Not much falls through the cracks at Indianapolis commercial printer Harding Poorman Group (HPG) when it comes to recycling. Office paper, beverage containers, cardboard, metal, electronics, plastics, aluminum printing plates and paper (and lots of it) is collected, separated and set aside for pick-up by various vendors, as frequently as five times a week. From 2008, when the company launched its recycling program, HPG’s waste to landfill has decreased by at least 70 percent per year. In recent months that figure has been as high as 76 percent.
That’s a number that David Harding, HPG’s chairman and CEO, is proud of, and the company’s active green team are equally proud of their record on energy use. One of the first Indiana businesses to be recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for purchasing 100 percent green power, HPG remains on the EPA’s list of top 20 purchasers of green power among commercial printers and packaging companies in the U.S. HPG also is a member of the agency’s Green Power Leadership Club.
While the cost of green power jacks up the electric bill by as much as 20 percent, Harding says the goodwill that it buys among clients, community and employees is priceless.
“It’s the right thing to do, and the payback is significant. It’s something our employees want. When we ask for volunteers, by far, more than anything else we do, they get involved in the green efforts,” Harding says. “Our staff is really passionate about environmental issues.”
According to Shelley Johnson, account manager and green team chair, the group began implementing what she describes as the simple fixes: recycling office paper, encouraging employees to bring in their home recycling if they didn’t have a service, replacing throw-away polystyrene cups with ceramic mugs. “Everyone got a Harding Poorman mug of their own.”
They began replacing lights with low-energy bulbs, and eventually replaced all warehouse lights and installed motion-sensor fixtures in conference rooms, restrooms, and other locations. They removed the paper-towel dispensers in the restrooms and installed hand-dryers.
One of the first major steps was purchasing green power from Indianapolis Power & Light Company (IPL). In a state in which coal powers more than 90 percent of electricity, IPL is increasingly turning to renewable energy sources, now mostly from Indiana wind farms. IPL allows residential and business customers to purchase renewable energy at increments as low as 10 percent for a nominal premium.
The EPA website maintains a list of companies nationwide that purchase some renewable energy. In addition, viewers can find a list of companies that purchase 100 percent green power.
According to Harding, HPG’s green team proposed that the company buy a percentage of its electrical power from a green source. He recalls his response when the group presented the idea: “What the heck, let’s just do it all green.”
Currently, that amounts to more than 4 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power annually. That translates to an avoidance of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions equivalent to operating 890 passenger vehicles per year, or powering more than 600 average American homes annually.
The amount of power that the company uses a year doesn’t raise an eyebrow from Shelley Johnson. “We’re a printing company,” she says. “We use a lot of energy.”
Paper is another resource the company uses a lot of. And water. And plastic. And cardboard. But at HPG, a comprehensive recycling and waste-prevention program goes a long way not only in shrinking the amount of waste, but turning the traditional waste-to-recycle ratio upside down, recycling three times as much material as it discards.
“We even recycle the water used in the solutions on press,” Harding says. “We have a closed-loop, reuse and recycle system, so waste is not sent into the septic system.”
Further, he says, the process uses low-VOC soy inks, reducing air emissions to the extent that the company no longer is required to maintain an air permit. “And our inks are recycled, not sent to landfills.” He notes that HPG reduces other waste generated by the printing process, including shrink-wrap, metal bands from the skids, the metal printer plates and more.
Harding adds that the benefits to the company are much more than a “feel-good” gesture. In 2011, it added $233,000 in revenue. “Recycling is not only good for the planet, it’s very beneficial to the bottom line and should be considered a profit center by any business.”
HPG has taken other measures to lighten its environmental footprint. The company is certified by all three paper industry certifications: Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), and Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC). This ensures clients that the paper has been tracked from forest to paper mill to merchant to printer, and confirms that the wood fiber used is from forests that are carefully managed using the best conservation methods.
“By sharing the metrics with staff on a regular basis, we build an even stronger culture of environmental responsibility,” Harding says. “It makes employees feel good. It creates a positive culture. It’s truly a business success.”
Implementing green practices in a business isn’t difficult, says David Harding, as long as you have a plan and follow some important guidelines. He offers these tips:
1. Involve the employees. Create a green team. You’ll be surprised at the passion.
2. Work with your local utility companies. Some will even give you rebates for energy-saving systems you invest in.
3. Keep statistics and share them. This will build momentum. Track reduction of waste to landfills, utility usage, and money gained from recycling efforts.
4. Start with the “low hanging fruit” that saves money. There are a lot of quick and easy wins: substitute ceramic mugs for toss-away coffee cups; replace lights with low-energy bulbs; install motion-sensor light fixtures in public places.
5. Promote. Print T-shirts for employees. Use lots of signage. Include accomplishments in the company newsletter; let clients know about your efforts.