'Green' Education

This high-volume print provider is as committed to sustainability as it is to high-quality service.

For Sandy Alexander – a full-service print and marketing communications company that offers digital, offset, finishing, and wide-format printing – the commitment to “sustainable intelligence” (which the company cites as a key business tenet) was born out of corporate social responsibility. Each Sandy Alexander facility runs on 100-percent wind power energy, is ISO 14001- and SGP-certified, as well as tri-certified for chain-of-custody sustainable paper through the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI), and Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification. Chain of custody means the paper product must be tracked from the sustainable forest where it originated through its ultimate use. 

There is expense involved with the SGP process, but after obtaining other certifications, it made sense for the company to pursue. 

“Wide format creates a lot of waste. A lot of the substrates aren’t recyclable, so we could apply SGP to an area that was really creating a lot of waste,” says Ashlyn Van Dokkenburg, compliance and facility manager at Sandy Alexander.

Some of Sandy Alexander’s customers are concerned with sustainability and ask what certifications they have, while others focus solely on price point or longevity of the products, with little interest in whether or not the product is created sustainably. Whenever possible, each customer hears about the company’s eco-friendly efforts and product options, whether they choose those products or not. 

Some clients you are educating and helping with their decision-making. A limited group – like the smaller retail chains – they request it,

says Jacky Andrews, Sandy Alexander’s senior VP of new business development.

The group of customers – which has grown over the years – that are interested in the environmental impact of their prints often depends on the demographic. “I think the next generation of buyers in this space are more acutely aware [of sustainability] and they aren’t in senior positions yet,” Andrews adds. 

Green products have improved significantly from the early iterations, but there are still some areas where the products don’t match up to the less environmentally friendly versions. Sandy Alexander works directly with some of their vendors to encourage the creation of better green products. 

We’ve been trying to get the billboard/out-of-home market more into using polyethylene recyclable products. It’s more of a larger industry changeover that needs to happen,

says Gary Semon, Sandy Alexander’s wide-format plant manager. 

Semon says there’s been movement from PVC – which ends up in a landfill forever – to polyethylene in the 30-foot sizes. But larger billboards haven’t really made that switch, in part, he says, because the product offered isn’t structurally stable enough to handle the elements. Much of the retail and P-O-P graphics segment has moved to greener products instead of PVC. 

As part of their SGP certification, Sandy Alexander ditched their old photographic process – and the chemical waste it produced – for HP latex digital printers.

“That was a push because the quality of inkjet printing has improved so dramatically and the equipment allows the use of different substrates,” Andrews says of the changeover for photo-quality and backlit prints.

Besides changing equipment, inks, and substrates, the company also reduces as much waste as possible from the packaging and shipping process. Sandy Alexander bought a box-making machine, which allows them to avoid the expense of pre-ordering boxes. It also enables boxes to be customized to the size of the item to be shipped, which results in less waste – and products that are more securely packaged. All Styrofoam and premade bubble wrap have been eliminated and items are instead packed with a sealed air product made on demand. Packing materials or tubes and boxes that are delivered to the plant are reused as packing materials for outgoing packages.

The box-making machine is something relatively simple – and likely a cost savings – that smaller PSPs could consider, Andrews suggests. It’s inexpensive, reduces the need to purchase premade boxes, and makes shipping more customizable with less waste and cost.  

The company even encourages their employees to compost instead of throwing away their leftover lunches. The compost is later used to fertilize the flower beds surrounding the facilities. Additional efforts include bike racks, spots to plug in employees’ electric cars, conversion to LED lighting, and automatic temperature adjustments so empty rooms aren’t heated unnecessarily. 

Everything that could possibly be recycled at Sandy Alexander’s six facilities in New Jersey, New York, and Florida is recycled. That can be expensive. Although recycling and reusing items can save on the purchase of raw materials, there’s still a greater cost versus savings associated with recycling when it comes to wide format, says Van Dokkenburg.

Andrews admits while there are some savings, the company’s extensive sustainability efforts likely don’t cut costs overall. But it’s a commitment Sandy Alexander feels is worth making. 

Read more from Big Picture's April 2018 "A Smaller Footprint" sustainability feature.

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