Episode 124: Green Printing for Businesses with GreenerPrinter

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GreenTalk Radio Host Sean Daily discusses maximizing the sustainability of a business by using eco printing processes with Mario Assadi, CEO of GreenerPrinter.

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Sean Daily: Hi and welcome to Green Talk, a podcast series with greenlivingideas.com. Green Talk helps listeners in their efforts to lead more eco friendly lifestyles through interviews with top vendors, authors and experts from around the world. We discuss the critical issues facing the global environment today, as well as the technologies, products and practices that you can employ to go greener in every area of your life.

Sean Daily: Hey everybody. This is Sean Daily, and thanks as always for listening in on Green Talk Radio from greenlivingideas.com. Also on the Personal Life Media Network now. If you haven’t checked that out, check us out at greentalkradio.com. And today’s program is going to be talking about a very important topic for businesses of all sizes, small or large or anywhere in between, which is greener printing and environmentally sustainable printing. Everyone’s got a marketing and sales department and every business does lots of printing, and it’s an area of potential great waste and environmental harm, as well as an area for the same reason to improve the benefits, it’s an area where we can really create a lot of change. And so to talk with me on that topic is Mario Assadi. He is the founder of Greener Printer at greenerprinter.com, and the Greener Printer company was the first green printing company in the US, and they’ve been providing environmentally sustainable printing services out of Berkley, California, not too far from where we are here, for 20 years. Their facilities have been certified as a green business by the Association of Bay Area Governments and they’re also one of the select few to be certified by the FSC, the Forest Stewarship Council ? So Mario, welcome to the program.

Mario Assadi: Well thank you.

Sean Daily: So I guess starting off, you know, my story, we have a story at Green Living Ideas of working with you. I went online, of course we’re trying to be as sustainable and as green as we can, we certainly want to walk the walk and eat our own dog food, so one of the ways that came up was, of course as I said during the introduction, is all businesses need to have marketing materials and sales materials. So I went out online, Googling my little heart out looking for companies that were green printers and to be quite honest I was really shocked at how few companies, I was expecting to find a plethora of options. I was expecting to find that, you know, my, you know, sort of Chinese menu of different choices and I didn’t find any, but luckily I did find Greener Printer, and so, you know, with full disclosure, we are a customer, we’ve used you guys for two different print jobs so far, and, but I guess I was shocked at how few choices there were. I was happy, I’m a little spoiled being a, having a technology background, I look for, well I think, you know, all customers look for a smooth online experience in the ordering, and with regards to printing, the proof management process, you want it to be easy, and so I was like, uh oh, here we go. I’m going to have to give all that up to go green, you know, or I’m going to have to give up, you know, on price. These are all my concerns going in, so that was my, you know, my own anecdote of getting into this. I’m pleased to say that we’ve had a really good experience, you know. We’re paying a little bit more, but I expected a premium versus the super low cost, completely un-green sort of printers that are out there, so I’m totally comfortable with that. But I guess, you know, we wanted to have you on the show because I want to hear your perspective having been in the industry for 20 years and finding out more about the specifics about what’s green and un-green in this industry, so…Can we just start with maybe you telling us about Greener Printer, how it all came about?

Mario Assadi: Sure. First of all, I appreciate you having me onboard. I, and thank you for your kind words about your experience. We really try to create a web experience or a purchasing experience that in every way is convenient to the customer, and so they have a good experience, not only with our interaction with us, but also the final product they receive. It’s a continuous improvement of what we’ve been doing for the, since the year 2001. We were not always a green company. When we started we started as a prepress and a digital print company, but we started greening our environment at the year 2000. We decided that we wanted to have the least amount of impact on the environment with our business, and quite honestly it’s a challenge. Protection and lowering emissions and impact on environment is very challenging.

Sean Daily: And, not to interrupt you, I’m curious about the, I’m curious of that point, that formative sort of point that happened after 2000, was that about, was that purely intrinsic motivation to be a green company or was that also, was some aspect of that also the recognition of a business opportunity and being a green printer or was that even a factor?

