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Pushing the Envelope Beyond Ordinary

“No Print Day” fiasco and lessons for printing and envelope industry

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jul 3, 2012 1:19:00 PM

printer and paper resized 600Earlier this year, Toshiba Corporation announced the first annual National No Print Day to be held on Oct. 23, 2012. The company said it was “a nationwide campaign to encourage, educate and challenge individuals and companies to commit to one day of no printing to raise awareness of the impact printing has on our planet.”

Well, apparently lots of awareness was raised. On June 13 the Printing Industries of America released a statement by President and CEO Michael Makin calling on “the U.S. printing industry to reject a call by Toshiba America Business Solutions for a National No-Print Day (NNPD)”.

That caused the executives at Toshiba to rethink things. One week later, Makin announced to the PIA membership that Toshiba had cancelled its No Print Day. According to Editor and Publisher magazine, the cancellation announcement came after “negotiation” with Printing Industries of America. Since cancelling the campaign, all traces have been removed from social media as well as the website the company had set up.   My guess is some of the heads at Toshiba that inspired this debacle are rolling: if not, they should be.

I say three hearty cheers for Michael Makin and the Printing Industries of America. They stood up for the printing, envelope and paper industries and deserve our applause and appreciation.  But the absurdity of a company that makes and sells printers holding a No Print Day as if it were a badge of honor deserves further scrutiny.

Printers and envelope companies have been touting their environmental bona fides for some time now. Whether it’s through legitimate programs like FSC or SFI or the dubious claims of products made using “certified wind power”, we’ve been playing the Green PR game.  The problem with that approach is it amounts to appeasement which, as history proves time and again, doesn’t work.  Throwing a bone to your opponents or patting them on the head in the hope that they will leave you alone is not a winning strategy.  It simply emboldens the opposition because you are essentially agreeing with their arguments.

We need to wake up and acknowledge the uncomfortable truth that the environmental movement does not have our best interests in mind.  No matter how much we try to prove that we are all fine fellows just trying to make a living, they will continue to oppose us because we cut down trees, produce stuff that ends up in landfills and supposedly have a yeti-size carbon footprint.

Never mind that paper production requires planting more trees than those that are harvested or that as an industry we recycle most of the paper we waste or that the digital world, that great green hope, uses a heck of a lot more power than we do most of which is still supplied through coal-fired power plants (and don’t get me started on the whole “carbon footprint” thing – a topic for another day). Those are just facts which shouldn’t get in the way of a good argument I guess.

Despite our best intentions, all of this kowtowing eventually leads to “No-Print Day” – a declaration of unilateral surrender and the preamble to our obituary.

It’s long past time to stand up for what we do without the implicit apologies; maybe even questioning some of the premises of the arguments used against us.  This is tough for businesspeople as we tend to be risk-averse when it comes to our markets. There are many buyers who, more or less, accept the environmental critique of our industry.  However, I believe if we do this in a factual, balanced yet firm and professional manner, we won’t just win the debate but more importantly, secure the future for our livelihood. That's a goal worth ruffling a few feathers - not that I have anything against birds.

Topics: envelopes companies going green, printing and envelopes, envelopes

Printers Going Green – Exactly where are we going?

Posted by Jerry Velona on Apr 23, 2012 1:58:00 PM

As we were reminded incessantly, April 22nd was Earth Day. Wikipedia defines it as “an annual day on which events are held worldwide to increase awareness and appreciation of the earth's natural environment.”

Earth day photo resized 600

The official recognition of Earth Day started in 1970 which coincided with the beginning of concern for the environment as a political force in the United States.  The 70’s saw the publication of books like The Population Bomb by Paul Erlich and scholarly reports like The Limits to Growth by The Club of Rome. The main argument was that overpopulation coupled with pollution and depletion of natural resources were putting us on a disastrous path which was supposed to play out in the later years of the 20th century. The EPA was formed later in the decade during the Nixon administration. The Clean Water Act, The Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act and other pieces of legislation that comprise the foundation for current policy were also passed in the 1970’s.

Well, we’re still here in 2012 and doing pretty well environmentally speaking. By just about every measure, the air and water in general are cleaner than 40 years ago and there are plenty of natural spaces in which to stretch out. We haven’t yet “Paved paradise and put up a parking lot” as the great Joni Mitchell song goes.  Some of this has come about due to increased public concern about environmental matters resulting in legislation. Two marked achievements in that regard are the dramatic reduction of sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants and the switch to unleaded gas through mandating the catalytic converter in all new vehicles.

There is a dark side, however, to environmental activism. This manifests itself in a lack of concern or even hostility to economic growth and widespread material progress in general.  With regard to printing and envelopes, there’s a reflexive opposition to cutting down trees in order to produce paper.  The idea is that by not printing something on paper, you’re “saving a tree.” The fact that the more paper is consumed, the more trees are required doesn’t seem to factor into the equation.

