Earth Day: Evolution of IDENT and The Printing Industry
Earth Day has left a long-standing legacy; this widespread environmental movement has been around since 1970. Now that’s dedication! April 22nd marks the annual day where people join forces around the world to push forward various causes and initiatives that impact our local communities and global climate change.
IDENT has identified a number of ways to lower our carbon footprint and assure the products we use internally don’t negatively affect our people’s health or the environment. Everything is considered from printing method (we’re a digital printer), digital ordering and fulfillment systems, eco appliances, high-efficiency lighting, to basic recycling. However, as with most stories like this, it didn’t happen overnight. Our journey was more of an evolution that took shape over the past few decades.
How have printing practices evolved in the industry and at IDENT?
Screen printing was the be all and end all. However, it meant printing with solvent inks which had VOC’s (volatile organic compounds), which are really nasty and toxic similar to lead found in paints. You recall the beautiful high gloss finishes in your kitchens and bathrooms? They sure were beautiful, but super toxic. The use of solvent-based inks wasn’t conducive to a healthy work environment; screen printers dealt with it for many centuries due to its longevity, suitability for many surfaces and strength of colours. Most workers would be high from the fumes even with the proper ventilation in place.
During the late 70’s, California had a big push around getting rid of the toxic solvents for environmental and health reasons as VOC’s are large contributors to smog. They pressured and protested the chemical industry to make a shift, which fortunately paid off.
Believe it or not, there are still traditional solvent-based screen printers operating in rural communities today.
Digital UV (Ultraviolet) Printing
Digital started with solvent-based inks, but it quickly moved to UV inks once the industry could overcome some of its initial shortcomings. Digital UV printing is a more environmentally friendly solution, and it has vibrant colours and consistency. Similar to the toner in printers, you can vacuum seal and recycle the empty ink packages and cartridges. Now the only Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) concern employers have is assuring basic ventilation since there are very limited to no VOC's in these inks making them printer and environment-friendly.
UV curing inks are essentially all solids with virtually no solvent. The curing happens with a chemical reaction that creates a bond between molecules; it dries instantly under the exposure of UV light (instead of air drying). With no solvent to evaporate into the air, there are no VOC’s being released either.
However, with all these advantages, there are also disadvantages. It took off slowly because the outdoor durability of the product wasn’t as good. Most industry professionals originally felt we could only produce indoor posters, but that we couldn’t use it outdoors for any length of time.
What does IDENT do to minimize its carbon footprint
IDENT always wanted to ensure that our #1 focus was taking care of our people and with that came our desire for keeping their health and safety top of mind, which in turn also meant environmentally conscious processes throughout the company.
Project e-dent kicked off in January 2011 – it was our push to move from a paper-based office to fully digital, we had identified the scope of the project, the risks, the strategy and launched all the phases making us entirely digital on July 28th, 2011. We went from a paper heavy environment: imagine having docket after docket with the appropriate job specs that migrated across the full lifecycle of each order, to a paper-free operation. We removed all paper communication and documentation across the company in order to increase efficiency. Our team had lots of fun with the company-wide project; we used potato chip flavors like Salt n’ Vinegar & Dill Pickle as our milestone code names and celebrated achieving them by handing out chips of that type on the day
For our Town Hall that year we conservatively estimated saving one tree per employee per year (average worker 10,000 pieces of paper a year – a tree produces approximately 8,333 pieces of paper), so from July 28th, 2011 to December 31st, 2016 we’ve saved 176 trees!
Energy Efficient Office Décor
We installed modern eco high efficiency LED lighting, automatic thermostats, and low water high-efficiency toilets. We also chose a building that had low ceilings to reduce our heating needs.
Our front office staff is encouraged to work from home 2-3 days a week in order to give them more flexibility and eliminate their need to drive to the office as much, which also lowers our overall carbon footprint.
Printing & Responsible Disposal of By-Products
We are a digital print shop which is significantly more environmentally friendly, as discussed above. Now, we simply have to recycle printing cartridges, similar to home printers, just bigger.
Back in 2001 IDENT purchased its first UV press for the company. We were early adopters in transitioning to the latest technology. Our production was leading edge, especially in Alberta, where everyone else was still solvent based in the area (due to equipment costs). Many of our clients were used to our products lasting 10 years outdoors and then with UV screen printing it went down to two years, let's just say there were lots of lessons to be learned along the way.
We started to look for solutions on how we could give this new printing method more longevity and life. We began with an overlaminate film. IDENT tested 20+ products vigorously until we found just the right product. But being the obsessive perfectionists we are, we kept searching for better products, until we discovered a different UV process called liquid lamination. We discovered this product from traveling to tradeshows, many of which were outside our field. This new overlay provided us the ability to offer a 5-year warranty.
We have a recycling program for aluminum, bottles, plastics, cardboard, and the minimal mixed paper we use. We take care in how we pack our shipments in order to minimize the need for packing supplies.
We've always embraced being ahead of the curve and leading with technology, even at the expense of initial profit. We will always adopt the latest greatest technology and advances in the signage printing industry.