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Pushing the Envelope Beyond Ordinary

Elite Envelope Goes Solar!

Posted by Jerry Velona on Dec 14, 2016 12:33:24 PM

So I was shocked twice this morning.  First, when I realized I hadn’t written a blog entry in over a month (I know, I know you’ve all been sitting at your desks each morning wondering where it’s been). And secondly when I looked at the calendar twice to see that it’s indeed December 14th and Christmas is next Sunday(!)  

 Rather than try to explain the inexplicable; i.e. how another year has apparently come and almost gone, I’m going to jump right into the topic of the day which is the value of renewable energy in the printing and envelope industry and the importance of accurate claims in this regard.

 As anyone who follows this blog is aware, I’ve been skeptical of the claims made by some of our competitors that a particular envelope was manufactured or printed using wind power.  In fact, “skeptical” may not be the right word.  “Dismissive” might be more accurate.  The way this works is that a company will purchase what are known as Renewable Energy Credits or REC’s.  These represent a purchase of a certain amount of power that is actually produced by a random wind farm somewhere in the US. The theory is that the power once purchased goes into the grid and is available for use by someone/anyone.  So this energy is thought to replace power that would have been produced using conventional fossil fuels.

I’ve always thought this to be a bit squirrelly and you can read why here.   But I’ve also said that if you really want to make a difference and think that renewable energy is important, then by all means put your money where your mouth is and you’ll get no quarrel from me.

That’s what we’ve done at Elite Envelope & Graphics.  As of the beginning of 2017, we will begin generating somewhere between one half and three quarters of our total energy consumption through an array of solar panels that we’ve just installed on our brand new roof.

Elite Solar JV standing.jpg  

To be honest, our primary reason for doing this was economics.  Between the incentives provided by the Federal and State governments, the system will pay for itself in a fairly short time after which our monthly savings on electricity will be substantial well into the future. And once all the impending breakthroughs in large, storage battery technology I’ve been reading about come to fruition, it’s possible that we could be completely self-sufficient in our energy usage in the not-too-distant future.

But aside from the economics,  there are certainly environmental benefits to consuming less fossil fuel and we will now be in a position to print this (below) on our customer’s envelopes and have it be literally accurate.  There’s a lot to be said for truth in advertising!   Let us know if we can help you impress your customers.

Solar Power Logo Sun.jpg

 

Topics: elite envelope, going green, envelope manufacturing, envelope printing

Envelopes, Paper and “Green Washing”

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jan 26, 2016 11:36:17 AM

At the end of my e mail signature is the line “Feel free to print this e mail. Paper is a renewable resource”.  More than a few people have commented on that and every comment has been in the “atta-boy” category.  Now admittedly, the audience for my business e mails, comprised overwhelmingly of people in the business of making and buying printed products on paper, is not exactly a representative sample of the general population.  But those of us in the envelope converting, direct mail printing, and paper and printing industries in general have been unfairly maligned over the past twenty years or so for doing something that is supposedly bad for the environment so it’s time for a little push-back.

smiling_tree_picture.jpg

The notion that not using paper somehow “saves a tree” has become a persistent canard.  The argument goes something like this:  paper pulp is made from wood which comes from trees. So, the less paper used, the fewer trees cut down. Now this is obviously true but like many simplistic and tendentious arguments, it omits many salient points. The most obvious omission is that trees are not a finite resource. When one is cut down, another seed can be planted.  If you own a paper company and your business relies on a regular supply of trees for wood pulp it’s in your interest to ensure that for every tree used, another one or more is growing to take its place.  And while trees can be beautiful and decorative and necessary for the ecosystem, they are also susceptible to disease and blight and will eventually rot and die on their own.  The financial incentive to grow and maintain healthy new tree stock for paper companies is a strong one.  It’s not a coincidence that forests owned by these companies are among the most productive and best managed on earth. You rarely if ever hear of wildfires affecting them.

The demand for paper in the marketplace ensures that these forests continue to flourish and are maintained for the purpose of growing trees.  If less paper is used, many of these wooded areas will be leveled for development of some other sort. So it’s not at all certain that by not using paper, you are “saving a tree”. In fact, the opposite may be true.

