A Saskatoon company is proving that the printing business and environmental responsibility are no longer mutually exclusive.
Being conscious of environmental impacts has been a mantra of Houghton Boston Printers and Lithographers since it entered the book-printing business in the early 1990s, says general manager Kent Hartshorn.
"The majority of our work is soft-cover books. We print hundreds of thousands of titles a year," says Hartshorn. "Obviously, paper is the main component in those books, and in order to get that paper trees have to be cut down."
While cutting trees might be necessary for the company's printing business, cutting corners on methods to protect the environment is not.
|Photo courtesy Houghton Boston|
|A Houghton Boston pressman runs a book with the company's EcoBook 100 paper.|
"We realize that we are an integral part of the whole chain of making sure we have some stewardship in the environment," Hartshorn says. "As a company, we want to make sure that we're doing everything we possibly can to ensure there is an environment suitable for our kids' kids down the road."
The company was established as Houghton Boston Press in the 1920s. On a leap of faith, the company decided in 2000 to invest in eco-friendly processes and EcoBook 100, a 100-per-cent post-consumer recycled paper, before it even knew such a product could sell.
"We basically did not have any orders for it. We didn't have anybody that said they would definitely buy from us. But we said: 'We're going to make this decision,' " Hartshorn recalls.
"We felt that if we could bring this stock on board and make more people aware of it, more people would order it (and) hopefully the cost would come down over time. So we sold it at the same price as our 60-lb. generic white offset," even though, at that time, he admits, the white offset cost "a lot less money" than the 55-lb. natural-colour EcoBook 100.
Although it took some time, the investment appears to have been worth it. Hartshorn says interest in the product has "taken off" and estimates that about 70 per cent of Houghton Boston's clients now choose an environmentally friendly paper.
"We started bringing in a trailer of the (EcoBook 100) stock maybe every five months. Now we're up to bringing a trailer in every couple of months."
The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan, a centenary project completed in 2005, used Houghton Boston's recycled acid-free paper for the more than six million sheets that were required to publish the 10,000-copy, 1,100-page hard-cover book.
"We try (to choose an environmentally friendly product) whenever possible," says Brian Mlazgar, publications co-ordinator at the Canadian Plains Research Center, the encyclopedia's publisher.
But Mlazgar admits going "green" is not always a viable option, since cost is always a factor and he frequently finds environmentally friendly products are more expensive.
But, he adds, "If it is economical for us, it makes sense to do whatever we can to help the environment - not make things worse than they already are."
|Photo courtesy Houghton Boston|
|A forklift operator loads up a compacted bale of uncoated stock for sale to a recycler.|
Just as costs come down as more clients choose eco-friendly products, the quality of the products has also improved as they evolve. "It used to be that there was really a considerable difference in quality," says Mlazgar. "But I am finding that the environmentally friendly product is getting better all the time."
Hartshorn agrees that quality is no longer an issue. "In the EcoBook there is (no quality difference) at all. Basically, that's 100-per-cent post-consumer stock. It goes through regular steps at the mill, and they (U.S.-based supplier New Leaf Paper) make sure it's a good product. Any issues that we had have been resolved. The customer gets the product they want."
The customer may come away happy, says Hartshorn, but the real winner is the environment.
An eco-audit by New Leaf Paper shows that since buying EcoBook 100 in 2001 up until roughly the end of 2005, Houghton Boston has saved 5,240 trees, reduced solid waste by 114,000 kg and conserved 8.5 million litres of water.
Other printing companies are also environmentally conscious, including Friesens Corp. in Altona, Man., and Raincoast Books in Vancouver, the Canadian printer of the popular Harry Potter series.
Founded in 1907, Friesens Corp. is one of Canada's largest independent book manufacturers, producing books, yearbooks, web and other printing services.
It also uses New Leaf's environmentally friendly paper products and has introduced environmental programs that are designed to reduce paper waste, reduce landfill impact with its ink and encourage employee involvement in recycling.
Like Houghton Boston, Friesens also offers eco-audits for its customers to show how many trees, energy and water will be saved if the customer chooses an eco-friendly product.
Raincoast Books, a publisher of fiction, non-fiction and children's books, says 95 per cent of its text-based books are printed on ancient forest-friendly paper, meaning the paper uses no materials from trees of ancient or old-growth forests.
Raincoast says it has saved more than 75,000 old-growth trees and was awarded a 2003 Ethics in Action Award.
Using and promoting recycled paper aren't the only ways Houghton Boston is attempting to reduce its environmental footprint.
The company also uses conservation and recycling measures at many stages of production at its plant.
At each of the workstations, all the excess waste gets put into a vacuum tunnel that is funnelled into a compactor. About 23,000 lbs. is recycled through a paper recycler each month.
Vegetable-based ink is used as opposed to petroleum-based material, while about 5,000 lbs. of printing plates are also recycled each month to draw out the silver.
Hartshorn also estimates the company sends about 100 gallons of chemicals each month back to the manufacturers for recycling.
Hartshorn adds that Houghton Boston may be doing what it can, but there is always more to be done.
"We're not the only ones doing this. There are others, certainly. But hopefully companies that aren't doing (environmentally friendly practices), hear about us, and then maybe start looking at doing that as well."
(Nicole Strandlund can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)