How Do You Measure Up?
An ongoing “hot topic” these days is this: just how sustainable does a business practice or an organization need to be in order to be considered “green?”
If you’re a printer (in-plant or commercial), is it simply enough to use recycled paper? Is it enough to use recycled paper and vegetable-based inks? Maybe we shouldn’t use paper at all; let’s just e-format all the content. After all, isn’t that the ultimate “greenness,” no printing on paper?
Of course I’m not serious. We need paper. We need to print.
It seems that these days there’s some confusion between claiming to use a sustainable practice and proving that practice really is sustainable. On the surface, a sustainable initiative may seem like a good idea, but is there any substantial benefit in actually initiating that practice?
Some folks think that by not using paper you are being environmentally sustainable. I think that’s a false belief, because there are other factors that should be considered when trying to develop sustainable practices. The real question should be, is it enough to just be environmentally sustainable?
Well just what is “sustainability?” This is the question I am asked over and over, and it’s a question that has more than one answer. Trying to define what is sustainable is hard to do; I have collected more than 101 different definitions of sustainability, and although they are all varied and diverse, they all have a common thread, or I should say common threads.
True or total sustainability is obtained when a certain set of factors all come together in balance. These factors are often referred to as the “triad” or the “three-legged stool” of sustainability. They are: Environment, Social and Economic. So how do you know if something is really a sustainable practice? Are there measurements? Let’s break them down.
• Environmentally Sustainable: This is what most folks think about when they think “sustainable.” It includes recycling, reusing resources and reducing the amount of a resource used (such as paper). A measurement of environmentally sustainable practices for a business would be, does it harm the natural balance of a resource?
• Socially Sustainable: Simply put, is it good for people and society? The measurement here could relate to a sustainable practice that employs workers at living wage standard or provides healthcare, etc.
• Economically Sustainable: Is the sustainable practice economically feasible?
I’m going to do a series of blogs on each of these three aspects of being sustainable and how they relate to, and can be put into practice in, a printing operation.