Have you ever heard anyone making an argument that not eating fruits and vegetables “saves” an apple or a tomato?  Neither have I. Doesn’t the same logic apply there?  We grow crops season after season in order to supply food to nourish our bodies. Some of this farmland was probably forest land before it was cleared to grow crops.  And yes, I understand that unlike food, paper use is somewhat discretionary. But paper plays an important role in our lives in education and commerce in general. 

And speaking of forest land, it’s a fact that there are more trees in the US today than there were a hundred years or so.  And a recent study estimated that there are over three trillion trees on earth which was a 750 per cent increase over previous best estimates.  Oops!

There is a certain positive social cachet associated with being seen as environmentally conscious.  Corporations eager to be seen in this light by customers have rushed to embrace green issues often as a justification for doing what’s in their financial interest.  Examples of this abound.  For years banks have been suggesting that their customers “go green” by getting their account statements sent on line.  Saying, “get your statements on line and help us reduce our costs and improve our bottom line” just doesn’t have the same impact.

The ubiquitous message below so many e mail signatures imploring us to not print the e mail is part of this desire to be with the spirit of the times.  I don’t necessarily disagree with the sentiment.  We shouldn’t print things for no reason. These days there are fewer reasons to print documents and printing something unnecessarily is a form of waste which should be avoided.  However, the premise underlying this message, as I’ve suggested, is not correct and perpetuating false information should also be avoided. 

One organization that’s taking it upon itself to correct these false impressions is Two Sides based out of Chicago.  Their website provides a trove of information on the topic of paper and the environment and is very useful in putting these matters in their proper context.  The President of Two Sides Phil Riebel will contact individuals and companies who use these messages in their PR and provide them with information that, in some cases, has changed minds.  As their name implies, Two Sides takes a light and logical approach to the debate which I believe is more effective in the long term.  No point in countering one heavy-handed message with another as emotionally satisfying as that might be.

Two sides brings to the argument balance which in all things, including nature, is essential.

 

Topics: direct mail, envelopes, going green, save a tree, paper and trees

Envelope & Printing Resolutions for 2014

Posted by Jerry Velona on Jan 7, 2014 11:22:00 AM

new year's eve picture

Yes, I know, this is a topic for a blog article that’s been hacked to death already. Well, as you'll see, one of my resolutions is to stop procrastinating so here goes:

Resolution #1I am going to stop planning to make sales calls and just pick up the phone and make one.  This also applies to all the other daily tasks we humans rationalize with procrastination: “Well I couldn’t do that today, phones and e mails are driving me nuts,” etc.  Yeah, right. I speak from long experience on this topic. As productive as I can be, I’m always putting things off. But each day will have its particular challenges and in the digital world e-mails will be bombarding us no matter what. The secret to breaking the cycle is to stop thinking and immediately start doing it, whatever “it” happens to be.  When I do this, amazingly I get stuff done despite all the “craziness” we’re always complaining about. And while we’re talking about e mails,

Resolution #2I am going to address and answer e mails in the order in which they were received. You know what I’m talking about here. How many times are you in the middle of completing a task; a quote or perhaps a response to a customer when, “bing!” (or whatever the noise is you get when an e mail arrives in your in-box) you look up and…you…can’t…help…yourself…and you click on it, start reading and immediately get distracted from the task at hand. Maybe this is the one you’ve been waiting for to get an answer on that big potential order or maybe it’s bad news you’ve been dreading about an ongoing problem with a job. In those cases, you get a pass. However, and let’s face it, mostly you’re just looking for something to distract you; something new and different from the grinding task you’re working on. Don’t take the bait!

We’re much more productive when we complete what we’re doing before going on to the next thing. And customers need to understand that they may not get an instant response every time they decide to send you an e mail. Otherwise they’ll expect it and will be more disappointed down the road if it doesn't happen. 

