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(March 2010) posted on Mon Mar 15, 2010

Five shops report that ‘going green’ continues to have both challenges and rewards.

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By J.P. Pieratt

Educating the client
Some shops cite the struggling economy as a reason why clients aren’t buying more green products, while others believe it’s a matter of educating customers and clients about the type of products available.

“Clients not buying green has been going on longer than the trouble with the economy,” Graham says, “but I think the last 18 to 24 months with the economy the way it is, people may be shelving things to get through these tough times that they may have otherwise implemented.”

Graham actually took a sample of a green substrate to a recent client meeting and said the client was surprised that the product even existed. “I think it’s as much driven from
our channel outward as it is from customers requesting it,” Graham says. “If you think about someone needing a rigid point-of-purchase display that’s going to last six months to a year, do they think that there’s a recycled material that they could be printing on? That probably doesn’t pop into their head right away.”

To help educate potential clients about available green products, CR&A Custom is redesigning its website. “We’re developing a new website with a special ‘green’ page to let people know that these products exist,” Rad says. “And then, it’s really up to the client. How important is this really to you or your company? I think if there are advertising dollars committed to green, then we’ll see a shift [to more companies deciding to use green materials]. Or maybe some government mandates—then maybe you’ll see a higher demand.”

Print Art is preparing to spread the word about its sustainability initiatives, developing a marketing campaign around them. “We are going to be pushing green this year,” Nardi says. “To let the industry know that just by working with us you can be greener, and you don’t have to do anything. All you have to do is pick up the phone and call us.”

And customers must understand that quality can cost more, says Strenke: “It costs more to produce something good. It’s very much in that realm,” she says, drawing the parallel that it similarly takes a farmer more time and money to grow organic produce than to just use pesticides and other non-environmental methods. “It’s very similar to a farmer growing organic food. There’s going to be a cost to it.” And cost could be the key to more green product use.

“As long as the price jump isn’t too great on green products, then more and more people are willing to look at them,” Graham says. “And certainly, as more and more people use them, it’s going to make these units more cost competitive.”

The right spots
The question becomes, how important is sustainability to you and your operation?

“At the end of the day, we can look back at the decisions we’ve made and say that our decisions weren’t just client-centric—that we can offer more benefits to our clients—but it’s also doing the right thing on the back end,” Nardi says.

“Everyone is making their own decisions, especially in an economy like this,” Nardi adds. “Some say it’s not worth the initial investment, but I’d say it can be a very good investment if you do it the right way. And it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. You just have to make sure you get the right initiatives and the right people in the right spots.”

J.P. Pieratt is managing editor of The Big Picture.