Skip to main content
Skip to navigation

Dec. 2, 2010 Volume 32, No. 14

Printing Services strives to soften environmental impact


Balancing sustainability and cost through choice

With students more committed than ever to “going green,” University of Missouri Printing Services is using various stategies to soften its impact on the environment.

“Today’s students are serious about sustainability and, because of that, a lot of the industries are embracing various ways to reduce the carbon footprint,” says Rick Wise, director of Printing Services. “Faculty, staff and students have different needs, and we try to address them.”

 That means using nonpetroleum inks and paper made from a higher percentage of recycled content; disposing of and recycling waste paper; and exploring different waste solutions, inks and plates.

The digital printing operation switched to recycled paper two years ago and now offers customers a choice of both virgin and recycled papers — with an emphasis on recycled, including 100 percent recycled 8½-inch by 11-inch paper that costs a penny more per sheet. Wise says recycled paper can cost 15 percent more than virgin paper, a fact that often comes as a surprise to people. There is less demand for recycled paper , he says, and it costs more to produce.

Printing Services also offers recycled paper for high-run jobs, like recruitment pieces, that are printed on offset presses.

“We feel like our charge with serving the university is to strike a balance between cost effectiveness and sustainability, so we try to offer whatever people want,” Wise says. “In some cases, that often is the non-recycled sheet. In other cases, some departments insist on recycled paper, and we are happy to provide it.”

The university’s sustainability office has an aggressive paper-recycling program, which Wise says he supports because recycling keeps paper and chemicals out of the landfill. While both environmentalists and businesses have long talked about how modern technology is leading toward a paperless office environment, Wise says the idea that going paperless will save trees is a myth. The printing industry is an excellent steward of forests, he says, and paper companies have some of the best-managed forests in the country.

“I remember hearing one of my peers at another university say that trying to save trees by not printing is like trying to save corn by not eating cornflakes,” Wise says. “Development is the trees’ enemy. Developers clear forests, put up parking lots or malls and rarely renew the land.”

Other steps Printing Services has taken to become more eco-friendly include:

  • Reducing the Volatile Organic Compounds contained in offset inks. “We look for different inks that have the lowest VOCs,” Wise says, “like vegetable-based inks, which recycle better.”
  • Recycling press solutions, which are highly toxic, with a solvent reclamation device that cleans and eliminates the solutions. “It looks like a still,” Wise says. “The device has been incredible for us because it cooks and reduces the wastes to nothing.”
  • Eliminating film and chemicals used to create negatives by going directly from computer to plate. “We were happy to take this step and do away with disposing chemicals that could easily get into the ground and landfills,” Wise says.
  • Conserving energy with a recently purchased hybrid vehicle for campus couriers. 

Wise says Printing Services can do more to make the operation more environmentally friendly. Some print shops, for example, are putting solar panels on their roofs to collect electricity, which is then sent back to the main grid.

“I want to learn more about that as it might be a possible way to reduce our electrical bill as well as provide an environmentally friendly electrical power source,” he says.