During Boxcar Press’s first company-wide retreat, back when there was just two of us and a lot of dreams, we tented in a state park out on Cape Cod because, well, it was cheap. While we rode our bikes along the bogs and watched the tides come and go, we talked about what kind of business we wanted to become. We dreamed of building a print shop that would make not only our grandparents but our grandchildren proud. Decades from now, we wanted to look back and point to the concrete good that Boxcar Press had done.
Our love for the world means that we, as a business, must practice our craft as sustainably as we can. Our responsibility as a business means we must do what we can to preserve and restore the health of the planet. An integral part of our mission is to use the power of business to do good.
our current environmental printing practices
- Reuse and recycle whenever possible. We recycle our photo chemistry, film, paper offcuts, and photopolymer plates. We clean and reuse our shop rags. Empty ink cans are recycled. We reuse paper scraps for office notes.
- Use low impact inks and solvents. We use only vegetable-oil based and low-VOC letterpress inks, and we use low-VOC and citrus-based solvents.
- Tree-free papers for customers: For our commercial printing, we stock and encourage our customers to use tree-free paper: Crane’s Lettra and Rising Museum Board (both 100% cotton); and Mohawk Loop and chipboard (both 100% post-consumer waste recycled).
- Tree-free papers for our own printing: For our own invitation lines (Smock and Bella Figura), we use a bamboo tree-free paper or a 100% cotton paper made from reclaimed fibers. Our letterhead and business envelopes are letterpressed on Mohawk Options (a 100% post consumer recycled paper made entirely from wind power).
- Donate to the public schools: We donate surplus paper and envelopes once a year to art programs at Syracuse Public Schools and other local schools.
- Recycle film and chemistry: We recycle the film and chemistry and capture the silver that’s produced during the platemaking process.
- Recycle plates: We run a platemaking and film recycling program for all our customers to keep polymer plates and film out of landfills.
- Plate proofs on eco paper: Our proofs are printed on New Leaf Reincarnation (a coated paper that’s FSC-certified, 60% recycled with 30% post-consumer waste).
- Use biodegradable plate bags: We send our processed letterpress plates in biodegradable bags (these bags are fully biodegradable in 9 to 60 months) We will also recycle these bags with your plates and film.
- Pro bono platemaking: we offer pro bono platemaking (or plate discounts) to printers using their printing to do good.
Green business practices
- wind power: we are 100% wind-powered through Native Energy.
- encourage public transportation: we purchase monthly bus passes for our employees who use Centro buses to get to work.
- support local organic farms: we subsidize 20-week Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) memberships with Early Morning Farm, a local organic farm. We’re also a CSA pick-up site for the community once a week.
- 1% for the planet member: our two letterpress invitation lines, Smock and Bella Figura, are members are 1% for the Planet. This means we donate 1% of sales from these lines to environmental non-profits.
- choose recycled materials: whenever possible, we use packaging materials that are either 100% pcw recycled, or reused materials our vendors send us. Our shipping boxes and filler are 100% pcw recycled. We purchase recycled office products whenever available too.
- compost and no plastic forks: in our break room, we use a dishwasher and real cups, plates and silverware (instead of disposable items). We compost our food waste and coffee grounds.
- pro bono printing and supporting non profits: we’ve built strong relationships with non-profits we believe in, including the Pesticide Action Network of North America, American Forests, Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, the Amazon Conservation Association, Earthworks, and Seafood Watch, supporting them through pro bono printing, donations, and communication outreach to our customers and dealers.
- educate and encourage customers: we do what we can to educate our customers about pressing issues, like fracking, the honey bee collapse, or dirty gold. We dream up things like Smock’s letterpress change the world cards, where 100% of profits from the cards go to a related charity (and the cards include action points on hot button environmental issues on the back). We hold sales (like the Bella Figura sample sale) where we donate 100% of the sales to an environmental group. We organize annual election day sales (also for Bella Figura) to encourage civic involvement, where anyone who votes gets a certain percentage off their orders.
- electronic documents when possible: we encourage electronic documents in our office. We send our invoices electronically. Our faxes come to us digitally. When printing is necessary, we use Rolland Enviro 100 (100% post consumer recycled paper) in our office.
- conserve energy: we turn off lights, computers, and equipment in our office and letterpress shop when not in use. Our lighting is efficient fluorescent lighting.
- Get certified. We are partnering with Green Core, a Central New York company that offers a certification process for eco practices in every aspect of business life. To obtain our Green Core certification, we need to prove we are following specific standards – everything from setting all computers up to default to double sided printing, to proving we practice environmentally responsible purchasing and storm water management.
- Green America certified green business
a little more in particular about deforestation.
Historically, printing has had a huge effect on the planet’s forests. Even if we printers use post-consumer waste or tree-free papers from now on, our printing trade has a pretty bad track record. Because of the resources which printing extracted from the Earth, we believe us printers have a debt to the planet, so it’s time to give back because we can. (Keep in mind that even now, 8% of all forestry worldwide goes to printing paper—that’s still a lot of trees we’re using up). In addition to our stock papers being either 100% recycled (100% post-consumer if possible) or tree-free cotton, we also plant a lot of trees. Over the years through various initiatives, we’ve planted over 29,000 trees with American Forests (as of December 2012).
