted to read it because the green and sustainability movements have been impacting the printing and publishing industries over the past year. I am interested in a broader perspective on the subject. Indeed, our company – Grand River Printing & Imaging – has embarked upon its own green initiative and we held a highly successful educational event in Detroit on Earth Day (April 22) to provide a platform for our customers to learn about print media and sustainability.

Much of the recent development in this arena has been focused on paper and the wood fiber sources that are used to make it. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an independent organization dedicated to the responsible management of the world’s forests. This organization has established a chain of custody program in which all parties involved in the production of wood- and timber-based products, i.e. paper, furniture, building materials, etc., can become FSC certified. In doing so, these companies can demonstrate that the materials used to make the products that are ultimately bought and used by consumers have their sources in responsibly managed forests and woodlands. Products meeting the certification criteria can have the FSC logo imprinted upon them so that the public is aware of the green practices contained therein.

The FSC was founded in the early 1990s and has certified a significant portion of the world’s forests to date. Meanwhile, the number of companies achieving the FSC chain of custody certification has been growing exponentially as corporations, government and educational institutions have adopted the concept of using responsibly harvested wood-based products. Some organizations see this as a strategic goal and are using the FSC label along with other types of green programs to highlight their concern for the environment and willingness to contribute practically to the preservation of our natural resources.

Actually, the paper and printing industries have been involved in ecological efforts for many decades. Among the first industries to be impacted by laws passed in the 1970s by the EPA, the paper industry has been under particular anti-pollution scrutiny. As a major consumer of water and power resources, the paper manufacturers have been altering their practices over the past three decades. For print companies, who are major users of gas and electric power as well as the chemicals involved in the graphic arts process, government policies have regulated plant emissions and chemical waste disposal during the same three decades.

So, one of the reasons I wanted to read Senge’s book was to answer the question: why has sustainability and “going green” become such a hot topic in business today? A second reason was, since Mr. Senge is a purveyor of what you might call “business management philosophy,” I wanted to know where he sits on the question of global climate change and its causes; a controversial and highly charged topic.

On the first question, Senge provides an explanation of the source of the drive toward sustainability in the corporate world. As one would expect, with Peter Senge (and his co-authors Bryan Smith, Nina Kruschwitz, Joe Laur and Sara Schleyt), who wrote the acclaimed large volume The Fifth Discipline about “learning organizations,” there is no easy answer to the question. In The Necessary Revolution Senge and his collaborators attribute the transformation in business philosophy toward sustainability to a set of objective historical circumstances. They say that the sustainability revolution is not a fad or passing fancy but a new way of doing things in a world that is vastly different from the one that existed in 1950. This change is primarily driven, they say, by the global interdependence of nations and regions of the world and the realization that the side effects of the industrialization of the previous century and a half are unsustainable going forward.

The following passage from the opening chapter gives a good summary of this concept: “There are many types of revolutions. History talks mostly of political revolutions, dramatic events that all too often represent little real change over the long term: The cast of players in power shifts and new political philosophies come into vogue, but when it comes to the daily realities of most people, little changes. But occasionally something different happens, a collective awakening to new possibilities that changes everything over time – how people see the world, what they value, how society defines progress and organizes itself, and how institutions operate. The Renaissance was such a shift, as was the Industrial Revolution. So, too, is what is starting to happen around the world today.”

According to the authors of The Necessary Revolution, we are now at the beginning of the new post-industrial stage of society which mandates that we alter our view of the world and our use of its resources. In their view, this is the foundational source of the new policies and practices that are being adopted throughout the world toward preservation and establishing renewable sources of energy, air, water and food.

On the second question, Mr. Senge places climate change squarely at the feet of the growth of CO2 in the atmosphere. He writes, “Although science rarely provides absolute certainty, a consensus has emerged among scientists, and among a small but growing cadre of influential leaders, the the changes needed to avert extreme and possibly uncontrollable climate change will be greater and must happen far more quickly than we imagined even a few years ago. In this sense, climate change is a particular sort of gift, a time clock telling us how fast the Industrial Age is ending.” And further on he write, “Unlike so many other global social and environmental problems, in one sense climate change is simple — because its primary dimensions are measurable. Scientists now have extensive evidence of how rapidly CO2 and other greenhouse gasses are accumulating in the atmosphere, and how that compares with historical levels.”

The authors then go on to explain the connection in the historical data between CO2 in the atmosphere and temperature, a fact that has been established through analysis of ice core drillings that preserved these characteristics going back 650,000 years.

While Peter Senge is not climate scientist, he is a social scientist and has done a considerable amount of his own research on human organization. The Necessary Revolution is devoted primarily to establishing a theoretical view of the new forms of activity that have emerged recently around sustainable practices in business, government and education. While I don’t subscribe to all of the ideas in his new book, I think that Mr. Senge and his co-authors should be credited with their honest portrayal of the scientific basis of the climate change crisis and pointing to the potentially catastrophic consequences of the resistance to dealing with this worldwide dilemma.

July 12, 2008