Resolution #3I’m going to resist the temptation to use “Green” arguments as part of our promotion to customers. Anyone who reads this blog occasionally knows this is a  pet peeve of mine. There is nothing about printing on paper or envelopes that is harmful to the environment in any way. We all use water soluble inks or dispose of the non-soluble inks or other chemicals in a responsible manner. Paper comes from trees which are a renewable resource. The more paper consumed, the more trees are planted. Trees will die naturally and many forests will be cleared to build malls, houses and other developments if they are not used to grow trees for paper. The privately held forests owned and operated by paper companies are some of the most efficient and well-managed on the planet. You rarely if ever hear of a wildfire on privately held forest land and there’s a reason for that; it’s called the profit motive.  The vast majority of waste paper generated by envelope manufacturers and printers is recycled. It's in our interest to do so.  A significant percentage of paper in general is recycled by consumers. Saying “please don’t print this e mail unless you have to” is a tacit admission that using paper is somehow bad for the environment. We’re not placating anyone by using such defensive arguments in our promotional literature. And don’t get me started on the whole “this was printed with certified wind power” thing. And finally,  

Resolution #4I’m going to find more creative reasons to meet with our customers in person.  Why does this require more creativity you may ask?  Well, in case you haven’t noticed, people are very, very busy these days (some of it because they’re procrastinating or distracted by a constant flow of e mails but, well, never mind!). As a result, it’s just not enough to suggest “stopping by when I’m in the area to say hi” or, worse, just popping in unannounced. The latter almost never works and I’ve always felt it was a bit rude. We need to come up with an actual reason for the meeting, however brief; a reason which includes something of value to the customer or prospect.  I’m sure there are still some buyers who like to break up their day having small talk with a gregarious sales rep but I don’t know too many. There is value to us in putting ourselves in front of a buyer occasionally if for no other reason than to remind them that we’re still around and open for business and better than those other guys. However, you must look at it from the customer’s point of view.  Giving them a good reason to see you will accomplish our purposes as well as give the customer the message that you respect their time and particular situation.

In the digital world, actual face-to-face conversation with customers and prospects is more important than ever to help solidify relationships. It’s too easy to sit at our desks and write e mails (or blogs!). But, like the hit record, there has to be a hook.

In any event, thanks for taking the time to read about some of my New Year’s resolutions. I’d love to hear some of yours. Happy New Year and may you flourish and prosper in 2014!

Topics: envelope sales, going green, elite envelope, envelope printing, printing and envelopes, envelopes

Valuing Trees and Paper for Printing and Envelopes

Posted by Jerry Velona on Apr 1, 2013 11:23:00 AM

think before printing

One of the more regrettable messages we see frequently on e-mails is something along the lines of: “Think of the trees – please don’t print this e mail unless you have to”.  

My grandmother and mother, both of whom lived during the Great Depression of the 1930’s and 1940’s taught me not to waste... well, ANYTHING.  Once I got out of school and hit the playgrounds, backyards and streets of my suburban neighborhood, I don’t think I ever wore a pair of pants that didn’t have sewn-on patches till I was well into my teens (and then, I wore them by choice as it was cool to dress down but that’s a tale for another day).

One of Nanny’s favorite expressions was, “Use it up – wear it out – make it do – do without”.  This was a popular saying of the time as depicted in this World War II era poster. It was also adapted by a band called Odyssey in the 90’s for a title of one of their dance club hits (thanks Google!) .  

I think most of us would agree that conserving, reusing and, in general, consuming based on need and modest desire rather than unthinking whim are sound principles upon which to live one’s life.  So what are we to make of the whole “save a tree” thing?  Is it a legitimate expression of the sensible “waste not – want not” prudence I’ve described?  Or is it perhaps a knee-jerk appeal to the sentimental attachment that most of us feel toward trees for the ultimate purpose of promoting a dubious ideological agenda?

Chuck Leavell is one of the great pianists of the classic rock era. He was playing with the Allman Brothers at age twenty and went on to play with the Rolling Stones where he remains today.  According to his website Leavell is also a “respected authority on forestry and conservation”.  He owns a forest and has written several books on forestry and green issues.    