But enough about us. Here’s some information for you to use—such as the environmental papers we recommend.
- Mohawk Loop: one of our stock papers for our commercial printing customers. 100% post-consumer recycled.
- Crane’s Lettra: another stock paper of ours. Tree-free, 100% cotton reclaimed from the garment industry.
- New Leaf Paper (their whole line): also check out their eco audit calculator which tells you how much trees, water, energy, solid waste, and greenhouse gases you saved by using recycled paper for a job.
- Mohawk Options: several 100% PCW recycled white shades exist in this line. Mohawk has a handy Environmental Impact Calculator, which shows the impact your recycled paper options had on the planet.
- Neenah Environment: offers several shades of 100% PCW recycled shades. Neenah has its own “enviro calculator” too, which shows the impact your recycled paper options had on the planet.
Make your print shop as virgin-fiber free as you can. Virgin fiber can appear in pretty weird spots, so make sure you’re using 100% post-consumer waste paper for the following products whenever possible.
- envelopes (even those #10’s for bills)
- copy paper in your printer
- toilet paper in your bathrooms
- paper towels in the kitchenette
- mailing labels
- legal pads
- and of course the paper you choose to print on.
And consider partnering up / donating to / getting involved with a tree planting org like American Forests. There are a lot of different non-profits that plant trees, but we’ve loved building our relationship with American Forests over the years—they are full of enthusiasm, gratitude, and good ideas.
so you want to be a green print shop too?
Here are five easy tips for making your print shop more environmental.
#1. Join 1% for the Planet (1%FTP). Sure, you can donate 1% of sales to environmental groups by yourself, but membership in 1%FTP means you’re actually doing what you say you’re doing. Founded by Patagonia guru Yvon Chouinard, this non-profit does annual audits of their members, where member businesses must show proof of their donations and also donate to approved and vetted environmental groups. Plus they’ll help promote your business (and you get to start putting their recognizable logo on your products to show you’re a member). Boxcar Press’s brands Smock and Bella Figura have been members of 1% for the Planet since 2007 and we love it.
#2. Use sustainable energy. This doesn’t mean putting a wind turbine on the top of your building (though by all means do this if your zoning and wind levels allow for it!). You can also purchase REC’s (Renewable Energy Credits). How it works: figure out how much energy you use. Then for every megawatt hour of energy you use up, you purchase Renewable Energy Credit (drawn from renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and biogas). If you buy enough REC’s, all your print shop’s energy can come from 100% wind and you can start marketing your company and your products as such. You know, that cute little wind turbine logo? You can use it!. Boxcar Press has used Native Energy for a long time (it’s farmer- and Native American-owned).
#3. Use green papers (either FSC-certified, 100% recycled, or tree-free). We wish all paper mills would get with it and start using only 100% recycled pulp to make their papers (or better yet, use only 100% post-consumer waste pulp!). We’re not quite there yet. In the meantime, we printers have to take the responsibility on ourselves. So you, printer, are in a powerful position: you can offer your customers papers that harm the planet. Or you encourage / nudge / persuade / charm your customers into choosing papers that won’t harm the planet. The scariest papers, to us, have virgin tree content that isn’t FSC certified: those trees could come from anywhere. They could be old growth, they could come from clear cutting, who knows. Make sure to have at least some 100% post-consumer waste recycled papers in your offerings to customers (like Mohawk Loop), as well as a tree-free paper too (like Crane’s Lettra). If you have to use papers that have virgin fibers in them, make sure those papers are at least FSC-certified; this certification is proof that sustainable forestry practices were followed in the creation of the paper. (100% recycled papers can also be FSC-certified—in this case, the certification is proof that the paper actually has the recycled content that it says it does).
#4. Practice environmental printing practices in your shop. It isn’t rocket science. Recycle your printing plates (you can use our metal and plastic-backed plate recycling program if you get your plates from us). Recycle your paper. Don’t pour stuff down the drain that you shouldn’t. Choose low VOC solvents and so on. (You can read about the green printing things we do in our shop). Make sure to communicate to your customers what you’re doing—on your web site, on your facebook page, in whatever materials you can. This will all help your business as well as the planet.
#5. Partner with a non-profit whose cause you care about. Charity Navigator is a great place to go to find strong non-profits (you can search by size, rating, and the cause they support). You can also search the list of 1% for the Planet’s approved organizations too. We’ve found smaller organizations to be more willing, grateful, and excited to work with us. Before you call up a non-profit, think of some ways you might partner with this organization. You can donate a % of sales to them. You can come out with a product (an invitation design, a broadside, a card) whose proceeds go to the organization. But don’t just think about money—think about an education / advocacy component with your own customer base too. If you make a card whose proceeds go to the group, you can make the card extra meaningful. Put action tips on the back. You can interview the organization for action points—what your customers can do now to help their cause—and then write a blog post about it, or send out the tips in a newsletter. Include a info card with customer orders that includes some information about the cause, the organization you’re supporting, and a call to action. So make a great list of ideas, then give that organization a call! The process, we’ve found, takes time, but the partnerships we’ve built over the years with our favorite nonprofits have been so rewarding.