In-plants Go Green
For in-plants of all types around the country, sustainable practices can do more than just make them more eco-friendly. They are also a way for the shop to integrate more firmly with their parent organization’s long-term goals, making them a far more valuable resource than simply a commodity that can be shuffled around at will.
For Yale University, sustainability is a campus-wide initiative in which everyone, including the in-plant, participates. In fact, the university has a 10-year plan with a goal of making it a world leader in higher-education sustainability efforts. And while that plan has many different facets, one big component is the in-plant.
Jeffrey Gworek, director of Yale Printing & Publishing Services (YPPS), notes that to start, the in-plant did a lot of the traditional sustainability steps, such as becoming FSC-certified and finding ways to reduce paper usage.
“We are trying to be more multimedia, so not all about paper, it’s about mechanisms to communicate that are nontraditional. It’s about paper, apps, social media, traditional PDFs, that kind of thing, and how do you bring it all together under one thing and offer that as a service?”
Finding ways to tie it altogether is key. In addition to printing, YPPS also supplies more than 1,500 multifunctional devices (MFDs) across campus to faculty and staff; has 250 MFDs in student print clusters; and all the campus printing is managed with PaperCut software. That software, in particular, is used to track and monitor printing and consumption. It allowed Yale to reduce paper consumption by 16% in 2014, the year it began using PaperCut.
It can automatically delete items from the print queue if they sit for too long and allow students to delete jobs they no longer need. It is mostly used in the student clusters, but Gworek notes that the plan is to start rolling it out more widely.
“Our goal is to further reduce the use of paper,” Gworek says.
Every machine uses electricity, and the goal of the university is to reduce that usage wherever possible. In fact, Yale now adds what Gworek says is basically “a charge based on your energy use. The idea is to make you aware of what you, as a department in the university, are using. There is a sustainability charge you’ll get hit with if you are above the standard usage factor.” For the in-plant, that means making sure every piece of equipment plays to that goal.
“Cost is always an issue. Then it’s about the quality of the output. Then we ask what the sustainability impact of the device is,” Gworek says about the process the in-plant goes through for every device added to the fleet.
The in-plant’s efforts have been noticed. YPPS won the Green Service Award from the Association of College and University Printers (ACUP) in 2015, and it has been recognized by Yale’s internal Office of Sustainability for its efforts as well.
The in-plant isn’t afraid to toot its own horn, and posts regular blogs and newsletters that focus on its sustainability efforts and FSC certification. These communications reach as many as 18,000 customers, with an average open rate of 48%, Gworek says.
“We noticed site visits double on our FSC information page when these communications are distributed. This is a good indication that our consumers are becoming more interested and aware,” says Gworek.
For Columbia Print, the in-plant at Columbia University in New York, sustainability goes beyond just printing smarter. In 2016, the shop transitioned to 100% post-consumer waste (PCW) paper for all black-and-white copy jobs, and in 2017 it converted all university stationery to a 100% PCW paper product. Even on color jobs, the in-plant has transitioned to using paper that is 30% recycled, and all of its toner across the board is 100% recycled.
“The efforts made have been well received by our clients, thanks to the improvements in sustainable production options available today — there has been no significant reduction in quality or color on the 100% PCW paper,” notes Kristina Hernandez, executive director, Marketing and Communications, Campus Services.
But it’s about more than just printing on recycled paper. Columbia Print has also moved to electric, hybrid or clean diesel powered vehicles in its delivery fleet.
“The vehicle fleet used to facilitate our deliveries is environmentally friendly,” affirms Hernandez.
The in-plant is looking ahead at other innovative changes as well. “Our team is researching ‘tree free’ paper options [e.g., made from sugar cane waste] to potentially use for jobs produced in our print shop and as the default paper for offices across campus,” Hernandez says. “If deployed, this decrease in tree-based paper could result in the equivalent of reducing approximately 900 tons of carbon emissions per year.”
All of these efforts align well with the overall goal of the university to be more eco-friendly. “Efforts made by Columbia Print are an important part of the university’s sustainability plan, reported on to the university president,” says Hernandez. “The efforts made by Columbia Print are supported by the office of Environmental Stewardship and senior leadership to continue to drive opportunities in print sustainability.”
Many in-plants who have successfully implemented sustainability programs have approached it not as a single policy, but as a long-term culture shift. Washington State University, for example, began a shift in its equipment and philosophy as far back as 10 years ago. Steven Rigby, director of Printing and Mailing Services at University Publishing, notes that the shop installed its first digital press in 2006, and around 2008 decided to begin the process of becoming FSC-certified, which earned the in-plant a feature in the campus magazine profiling its eco-efforts.
“It was a good way to make a sustainable statement, and at the time we were one of the first university in-plants to be FSC-certified,” Rigby says.
Between 2012-2015, the shop made the decision to remove all three of its large offset presses and replace them with digital printing equipment. In waste alone, that is saving the shop a lot of money.
“Our waste has gone way down,” affirms Rigby. “On an offset press, it takes about 400 sheets per side to get up to color. We eliminated all of that.”
Rigby says the university president and vice president have been backing every change he has made.
“They are very supportive of what we’re trying to do, not just when it comes to sustainability, but also cost cutting, which goes hand in hand,” he says. “In fact, I’ve been asked to sit on the general university sustainability board as well.”
The in-plant’s sustainability efforts have not only cut waste and made the shop more efficient, they have also shown the rest of the university that the in-plant is a valuable partner in the overall mission of the campus.
Toni McQuilken is the senior editor for the printing and packaging group.