Aside from being a great musician (check out the rippin' piano solo on the Allman’s track “Southbound”) Leavell speaks in common sense terms about environmental issues. The fact that he uses the term “conservationist” rather than “environmentalist” to describe himself is telling. The former speaks to a prudent use and management of our resources. The latter too often reflects a hostility to man’s place in natural world not to mention a blithe rejection of the need for economic growth and prosperity to improve the lives of the many who still live in abject poverty and misery.

In an excellent short piece from a couple of years ago in the Wall Street Journal, (read it here ), Leavell and co-writer Carlton Owen make the point that unless there is a demand for wood products and paper, forests will in many cases die of insect infestation or simply be paved over for malls and other commercial developments.  Using paper, including printing e mails when required, helps create this demand which prompts paper companies to plant more trees and maintain healthy forests in order to protect their investments.

Leavell signs his e mails with the following:  “It's OK to print this email. Paper is a biodegradable, renewable, sustainable product made from trees. Growing and harvesting trees provides jobs for millions of Americans. Working forests are good for the environment and provide clean air and water, wildlife habitat and carbon storage. Thanks to improved forest management, we have more trees in America today than we had 100 years ago."  That's not a bad message to repeat to our customers and prospects who may be seduced by the "save a tree" siren song.

So when you invite all your friends to your Arbor Day party (April 26th I’m told), feel free to print a bunch of cards and put them in envelopes and mail them to everyone you know. You’re doing something positive for trees on both accounts.

Topics: going green, printing and envelopes, save a tree, don't print this e mail

Holiday Print and Envelope Wishlist

Posted by Jerry Velona on Dec 21, 2012 9:17:00 AM

Letter to Santa Elite Envelope

Well, 2012 is almost behind us:  another year of challenges and ups and downs but hopefully more than your share of success.  The printing and envelope industries continue to either decline or evolve depending on your outlook. I prefer the latter. While there’s no question that far fewer envelopes are being mailed today as opposed to ten years ago, direct mail has remained a vibrant and attractive tool to marketers.  New digital technologies have made personalized mail affordable.  Improved four color envelope printing equipment and technology has moved process printing firmly into the mainstream.

As I write this we are facing the end of the world according to the Mayan calendar.  My 13-year-old daughter wanted to sleep over a friend’s house to mark the occasion which was fine with me. I could use some peace and quiet before the end of time. So who knows if you’ll even be around to read this?  Just in case, here are some of my fervent hopes and wishes for 2013.

  • I wish that companies in our industry and in general would be less timid about wishing customers “Merry Christmas”.  I understand that businesses tend to be risk averse and generally will take the path of least resistance. But Christmas Day has been a national holiday since 1870 and has a healthy and ubiquitous secular side.  I know there are some that take offense at being wished Merry Christmas but they are a tiny fringe and do we really want to consider their tender feelings above the vast majority who, regardless of their religion, enjoy and celebrate the Christmas Holiday?   How about “Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays”?

  • Along the same lines, I hope that printers and envelope companies will be less accommodating to the “green” agenda which ultimately does not have our best interests in mind. I’ve written in more specific detail about this issue in previous posts.  We should all take responsibility in our personal and professional lives to use resources wisely and consider the environment. But the greens think paper consumption is bad and that’s not right.

  • To add to #2, I wish that companies in our industry would stop claiming that their products are produced with “certified wind power” when all they are doing is buying Renewable Energy Credits.  If you have a wind turbine in your parking lot or solar panels on your roof then you are entitled to make this claim.  If not, it’s misleading and more kowtowing to environmental purists who are, for the most part, not our friends.

  • I wish more customers would go back to using formal purchase orders. E mail has certainly made us more productive but getting unspecific messages to proceed on an order via e mail requires us vendors to confirm everything in writing which is really what the customer is supposed to do through a detailed and precise purchase order.  Plus, sometimes you have two or three separate trails going on the same order which requires printing out voluminous correspondence for the job ticket. (I wonder if any of these e-mail orderers have that “don’t print this e mail unless it’s absolutely necessary” message after their signature?)

  • I wish more people would stop responding “your” welcome when I say thank you for doing something for me.

