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Seeing green: professional imagers ramp up efforts to be environmentally responsible.


Protecting the environment is a hot topic these days. In fact, it seems to be the topic, no matter where you turn. This year's Academy Awards, for instance, highlighted its "green" efforts; and in July, Live Earth was a series of worldwide concerts held to initiate a 3-year campaign to combat climate change and advocate environmentally sustainable living. The environment is even a main plot point in the summer hit "The Simpsons Movie."

In the photo industry, many professional imagers also are moving to greener operations. Paul Glynn, general manager for commercial imager Portland Color (, Portland, Maine believes this is a recent trend among imagers nationwide. "In the last 6 months, it's moved to the forefront of people's thoughts. At a seminar last fall, I didn't hear a peep about it. This spring, I heard some discussion; and now the talk is next year's shows will really cover this topic."

Supplier Durst Image Technology U.S. LLC (www.durstus .com), Rochester, N.Y., says the efforts have come due to owners' awareness of environmental issues and also for competitive reasons.

"The trend clearly is at work in the United States and will get bigger," says Christopher Howard, senior vice president for Sales & Marketing, Durst U.S. "Solvent inks have been outlawed in the European Union by regulation for some time. That's a big reason why Durst, when it decided to get into large-format printing, went straight to UV, even though it had disadvantages to solvent at the time. It also was looking ahead. There aren't any regulations against solvent inks in the United States like there are in the EU. But what's happening is the trend is being driven by customers/ clients, who demand their vendors be as 'green' as possible.

"The more green-conscious companies like Ben & Jerry's, Apple, Virgin, Abercrombie & Fitch, etc., are forcing the issue. Now more shops are marketing themselves as 'green' to gain a competitive edge, as well as to be more sensitive to environmental concerns."

Just what exactly does it mean to be a green operator? Marry Feldman, owner and president of Burlington, Vt.-based LightWorks Inc. ( says it's more than simply purchasing a different printer and slapping on a "green" label. "A 'green' solution is an integrated approach," Feldman says. "It encompasses the [printing] process, the materials, and the business practices. A green company has a real value system and green practices, from the vendors they use right down to office recycling. A green company has made a real change in the way it operates."

Stepping up at Portland

This March, Portland Color took the initiative to work with the state of Maine on its Maine STEP-UP Program--the Maine Smart Tracks for Exceptional Performers and Upward Performers. The program offers recognition and other incentives to businesses interested in implementing sustainable practices. At www, the program provides links and highlights some commitments participants have made to move toward becoming an environmentally sustainable business.


Glynn says Portland Color is close to wrapping up requirements, which have included safety audits and inspections, as well as detailed paperwork. A full-time company safety officer handles many jobs related to the program, assisted by two additional employees.

Portland Color got involved with the process on owner Andy Grahams urging. Company executives worked with state representatives, who provided guidelines and crafted an outline on some areas to improve. "I think we already had a lot under control," says Glynn, but says the outline offered additional suggestions.

"More and more of our clients are asking about the eco-friendly steps we are taking," Glynn says. "The immediate ones are to make our facility as carbon-neutral as possible; by recycling and using, where possible, raw materials that are recycled or recyclable; investing in lighting the facility with the latest, most efficient light fixtures; insisting our suppliers find new and innovative materials that are also made in a sustainable manner; and investing in equipment that has the smallest eco-footprint."

Portland Color believes its efforts will pay off both for the environment, as well as the bottom line.

"This is completely voluntary--it isn't something the state requires. We're going above and beyond," says Glynn. "The time has come where there is enough momentum to make it affordable to pursue a sustainable business."

Green throughout at Light-Works

Feldman says Light-Works has always been an environmentally friendly company in terms of silver recovery and incorporating recycling into its mission statement. That commitment increased dramatically 2 years ago.

"When we decided, at that time, to convert to a green company in terms of practices and the content of what we do, it was a natural fit," Feldman says. "It was also a business decision to enable us to find a successful niche that would give us a future."

Becoming more "green" was a challenge, says Feldman, because his marketing research showed, while customers said this was important to them, they weren't willing to sacrifice quality or pay more for these business practices.


"We have been able to charge a small premium for greener materials, and we have had to put in equipment that can perform," Feldman says. "Being green gives us a competitive edge. If we can show [prospective] companies we can provide quality and price and green practices, and we're competing on a level playing field with others that only deliver on quality and price, it gives us an edge."


Light-Works' commitment to environmentally friendly practices includes its equipment and materials. This year, it acquired a Rho 600 Pictor from Durst, as its first wide-format inkjet printer, because the inks are VOC-free. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are a type of pollutant that cause smog, Feldman says. He adds Durst was willing to state its machines are VOC-free, which was important to him. Through a lot of research, Feldman found green materials--including foam board created from post-consumer waste and polystyrene--that is biodegradable and industrial compostible, meaning it will fall apart rapidly.

The company also recycles its scrap materials.

"Recycling is very difficult, unless you have a municipal standard where the local community is recycling industrial waste, like polystyrene. You simply can't put those in a blue bin at the edge of the curb. You have to do some research and work with municipalities," Feldman says.

Light-Works is actively involved with state environmental groups and, last December, was recognized by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation and the Vermont Small Business Development Center as an Environmental Partner in the Vermont Business Environmental Partnership (

Feldman is willing to share his research and has posted much of his information at

"In the long run," he says, sharing this information "makes our industry better."

Solvent inks

Eliminating solvent inks in operations is one step many facilities are taking. Why solvent inks? According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, solvent inks have "liabilities with respect to worker health risks, safety hazards, operating costs, and the consumption of ink and energy." According to an EPA report, solvent inks in a test contained "chemicals with a clear concern for worker risk for both inhalation and dermal exposure routes, presented both flammability and ignitability characteristics, and had high VOC emissions despite the use of oxidizers."

Want more technical details about solvent inks, as well as others, such as aqueous, UV curable, and more? Visit

Manufacturer sites also contain much information. Visit,,, and

The Light-Works plan

Light-Works, Burlington, Vt., offers a Print Green site at, which explains in detail many of the actions the company has put into place, and contains much of the research Owner and President Marry Feldman has done.

Included on the site is detailed information about bleached papers, solvent inks, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), short-term use graphics, as well as the alternatives Light-Works has found.

Also on the site is the company Environmental Statement. "In this country, we're seeing a vibrant shift toward environmental consciousness in the food, the cars, and the mindset. But the business we're in, large-format digital printing, is moving at a snail's pace," Feldman writes.

"Most of the ink contains dangerous VOCs, and is printed on environmentally harmful materials that are not recycled, recyclable, or biodegradable. This means posters, banners, P.O.P, and retail signage lags behind other printing technologies, and short-term usage creates tons of hazardous waste.

"We at Light-Works see this as an opportunity. Light-Works is commited to eco-reform, strongly believing we can improve our ecological footprint together."

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Title Annotation:Trends & Technology
Author:Gretzner, Bonnie
Publication:PMA Magazine - Connecting the Imaging Communities
Date:Oct 1, 2007
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