Mario Assadi: It started when I had my two boys. I started using more organic foods, and I started looking at the impact of not only what our business has on the environment, but what about the next generation. We built our building from ground up. We purchased machineries that was all green, but quite honestly we didn’t know we are going green. We found out that we are a green company when we were approached by Alameda County Green Certification Program, and they told us they have this program that green certify companies, and we decided to go along with it and, because we knew that that is a selling point, but it was really the beginning of green becoming such a popular way of doing business. So our motivation from the beginning was not to create a green environment for marketing, but we want to do it, we want to be a responsible company and we want to do it in a sustainable way, our business conduct. So, our building is green, our machinery are green, and we truly started learning more about how to be a responsible and sustainable business. So, our belief is right now that the sustainability is really, it’s about responsible growth, reducing our impact on the environment, protecting the safety of our employees and our customers, and the most important thing, supporting communities where we do business. So, it used to be historically green meant compliance of regulatory whatever area you are regulation. But we are going way beyond that. We, when we went through the green certification program with Alameda County, they were appalled at how green our company was and how fast we got our green certification. We’ve done a lot of things on our own like being FSC certified. We offset all of our energy usage through wind power. We offset all of our shipping of our printed material through carbon fund through offsetting. We use soy ink, and we are part of EPA Green Power Partnership. So, and it is really, green really is a journey, and we see in the future, we are going to do a lot more of these to not only be responsible, but also, our customers know who they are dealing with. One of the programs that we have this year, we started in 2008, is our supply chain. I personally, I’m going to be visiting our suppliers, our paper suppliers, plate suppliers and the rest, and I have warned them that I’m going to bring a video camera and I want to know exactly if what they’re telling me they’re giving me is true or not, because it’s about your reputation, and the material that comes to our company, we want to be a hundred percent sure that what they’re telling us is the truth, and in turn we’re going to put it on our website and produce it in a sustainable way for our customers. My future goal is that we want a printed piece that we produce to have as much of a carbon footprint as the paper when it was manufactured, excluding the ink and the shipping costs. That’s our goal.

Sean Daily: Okay. Say that again, you want, you want the net carbon impact of the process to be the same as the paper, I didn’t quite understand that, could you say that again?

Mario Assadi: Every sheet of paper that is manufactured has an associated carbon footprint…

Sean Daily: Mm hmm.

Mario Assadi: We want our carbon footprint to be equal to that number.

Sean Daily: I see. Okay. Got it. So, I mean, you mentioned a few things in there that I want to drill down a little bit more on it, and I just want to sort of note is that I find, it’s interesting you mentioned about going back to the inception of the business and the founding idea was around where the founding environment was around having children, because a lot of the people that I encounter in this industry, and certainly I’m included in this, have their living greener more sustainably epiphanies after the parent, after becoming a parent, and so, it’s just interesting to hear that, I’m just noting it, and there’s a certain irony in that. I was thinking as you were saying that that the greenest thing for the planet is for people to have children in the spiritual sense, but in the actual material sense, I mean, in terms of overpopulation as it exists now, it’s kind of a interesting irony there, but it is, it really seems to create a shift in a lot of people that’s pretty profound with regards to living. But down to more of the specifics, you mentioned soy inks. I mean, I guess really the printing process comes down to core materials of, you know, you’ve got your paper that you’re printing on and then the inks you’re using. Is it really just about partnering with, does this really come down to partnering with environmentally sustainable paper source manufacturers and then using soy inks, or is it more complicated than that?

Mario Assadi: Different medium, which is the paper, is number one and that’s why we partner with ? Paper. They have the most options available of the paper manufacturers for up to a hundred percent recycle, one hundred percent post consumer. Most paper is up to fifty percent post consumer. So the partnership with the paper company was very important, the reliable material coming to us. The second think of course is using soy based or vegetable based ink. It doesn’t have to be always soy based ink…

Sean Daily: Okay.

Mario Assadi: It has to be vegetable, non petroleum based ink. But green printing is really, is not about recycled paper and soy ink. Green printing, it is about responsible manufacturing. The company that you’re doing business with is a lot more important. Anybody, any printing facility can say, “Well we just bought a can of soy ink and here’s the recycled paper, so we’re doing green printing.”

Sean Daily: Mm hmm.

