Sustainable Solutions: Eco-Friendly Printing, Step by Step

Earth Day is a pretty big deal around here. So much so that it’s basically Earth Day every day at Smartpress. How? With our ever-greening sustainable printing process. We go way beyond recycled paper stocks, as we work to protect the environment every step of the way. Smartpress is truly an eco-friendly online printer, leading the industry with sustainable solutions. Here’s the proof.

Eco-friendly printing

Supply Chain & Products

In the online printing industry, you can either have a sustainable printing process in place, in the works or not even on your mind. At Smartpress, it’s been a pillar of what we do and what we stand for since day one.

 

So where does it all start? With our supply chain and products. Thanks to our Sustainable Procurement Program, we (and our customers) can rest assured knowing that our products are sourced from businesses that reflect our moral and ethical values. The program provides our suppliers with a sustainability scorecard and tools for benchmarking to improve their practices. We believe this methodology encourages transparency, collaboration and ongoing improvement.

 

And speaking of products, our eco-friendly options keep growing. From recycled paper stocks and hemp to green alternative substrates for custom signs, we go green and then some. Our customers have the planet in mind when they print, so we make it easy to do just that with more and more materials approved by Mother Earth.

(Before you interject about how printing can’t possibly be sustainable, allow us to debunk that myth for you: Sustainable Paper: Why Printing with Smartpress is Eco-Friendly.)

 

And since we like to shout our sustainability from the rooftops, we’ve made it possible for our customers to do the same with our carbon neutral logo. It’s available as a free download for you to add to your print projects.

 

Oh, and did we mention we’re carbon neutral? We have been since January 2020 and we’re not stopping anytime soon. It’s just one more way this online printing shop sets you up for socially responsible printing.

Sustainable solutions in printing
Sustainable printing

Printing Equipment

So how do we handle all of this eco-friendly printing? With the right equipment for the job. At Smartpress, our HP presses are that and more. Made with recycled materials and recycled parts, they were designed with sustainability in mind. Plus, they were manufactured CO2-neutral, which means they remove as much CO2 from the atmosphere as they put into it.

 

In short, our presses are kind of a big deal. And one our customers get to take advantage of for printing marketing materials and personal projects alike.

 

Since our presses don’t use hazardous inks, we’ve reduced the chemicals impacting the environment, too. The solvents, inks and chemicals we do use in our production process are sent to various partners to responsibly dispose of and/or repurpose.

(Did You Know: Digital printing doesn’t use any of the hazardous chemicals that traditional printing does, including platemaking, inks, solvents, emulsions, film, etc.)

 

While we sing the praises of our presses, we’d be remiss to point out that because they’re digital, they’re also waterless, which saves thousands of gallons of water per year. Even better? None of our production processes use water as a consumable material.

 

Our eco approach extends from our presses to the maintenance that ensures our machines stay in action. One example? Our UV Coaters, which must be cleaned with alcohol. We invested in a Solvent Recycler that distills the used alcohol and UV after cleaning, separating the two. We then reclaim the alcohol to use again and dispose of the UV properly, generating significantly less waste.

Green printing
Green printing process

Waste & Recycling

Speaking of waste, we break it down into two categories. At Smartpress, materials are either recycled or processed through our waste-to-energy program. Simply put, it’s a whole lot of bins.

 

And when we say waste, we mean ALL of it. From booklet coils to cut materials, it’s all sorted into its proper place. Throughout our production area, every station is equipped with various recycling and/or disposal bins. They’re all labeled appropriately so sorting is done quickly and print projects keep moving.

 

As you can imagine, that pace is pretty fast. So to ensure sorting goes smoothly and we stay organized, we have signage throughout our production floor – yep, we print custom signs for ourselves, too. We take our sorting and waste disposal process very seriously, sorting even the most finite details like hole punches.

