Thinking Green in NYC
Sustainability has been a strong focus of Columbia University’s in-plant for two decades now. Even before the prestigious New York City university came out with its own sustainability plan, its in-plant, Columbia Print, was already using recycled paper made with 30% post-consumer waste (PCW) for black-and-white jobs.
“It was just a decision within the department to try to be sustainable,” recalls Daniel Romanello, director of Administrative Services, who worked there back in 2000. “We were leading the charge.”
That green spirit has continued. Today, Columbia Print uses tree-free paper as its default for all black-and-white jobs, employs a clean energy fleet of delivery vehicles, uses LEED-certified mail sorting furniture, and is always looking for ways to further reduce its environmental footprint in support of the university’s focus on sustainability. Its efforts have eliminated many tons of CO2 emissions over the years.
“At an institution where world-class education and research on sustainability is considered daily, Columbia Print has walked the talk by implementing real-world changes to reduce our carbon footprint,” declares Miguel Pagan, executive director of Administrative Services, which encompasses Columbia Print. “We pride ourselves on being early adopters of many sustainable strategies, some of which are best practices in the industry today. Sustainability is the future of the print business, and we’re always looking to push the envelope and find new, innovative ways to incorporate environmentally friendly solutions while meeting our customers’ needs and maintaining costs.”
Located inside Pulitzer Hall — home of the esteemed Columbia School of Journalism — at 116th Street and Broadway, the 3,766-sq.-ft. print operation is packed with equipment. Two Ricoh Pro C7210sx Graphic Arts Edition digital presses and two Ricoh Pro 8210s share the space with both Xanté and OKI digital envelope presses, Epson and HP wide-format printers, and a host of bindery equipment, including a new Duplo DC-646 slitter/cutter/creaser and a GBC Foton 30 laminator. The in-plant prints everything from course packs and recruitment materials, to stationery and signage.
In his role as executive director of Administrative Services, Pagan is responsible for not only the print shop’s 21 employees, but also oversees the university’s 900-device copier program, the administrative and student mail operations, and Columbia’s transportation services, aided by Romanello, Matthew Dougherty, assistant director of Columbia Print, and Neftali Rivera, assistant director of operations. Thanks to recent improvements in output quality and capabilities, Pagan notes, Columbia Print has been able to cut back on outsourcing and bring much more work in-house.
The in-plant’s wide-format business has been expanding since it added an HP Latex 315 printer and an HP Latex 54 contour cutter. The shop prints and installs wall and window graphics all over campus, including a recent installation on glass doors on Broadway. Its retractable banner business is also growing.
“We’re getting really big into the wide-format world, where we used to outsource all that,” says Dougherty.
In 2015, Pagan says, “to try to move the needle” further toward sustainability, the in-plant started using only 100% PCW recycled paper for all black-and-white jobs, a move that saved 82 metric tons of CO2 per year. Then in 2017, the year Columbia University unveiled its sustainability plan, the in-plant standardized all university stationery and business cards on 100% PCW recycled paper.
In early 2019, the shop made the bold move of switching to TreeZero paper for all black-and-white jobs, saving an additional 42 metric tons of CO2 annually. Made from recycled sugarcane waste fiber, TreeZero is a 100% tree-free, carbon neutral paper product. There are no differences in quality or runnability, contends Dougherty, and customers have not noticed the change.
“There’s been no issues running it through the machines at all,” he affirms.
“There’s less paper dust in the machines from the TreeZero in comparison to the 100% recycled,” adds Romanello. TreeZero is also less expensive than 100% PCW recycled paper, he says.
In late 2019, the in-plant started printing all basic color jobs on Color Copy 100% Recycled paper from Mohawk, which contains 100% recycled PCW. This saved 22 metric tons of CO2 a year. Again, notes Dougherty, runnability and quality have been very good.
“People don’t even notice the difference,” he reports.
Customers can request a different color paper to suit their needs, adds Pagan.
“Usually it will be for the high-end events where they want the better grade paper,” he notes.
Though 100% PCW paper is more expensive, Pagan says, “we did not pass on the cost to the client.” The in-plant took the financial hit in the name of sustainability.
In the print shop, recycling is just as important as it is on the rest of campus. Scrap paper is always recycled, as are waste toner and empty toner cartridges, which are bundled up and returned to Ricoh.
Clean Energy Delivery
Since transportation is one of his many responsibilities at Columbia University, Pagan was determined to bring clean energy vehicles to campus. For pickup and delivery of campus mail all over the city and throughout the tri-state area, the operation now uses a battery-electric Chevy Bolt, which can travel 238 miles on a single charge; a hybrid electric Subaru Crosstrek; a Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid; and a Sprinter clean diesel van. Moving to these vehicles has reduced CO2 emissions by 2.4 metric tons per year, Pagan says.
Pagan also added six electric buses to the university’s shuttle fleet, a move that brought some nice recognition.
“We’re recognized as the No. 1 transportation company by AASHE [Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education],” he says. Columbia earned the top spot in the transportation category in AASHE’s 2019 Sustainable Campus Index.
Pagan also pays attention to the sustainability of the equipment in his operations. The Pitney Bowes mail sorters, pre-sorters, and tables in the administrative mail department are all Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified.
“Sustainability is important to Columbia Print because we recognize the responsibility we have as an in-plant operation,” explains Pagan. “We’re doing our part to support Columbia’s strong focus on climate change, as an academic leader in sustainability education and research. It’s on the minds of our students, our customers, and staff. We will continue to look for new and innovative ways to improve our in-plant, and other operations, as sustainability is a huge part of our mission."
Bob has served as editor of In-plant Impressions since October of 1994. Prior to that he served for three years as managing editor of Printing Impressions, a commercial printing publication. Mr. Neubauer is very active in the U.S. in-plant industry. He attends all the major in-plant conferences and has visited nearly 170 in-plant operations around the world. He has given presentations to numerous in-plant groups in the U.S., Canada and Australia, including the Association of College and University Printers and the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He also coordinates the annual In-Print contest, co-sponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.