Mario Assadi: We don’t look at it that way. We look at it from a start to finish. We look at it from the time the consumer wants to go through the process of ordering the printed material. That’s why we chose to use the web as the conduit of placing the order. So we are minimizing the energy that internal departments in each corporation use to do, go through the ordering process, and how to make it seem less so there’re not a lot of back and forth, not only on information and calls and emails and shipping and proofing, but also it makes it a seamless process for the future of reorder so they know that their documents are safe in our location. They can reorder it, they can get the invoices online, they can make changes online and reorder. And then after that is going to be what is really carbon footprint of this company that is manufacturing this printed piece? What is this company about? How do they treat their customers, their vendors, their employees? What kind of environment they have for their employees? Do they really require their employees to be close to their printing facility so they are not creating a lot of carbon footprint by commuting back and forth. These are things that we have constantly looked at. On top of it, the machinery, the type of machinery that we’re using, the chemicals these machinery use in production process, how much really are you using chemicals? What are the effects of those chemicals on the environment? How do you make your plates? What do you do about your short run printing when a customer thinks that they have to print hundreds of thousands of printed pieces to get the best price?

Sean Daily: Mm hmm.

Mario Assadi: How do you make this communication with the customer so you don’t need to print all of these, put it on the shelf and not use it. So, like one of the things in our facility we do is we don’t have any garbage cans. One hundred percent of what comes to our shop from personal use to the manufacturing process, it all goes to recycling. One hundred percent. And truly our…

Sean Daily: So you have no waste bins whatsoever, it’s a hundred percent recycling?

Mario Assadi: Hundred percent, it goes to recycling facility. We don’t have a garbage truck picking up garbage from our facility. We don’t.

Sean Daily: Wow! That’s aggressive. I have not heard that before. That’s pretty cool.

Mario Assadi: That is how we are operating, and it’s not because…

Sean Daily: Mario, I’m going to interrupt you. I’m sorry to interrupt you here. We have to take a quick commercial break. We’ll going to be right back…

Mario Assadi: Sure.

Sean Daily: and I want to let you continue on this ‘cause this is fascinating…

Mario Assadi: Sure.

Sean Daily: So, we’re talking about green printing today. My guest is Mario Assadi, he’s the founder of Greener Printer at greenerprinter.com and we’ll be right back. Thanks everyone.

Sean Daily: Okay, and we are back with Mario Assadi talking about green printing. He is the founder of greenerprinter.com out of Berkley, California. And Mario, before the break we were talking, you were talking about specifically about some of the aspects of the manufacturing process that are greener and sort of giving us that overview, I want to let you continue with that.

Mario Assadi: Yeah, as I was saying, looking at buying green it, and I think we, I don’t think we actually did it. We did not use the green as marketing tool. We are green, we are green company because we want to be a responsible company. This is the way we want to conduct business, whether the population outside likes it or not. If tomorrow nobody wants to have green, to purchase anything green, we don’t care really. We care about what we’re doing to the environment. We care about how we purchase things, how we manufacture it, how we ship it, and what is our impact on the environment…

Sean Daily: Yeah.

Mario Assadi: As a responsible business owner, if I was manufacturing whether a circuit board or a printed piece or coffee or the restaurant, a restaurant owner, it doesn’t make any difference to me. I want to be individual on this planet to have the least amount of impact on the environment.

Sean Daily: Right. That’s great. Well I mean, what I hear you saying is that really the core of this, it’s about responsible business irrespective of the product. It’s just incidental that it happens to be printing products, but this is a very much a through and through philosophical underpinning of how you run specifically your businesses. So that’s, and that’s, and I’m curious too because, you know, it’s obviously, it’s very good to hear about a company with that kind, that level of dedication, you know, from inception through, you know, many years of operation, that you’re, you seem to be vigilantly guarding that and that’s good to hear, and I think this is an important question for all businesses out there that really get it or are pioneers or are sort of the, you know, they’re sort of I guess one of the best way to say it is they’re carrying the torch for the truth with regards to true sustainability in business or in living. What do you do when the people come in and say, “Oh hey, that looks good. I’ll, you know, I’ll put a sign up that says I do, you know, I have soy and recycled paper and are not running on the backend but truly environmentally responsible company”, how do you compete against those folks as a business when invariably they, those competitors come to market?