  • When suppliers send us production materials, the packaging (i.e. cardboard boxes, pallets) gets sorted and repurposed or recycled through our waste partners.
  • Scrap paper, cardboard, plastic and styrene are carefully sorted and then recycled through our waste partners.
  • Our box crusher compacts our waste boxes to create more density. This ensures it can be handled efficiently as it makes its way to be recycled (using less fuel, emissions and labor during transport).
  • We even leverage software that maximizes the principle area on press sheets, thus using as many square inches as possible to reduce waste.
  • Materials that cannot be recycled (think laminated paper, plastic tubes, ink canisters, foam core, waxy paper and tape) are often used for energy recovery.

Eco-friendly solutions

Office & Facilities

So far, we’ve checked in on how products go through the printing process in an eco-friendly way. But when it comes to going green and staying green, we go beyond our online printing services. And that includes conscious work environments.

 

Each and every Smartpress co-owner is a resource for good, so we provide them with a reusable silverware set to prevent single-use plastic from entering our waste stream. We’ve also removed all plastic bottles from our facilities’ vending machines, so even snack time can be sustainable.

 

Our indispensable operators on the production floor attend environmental and safety training to ensure safe and proper disposal of all those waste materials we mentioned above.

As for our facilities themselves:

  • They feature motion detection lights that automatically turn off in areas that aren’t in active use.
  • They lower our electrical consumption through high-efficiency lighting, controls and HVAC retrofits.
  • They undergo annual comprehensive energy audits to look for energy-saving project opportunities.
  • They’re cleaned with Stabilized Aqueous Ozone. This chemical-free cleaning agent helps protect our employees and Minnesota’s environment by preventing harsh chemicals from entering our 10,000 lakes, rivers and waterways.

 

Pretty cool, huh?

Partnerships, Charities & Certifications

We didn’t get into the green printing game for the accolades and recognition – but that hasn’t stopped them from coming in. We’re proud of the partnerships we’ve established and the socially responsible progress we continue to make.

 

Partnerships & Affiliations

  • Trees, Water & People – Smartpress partners with this nonprofit that focuses on environmental conservation with a social impact. They create economic opportunities for local Indigenous people through reforestation and renewable energy projects across U.S. tribal lands and Central America.
  • United Nations Global Compact – As a signatory, we’ve aligned our operations and strategies with the UN’s 10 Principles and Sustainable Development Goals on the environment, business ethics and labor and human rights.
  • Carbon Disclosure Project – We partner with CDP for our environmental reporting to promote transparency and accountability with our stakeholders.

Charities
We regularly donate scrap or excess materials to local organizations that repurpose them in consciously creative ways:

  • Schools turn them into decorations, art supplies and wood shop supplies.
  • We send wood offcuts and acrylic scrap to a reptile, rodent and bird breeder who creates tanks, bird perches and chew blocks.
  • Paper, canvas and vinyl rolls go to the Otherworldly Arts Collective, a group of Minnesota artists.
  • Children at Camp Invention use scrap to create their projects.
  • Smartpress donates to Printing Industry Midwest’s annual surplus-paper drive, giving pallets of leftover paper to local school teachers for their print and art programs.

 

Certifications

  • Green Power Partner of the Environmental Protection Agency – The Green Power Partnership (GPP) encourages organizations to use green power voluntarily to protect the health of the planet and those who live on it. As a Partner, we’ve met GPP requirements like using eligible green power as a percentage of our annual electricity use.
  • EcoVadis Platinum – EcoVadis is an independent Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) evaluation company that helps us integrate CSR principles into our daily business initiatives. We received Platinum status in 2022, after retaining Gold status since 2019. Platinum means we’re in the top 1% of all companies EcoVadis evaluates in the printing services industry.
  • ISO 14001 – Our 14001 environmental certification comes from the International Organization for Standardization. Ensuring our policies and procedures align with standards set internationally, this certification helps us increase productivity while minimizing our operations’ environmental impacts. It also provides the framework and guidance for us to consistently implement eco-friendly initiatives within our online printing services.

 

What can we say? It pays to be green.

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