  • I wish our political class would allow Postmaster General Donahoe to implement most of the reforms he’s been recommending for the past several years. The Post Office is a mess. It’s losing money at a terrifying rate and needs to be significantly downsized and reformed or face collapse. What really needs to be done is to break the monopoly and privatize the delivery of first class mail as we have with parcels with great success.  What will most likely happen is dithering followed by another taxpayer-financed bailout.

Despite the many problems we face as an industry, we can be thankful for the chance we have to persevere and dream. We can also give thanks for our friends, family and loved ones; without whom our lives would be diminished. Lastly, to everyone in the printing and envelope world: Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and may we all flourish and prosper in 2013!

 

Topics: four color envelope printing, going green, envelopes and post office, postal monopoly, envelope printing, post office problems, envelope industry, printed envelopes

More Printing, More Envelopes, More Trees!

Posted by Jerry Velona on Oct 29, 2012 12:47:00 PM

Elite Envelope Print Grows Trees

Let me state right up front: I love trees!  I love how they look. I love the shade they provide. I love how the leaves turn bright colors in the fall. Upon purchasing our home in eastern Massachusetts 13 years ago, one of the first things we did was to plant a flowering pear and a dogwood tree on the property.  They’re beautiful;  and watching them grow and thrive gives me great pleasure.  In the warm weather I love lying on my hammock under the big elm tree next to my house. 

So I hope I’ve established my bona fides as a tree lover in order for me to also say: I love printing! I love envelopes!  I love the paper industry!  That felt good to say.  But the point of this post is that the two sentiments I’ve expressed are not mutually exclusive.

What has precipitated this mini-rant is yet another marketing message; this one when I was on hold with my bank, assuring me that by switching to an on-line statement versus getting one in the mail, that I would be – yes, say it with me now – “saving a tree.”

The idea that by using less paper, we are saving trees is one of the hardiest and hoariest clichés of the past 3 or so decades.  Nevertheless it continues to be a prominent part of the “green” marketing efforts of many companies and seems to be blithely accepted by many. The logic has always escaped me.  After all, trees are a renewable resource.  Companies that produce things like lumber and paper have a built-in incentive to ensure that they continue to plant more trees in order for their businesses to thrive. Some of the largest, private forests in the world are owned by paper companies.  They are also among the most well-managed; another logical by-product of market incentives.

Do you ever hear anyone suggesting that by forgoing certain vegetables in your salad that you would be, say, saving a pepper?   When the federal government in its wisdom mandated that corn ethanol be added to all the gas we purchase for our cars thereby requiring huge new supplies of that vegetable, did a corn shortage result?  No, the exact opposite happened and we now have huge new supplies of corn. This has caused price spikes to other produce which farmers quite rationally jettisoned in order to produce more corn. That’s a separate problem and a topic for another 10 blog posts but the point is that there’s a lot more corn now than before because more is required to meet the increased demand.

The same logic applies to trees. The more paper consumed, the more trees need to be planted.  Of course many will have to be cut down in order to provide the wood and pulp; kind of like when crops are harvested before new seeds are planted in the spring.

I don't know about you but I’m not aware of any tree shortages.  The statistics I’ve seen say that there are more trees in the United States today than there were hundreds of years ago. 

It’s bad enough that we have to listen to self-serving messages from banks and utilities couched in gauzy green terms:  save a tree and, oh, by the way, save us the cost of printing and postage too.  But what I find really hard to fathom is why some printing and envelope companies will use that same rhetoric when it’s really a tacit admission that what we do for a living is somehow damaging to the environment.  That’s not true of course and it doesn’t do us any good to embrace the same arguments of those who do not have our best interests in mind.

As always, your comments are much appreciated on this important topic.

Topics: envelope companies going green, going green, elite envelope, 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

Are Environmentalists Friends of Paper and Envelopes? - part two

Posted by Jerry Velona on Apr 11, 2011 1:10:00 PM

girls going green

In the last post, I covered the trend of printers and envelope companies “going green” in order to win approval from customers and prospects. Obviously this has been a theme in the marketing and PR strategies of many companies for more than a generation.