Mario Assadi: I must admit it is difficult because companies rely on the consumers lack of knowledge, and we, we’re responsible to be a part of that education process. And I think what you guys are doing is a part of it. We go to a lot of trade show throughout the country and we try to educate the public on what we are really about and how to, not to get confused by that array of different printers that call themselves the green printer by virtually changing the sign or saying they are printing and recycling. It is difficult. I think it’s a challenge. It is a challenge for every company. I think that our industry is pretty much following the food industry. They, if you remember at the beginning of organic foods, and this industry, our industry, just think organic, it will be self regulating, and today with the power of the web and with the power of viral marketing, people know who you really are. So we know by doing the right thing, sooner or later people will find out that companies like us that truly want to be responsible are going to be the winners. And there are some companies out there that, they follow this path of responsibility and truly sustainability and we want to be one of them. We don’t want to be the greener printer, we want to be one of the greener printers who truly mean business.

Sean Daily: That’s interesting, speaking of ironies, there is an interesting irony there is it to be truly committed to, I guess, greenness within one’s industry one has to fully accept the presence of good competitors. I mean, one would essentially have to wish for companies that are also doing it right and are actually providing true competition, because otherwise to wish for green washers would be, you know, sort of counterproductive to the philosophical underpinnings that we were talking about, so that’s an interesting irony there. So, yeah, that’s…I’m curious also about, you know, the eco unfriendly aspects of non green printers. Can you tell us a little more about the specifics there that happen in the manufacturing process? I mean, I’ve been in print shops before and smelled a lot of ammonia, this is back in the early 90’s and I don’t know, what are some of the chemicals that typically are used in these, in these manufacturing processes that are harmful, and other byproducts?

Mario Assadi: I did not have a chance to pull up a document for you that, about how dangerous printing companies are to the environment. Printing industry is really second or the third industry in the United States and…

Sean Daily: Largest you mean?

Mario Assadi: The largest.

Sean Daily: Really?

Mario Assadi: Yes.

Sean Daily: Wow!
Mario Assadi: The whole process of printing, it is very dangerous to the environment if you are not doing it in a responsible way. So what happened was in the 70’s and the 80’s and 90’s the offset printing presses that were manufacturers were not green presses, meaning they would use a lot of chemicals to do the wash up of these presses after printing. And also the process of making plates from manufacturing was very inclusive to the environment. The ammonia VOC that these presses and these chemicals produce, at one time they were using alcohol into the process of printing, those have all been eliminated.

Sean Daily: Mm hmm.

Mario Assadi: So, beginning year 2000 thanks to companies like Haderberg and Kodak and the mills, that they have the foresight of seeing this, and it really started in Germany. Germany is very advanced in thinking about environment. What they started to do was looking at the whole process from start to finish. And so, the newer technology that is out there, it uses for example, it is very difficult to eliminate chemicals in a print shop. You cannot eliminate. In today’s technology you can’t. Believe me, I’ve tried.

Sean Daily: Mm hmm.

Mario Assadi: But when we purchase our press we had the chemical usage in mind. So if I had bought circa 1990’s press, I would have used 55 gallons of wash up chemicals a month. With my new press I use 50 gallons of wash up chemicals a year.

Sean Daily: Wow!

Mario Assadi: So, you drastically have reduced the ammonia chemicals that you are using. And also, the way the press operates, one of the most wasteful things in offset printing is how long it takes you to get a good printed sheet, called make ready. So if you have a older press, sometimes it takes one thousand sheets of paper until you get the right color. Well with the new technology, the make ready on the press, it reduces to hundred, hundred and fifty sheets, and we’ve been working on that and we are reducing that even further. Also, some new technology in digital printing are coming out that are getting closer and closer to quality, to offset. For short run printing, different digital presses are competitive and also they are very, they have very low impact on the environment.

Sean Daily: Okay. Alright, well we’re going to take a quick break right there, ‘cause I have another question for you, and we’ll be right back. Our discussion today is about green printing with Mario Assadi who is the founder of Greener Printer. We’ll be right back to Green Talk Radio. Thanks.

