Are New Green Press Plants the Solution?
Pros and cons.
As a printer, it's possible to come at sustainable printing strategies from many angles. Using green materials, employing ecologically mindful design sensibilities, recycling, cutting down on waste, and even encouraging employees to lead greener lifestyles are all parts of the puzzle.
But the point when printers really step their game up comes when they begin to consider infrastructure. Using alternative energy sources, like wind or solar power, is one consideration. Building a facility, from the ground up, designed around environmentally sound architectural philosophies, is another.
In July, Transcontinental Printing opened the NADEV Printing Facility in Fremont, CA. The building has just been awarded LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification for its green design.
The massive printing plant took fifteen months and well over 200 million dollars to build. It includes green features like recycled materials used in construction, high-efficiency drip irrigated landscaping, and water-saving plumbing. The building is the first of its kind in the U.S.
McCarthy Building Companies, which was in charge of the project, went to great lengths to divert 95% of construction waste, and managed to make the building 17% more energy efficient than required to earn Silver certification. Project director Mike Lipton has been quoted as saying, “It is gratifying to create a building that will have a positive impact on our environment.”
And he's right. Buildings that impact the environment in a positive way are great for the printing industry, and for everyone. That being said, the environmental impact of construction projects is one of the most ecologically damaging forces at work in the world today. The environmental footprint left behind by building materials and building equipment is Godzilla-sized, which means that, great as it would be to rebuild all printing plants to be 'green' from the ground up, no project should be undertaken without first weighing the eco-cost-to-benefit ratio.
Printers must consider:
- Whether modifications can be made to their existing space with greater efficiency.
- Whether an already-existing building might be an appropriate new 'green' space.
- How long it will take for costly, time-consuming renovations to 'earn back' the green credits spent in their construction.
- Whether an ecologically-minded construction investment could not be better spent in greening some other branch of operations.
It's almost instinctive to applaud Transcontinental Printing for its efforts. Certainly, the facility is a draw to print customers looking to project a green image. However, at a time when the print industry is striving to become sustainable, is bigger (rather than smaller), newer (rather than reused or recycled), and more advanced (rather than simplified) really the most thoughtful approach we can take?