While some individuals and the businesses they own and run act out of sincere conviction in this regard, it’s clear that for many if not most, it’s just a self-serving attempt to win business. For example, how many banks and credit card companies send out paper bills with a message urging you to “save a tree” by switching to on-line transactions? What they are not saying is that by doing so, they are saving money on paper, envelopes, printing, mailing and postage. Now any businessperson worth his salary is always going to look for ways to cut costs while maintaining service levels. However, to wrap this in the fuzzy blanket of concern for the environment is a bit too much for this observer.

One might say that this type of thing is relatively harmless. Why not use popular, "apple-pie" rhetoric for our short-term benefit? Businesses tend to be risk-averse. Controversy is to be avoided if at all possible. It’s bad for a business to alienate a segment of its market so the conventional thinking goes. Better to just go along and not stick out. However, for those of us who convert envelopes, print envelopes and use paper as an integral part of our business, the larger question is: by accepting the premises of the environmental movement, are we doing ourselves more harm than good in the long term?

Let’s look at that “save a tree” argument a little more carefully. Our environmental brethren have very skillfully propagated the idea that using paper in large amounts is a bad thing because lots of trees get cut down in the process. Yet if there are companies whose product is paper, and paper comes from wood pulp which comes from trees, then it’s obvious that these companies will maintain the largest and most productive forests they can in order to keep their businesses profitable. The more paper is consumed, the more trees will be needed to satisfy the demand. Saving a tree by not consuming paper is like "saving" a tomato by not eating them in your salad.

This applies to recycling paper as well. Elite Envelope recycles hundreds of tons of paper per year (maybe more - haven’t actually kept track) because there is a demand for the paper and we get paid for the waste. I have no philosophical objection to recycling paper and it most likely saves some landfill space but it’s also true that if we recycled less paper, there would be even more trees planted to fill that demand.

By "going along" with the line of thinking that says, in effect,  what we do for a living is harmful to the environment, are we not lending credence to this false premise and thus hastening our own demise? 

In next week’s blog, I’ll delve further into these issues. As always, I welcome your comments!

Topics: envelope converting, envelope printing, elite envelope, going green, green envelopes

“Going Green” - Exactly where are we going?

Posted by Jerry Velona on Apr 5, 2011 1:08:00 PM

For decades now, most paper and envelope companies as well printers have been trying to show their “green” credentials in order to win public acceptance for their products and services. This became necessary as our most essential raw material is produced by cutting down trees which curiously, to some, is a few steps removed from murder.

cutting down tree

It began with an emphasis on marketing recycled paper. This was always a tough sell since recycled paper costs more than virgin stock. It was very common for mostly large corporations to take a position of using recycled paper only to have the buyer change his mind when he realized that this mandate crossed purposes with the one about reducing the company’s costs. However, it provided and remains a market-based method to give someone with strong convictions in this regard the opportunity to walk the walk.

In the early to mid 90’s, groups like the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) were formed to promote their vision of proper forest management and logging practices. Both private and non-profit, these groups devised a certification process carried out by third-party auditors to ensure that companies adhere to a set of procedures designed to maintain the integrity of wood and paper that comes from approved forests and is treated in a manner consistent with the groups’ objectives.

Many printers and paper converters have signed on with these companies. Presumably, some of these firms are expressing the sincere convictions of their owners and management in this regard. However, I think it’s most likely that the vast majority of the participating companies are doing so strictly to be able to trumpet their participation in an attempt to show themselves to be “good corporate citizens” while appealing to buyers who might have these convictions or work for someone who does.

I somewhat sheepishly admit to being in the latter category. We had internal debates on whether to participate but ultimately decided to do so. Elite Envelope has been FSC certified for a couple of years. I have found the people associated with the program to be professional and sincerely committed to the goals and objectives or the organization.

In the next blog post, I’ll get into what we have gotten out of this program and whether we will recommit to another year. I’ll also discuss one of the less- than-savory tactics that some use to give their customers the green cover they seek as well as some of the dubious assumptions that are behind the quest to Go Green.

There’s a great piece on this topic from last week's Wall Street Journal online which you might want to check out here http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704471904576228712797236124.html

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this topic.

Topics: elite envelope, envelope companies going green, 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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