You are all absolutely correct. This is an important subject that deserves its own board so, rather than check in only when I'm alerted to a new message, I thought I would post my own.I am co-owner of a (very) small business involved in book publishing. We try very hard to follow sustainable-business principles, but often find ourselves up against sustainable-income problems when we do. For example, all of the paper we use in our office is at least 30% post-consumer recycled. If we were to switch to the 60% or 100% p-c-r products, which I would like to do, we would increase the cost by as much as 75%. The bottom line has to win; otherwise there will be no business to sustain.When it comes to the books we print, we are up against similar cost-effectiveness problems, but just as troublesome is the difficulty in finding decent, nonacid, long-lasting recycled products. Most of our overseas printers are willing to go the extra distance to help us find such products, but as special orders, which drives the price up and often requires minimum purchases quite a bit larger than we require. In the latter situation, we would end up paying for the entire minimum quantity, even though we may use only 60% of it. Then, unless the printer stores it for us (for a monthly charge) in hopes of a reprint or use on another project, the balance is—you guessed it—dumped. Hardly sustainable practice. (The situation with North American printers tends to be far less workable, by the way.)Finally, on a micro level, we try to keep electricity usage at a minimum by turning off lights when not in use, installing efficient fluorescent "bulbs" where possible, shutting down computers when not in use for two or more hours, etc.If there is a question in here—there may not be, by the way—it would have to do with how a small business—any business—balances sustainability and ecological conservation with bottom-line worries such practices often present.I'd be very happy to hear from anyone who is grappling with similar issues and what you do about them.
Great post, Inahaze. I don't know that I can offer anything to help, but I did wonder if you had considered cooperating with other small printers to increase order quantities of hi-PCR content paper, thereby leveraging down the price?As I understand it, one of the available 25-30% PCR content copy papers (forgetting the company, but the brand is great-white and it has a shark on the ream-wrapper) is on the market today because the mill owner got on the phone and basically organized the demand for the stuff. And that if they had not been able to get assurances of sufficient demand, then 25-30% PCR copy paper would still be priced at a premium. (At least that's the way the mill told the story...)It might take a lot of small printers to accomplish it, but perhaps this is something that a grad student or an MBA intern might be willing to take on? Got any local schools with bright, idealistic students who are comfortable working the phones?I can imagine a successful, low-budget, "market aggreggation" campaign using a web-based sign-up form, reinforced by a telephone and email outreach effort. Surely there's a trade magazine for the small-shop printing industry, and they might be willing to run a story on such an effort.Just some ideas...Anyway, glad to see you posting.Cheers!John Quixote
Thanks, John Quixote, and sorry for the delay in responding.I did wonder if you had considered cooperating with other small printers to increase order quantities of hi-PCR content paper, thereby leveraging down the priceYou see, my company is not a printer, although we commission printing. Unfortunately, even if there were more than a handful of businesses that offered similar services to ours, experience has shown that they (okay, we...) play their/our cards pretty close to the vest when it comes to revealing costs for typesetting, printing, and the like. In principal, a paper-buying pool is a terrific idea, but in order to make it work we would need to be able to warehouse large quantities of paper (in clean, dry surroundings), then provide for its shipment to printers around the world. I don't think this would result in much economy.one of the available 25-30% PCR content copy papers (forgetting the company, but the brand is great-white and it has a shark on the ream-wrapper) is on the market today because the mill owner got on the phone and basically organized the demand for the stuffThe company, Great White, provides an excellent quality office paper, which we use pretty much exclusively--in our office. But our product is high-quality art and (though we are never supposed to utter the name) "coffee-table" books, which require coated stock for the most part and the few available recycled coated papers are hugely expensive and often not available through our usual printers. This leads either to our hiring a jobber to find and supply the stock (plus a markup to the printer for using it) or to paying an even greater surcharge to the printer itself to find and test it. And, since the printer is not used to working with it, chances of unreasonable wastage are tripled, so, once again, where's the value of using recycled stock if the job now requires two to three times the material? Conundrum? You bet.But all this brings up what I tend to run away from considering whenever it rears its scary head. If sustainable business is something important to me, what am I doing owning a business that requires at least some non-sustainable (not to say anti-sustainable) practices? This is particularly worrisome as I have been involved in some form of publishing activity most of my working life, now verging on 25 years. It is what I do well. It is, to some extent anyway, what I love to do. But if someone told me that working for a company known for dumping PCBs in the local river was a job that they loved, I would have a hard time honoring that. (Okay, that analogy may be a bit extreme, but it gives some flavor of the conflict this sort of thing sets whirling.) I would readily change the nature of my business if I could afford the time and costs required for re-education, new technology, etc.—and still be able to practice this new calling for enough years to feel that I was contributing something by doing it.Sorry to go on so long, but these are thorny problems I expect other readers of this board may recognize as applicable to their situations, too.(Really) Inahaze (these days)
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