Businesspeople are generally risk-averse. We’re always looking for more customers so taking a potentially controversial stand which might alienate a segment of our market is seen as a negative. The environmental movement’s success in presenting its objectives in mother and apple-pie terms has led many companies to start “green” initiatives in an effort to sell themselves to those who are sympathetic to these concerns.

Government agencies have also sought to accelerate this trend. The US Commerce Department in its Earth Day 2012 blog bragged about how they’ve “saved 3,489 trees” (I assume they had someone go to a forest and count) as well as money by eliminating the numbers of pages they print by 27%. Now we can all waste less in our daily lives and this is certainly a good thing. But it’s an ominous sign for any industry’s future prospects to have its normal activities portrayed as a necessary evil at best or a vice at worst. Financial service companies trumpet the fact that they are “going green” by eliminating printed statements. We have included this message on the envelopes they still use. Talk about printing your own obituary!

Printers and envelope companies have been promoting their green credentials for some time now. Recycling paper makes sense both from the standpoint of economics and ethics.  And of course we should dispose of our chemicals in an environmentally-friendly way. We all drink the same water.  Programs like FSC and SFI promote “sustainable forestry”.  Elite Envelope is FSC certified and I’ve found the people involved to be committed and the program well-run. However, the underlying message is that without environmentalist oversight, the forests that produce pulp for paper are going to be managed in a less than responsible manner. Seems to me the incentives are all in the other direction. If you’re a paper company looking for the greatest return on your investment, aren’t you going to manage the forest to produce as much as possible?  Things don’t grow unless they’re well cared-for. Anyone with a backyard garden can vouch for that!

Are we better off trying to appease those who do not have our best interests in mind? I say no. By taking that approach, we are to some extent agreeing with them by accepting their premises. Envelope printers and printers in general should speak about the value of what we do and not indirectly apologize for it. There’s nothing wrong with producing printed materials on paper. It’s an honest business with a venerable tradition and completely consistent with a reasonable and common-sense concern for the environment.  Say it loud: “We print and we’re proud”! 

Topics: going green, envelopes companies going green, printing and envelopes, envelope company

Going Green with envelopes – style over substance?

Posted by Jerry Velona on Apr 25, 2011 11:01:00 AM

A number of years ago we were bidding on a piece of business and the potential customer provided a sample of what they were currently using. It was a special size envelope with a custom window; nothing that an envelope converter like us couldn’t handle but it contained a logo with the tag “printed with certified wind power”. The prospect informed us that we had to be able to print that logo in order to win the order.

It was the first time I’d encountered that so I did some research. The prospect shared his current supplier with me. It was a company located not too far from us and I knew that they bought their electricity from the same utility we did. There are no wind farms in Massachusetts supplying power to the grid and this particular company had no windmill outside its plant. What I found out was that companies like this one had started purchasing RECs which stands for Renewable Energy Credits. This is an ingenious scheme whereby companies that supply wind and solar power to the grid in various parts of the country will sell you a piece of paper that “certifies” you have bought a certain amount of this so-called green power and, by so doing, you have supposedly replaced or “offset” a portion of the electricity you actually use which more than likely comes from the typical power plant fired by coal, oil, natural gas or nuclear.

elite envelope and graphics, Randolph, MA

These companies have helped perpetuate the idea that the way they supply power; i.e. through renewable sources, is morally superior to the other, more conventional sources. Enough people now accept this as established fact which has created a market. So they can actually get companies and individuals to buy their product without getting any direct benefit except as it relates to the PR value of showing how much they care about the environment. It’s a neat and profitable gimmick for all concerned but it also calls into question the integrity of those involved.

If you truly believe that carbon emissions from power plants, automobiles, jet planes and other internal combustion sources are causing serious and irreversible damage to the environment, then the only honest way to proceed would be to change your behavior to eliminate the CO2 emitting activity in your life and work. Buying Renewable Energy Credits is a way for someone to talk the Green talk without having to actually make any significant sacrifice which is what it would certainly entail. It’s like a guy who won’t stop cheating on his wife but feels that by writing checks to his church, he is compensating for his bad behavior.

If you decide to build a windmill on your property and generate your own power in this way, then by all means trumpet that far and wide if you feel it will help your business. If however, you are in effect donating money to companies that produce electricity in this fashion without actually supplying any of it to your factory then I think it’s dishonest to state that your envelope was printed using wind power on that flimsy connection alone. Feeling good without doing good is the easy way out.

Oh, by the way, we will be signing up for another year with FSC certification. We’ve determined that enough of our customers require it to justify the expense. At least with that program, people are actually putting their money where their mouth is.

As always, I welcome your comments on this topic.

Topics: envelope converting, going green, envelopes companies going green

Yet Another Blog Post

From Jerry Velona - co-owner,

Elite Envelope & Graphics, Inc.

Jerry offers pertinent, often useful information on envelope converting and printing, web printing, direct mail, the post office, songs that have to do with mail and letters, digital overload and much more!

(Non-spam) Comments always appreciated.  Spread it around!

 

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