Sean Daily: Alright, we are back with Mario Assadi, founder of Greener Printer in Berkley, California. And Mario, this is a fascinating discussion, I’ve learned a great deal on this program today and I appreciate you coming on. I had another, one last question for you before we’re out of time about the online ordering process, and I know, you know, that’s a competitive, that’s an important competitive aspect of running any online printing business, I mean, how the website works and so forth. Is that, has that been an area of high cost for you in running the business, ‘cause I imagine that in order to compete with the bigger guys out there, you have to have a system that works very well, is that a very significant of your operation in terms of cost and maintenance?

Mario Assadi: Yes it is. Making an online we ecommerce for printing, it is, it is difficult, it is cumbersome and also you need a team of programmers. It is not something you can buy off the shelf and have it running. So for a small company like us it’s been very expensive. But we started this early, so we have done sixty to seventy percent of our work already. It’s a continuous improvement what we do, and one of the things that are, we’re doing now is we’re looking into companies that are green and we could take our severs into those companies so they can serve from their facility with green power, because we want to have a carbon footprint also on servers to be lower than what we can even produce internally in house.

Sean Daily: Are you guys currently running your IT infrastructure, your server infrastructure, in house versus with a hosted provider…

Mario Assadi: Yes.

Sean Daily: Okay, got it.

Mario Assadi: Yes. We do.

Sean Daily: But you’re a hundred percent wind power from what I read, based…

Mario Assadi: Yes.

Sean Daily: there, so I guess that still is fairly green.

Mario Assadi: But the hundred percent wind power, what I don’t like about it is the offset. I cannot go to PGNE, the local provider, and say I want wind power.

Sean Daily: Right.

Mario Assadi: And I cannot put a windmill on top of my roof because of city codes.

Sean Daily: Codes, yeah.

Mario Assadi: So what we’ve been looking at solar putting on our roof, which so far with the technology they have they can only support up to 60 percent. And also, offsetting that we’d be doing for it. But we’re working on it. We are actually working with a local solar company called Solar City, of how to maximize the solar panels output so we get closer to seventy, eighty percent hopefully this year, that’s what they, what we are working on.

Sean Daily: Well the nice thing is in this industry now it is possible to have a hybrid mix, you know, multiple solutions. You don’t have to just choose one, you can do solar on the roof and then do the credits, and you know, some people have different feelings about credits and offsets, and I think it sounds like you feel somewhat what I do, is that that’s not a hundred percent of the solution, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. So it’s nice to at least have these options and choices now to be able to do these things. And I echo your sentiments about, you know, the offsite, when you’re working with hosted providers, I think from a reliability standpoint when you’re an online business, which both of our business are, greenlivingideas.com and Greener Printer, is that, you know, it becomes difficult to assess, just like it’s difficult to assess the greenness of a printing company, it’s difficult to assess the true greenness of the hosting provider and using that as a driving criteria, because, you know, reliability and all these other things are important, so…I guess what I’m saying is I look forward to those choices in all industries growing even more so that we as consumers and businesses have even more options available to us. So, I think that’s all we’ve, unfortunately I can talk to you for hours more, but we’re out of time for today. So I just want to say Mario, I really appreciate you coming on the program. I’m really glad that I thought to ask you to come on the program because I’m truly impressed with the company, the way you’re running it and the apparent dedication that you have to these things, so I would definitely love to have you come back on the program at some point in the future and talk to us more if you’d be willing to do that.

Mario Assadi: Thank you very much for inviting me Sean.

Sean Daily: Okay, thanks. And thank you to everybody out there. I want to make one last note to, is if you’re interested in the content in this podcast, you may also want to check out The Green Banners podcast that I did with Don Jackson, which talks about printing green banners and covering similar issues with regards to banners. Thanks everybody.

Sean Daily: Thanks as always to everyone listening in today. Remember, for more free on demand podcasts, articles, videos and other information related to living a greener lifestyle, visit our website at www.greenlivingideas.com. We’d also love to hear your comments, feedback and questions. Send us an email at [email protected].