Students at Cal Poly have found their own way to literally work toward sustainability: their jobs. Theresa Block and Leah Lapotre, graphic communication seniors and managers at University Graphic Systems, push for more environmentally friendly printing practices. The on-campus printing company will soon receive its Forest Stewardship Council certification. The FSC is a non-profit organization that promotes management of the world’s forests as a source of raw materials.
Although having the certification means will be free to promote itself as a more eco-friendly company, it already has many green practices in place and agree that customers are definitely asking for more green services.
The FSC certification process costs a large amount of money and requires a considerable amount of time and training. Many companies try to offset the cost by charging more for their environmentally friendly options, but UGS, as a school supported company, does not have to do that, she said.
That means that the option to go green with printing is not much more expensive for customers, she said. UGS gives its customers the option to print their products on recycled paper and uses paper suppliers that are FSC-certified.
The company, which is completely run by graphic communication students, printed all the Open House brochures and posters. The insides or “guts” of the booklets were printed on recycled paper. UGS also prints the Mustang Daily five times a week and the Sierra Club monthly newsletter on recycled paper with soy-based inks and does various other jobs for campus organizations.
Xpedx, one of its big suppliers, was the first paper company to be nationally certified by the FSC and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, according to the company’s Web site. The company just received its certification in 2007.
With big suppliers providing FSC certified paper, the quality and variety of recycled or partially recycled paper is now comparable to non-recycled paper, said Block, the UGS general manager.
UGS also uses vegetable-based ink, which is more environmentally friendly than oil-based ink.
“The original inks were petroleum-based, which is really bad for the environment,” said Lapotre, who is the sustainability manager. She said that soy-based inks are the new and better way to go, and corn-based inks are also coming into play.
Block is very interested in sustainability practices at UGS, and among her other duties of general manager (financial managing, payroll and billing), she likes to be involved as much as possible.
“I have a special interest in special projects we have here at UGS,” she said, and when the company’s adviser came to her with the idea of creating a position for a sustainability manager, she was very supportive.
“I’m really into the environment and I was all for it,” she said. The company then appointed Lapotre the sustainability manager. Block said Lapotre has worked toward gaining the company’s FSC certification.
Having a sustainability manager at a publishing company is a fairly new trend, Lapotre said, but after she graduates in June, Lapotre plans to continue working in the field with sustainable practices.
Block said about 70 percent of the company’s revenue comes from producing material with “green-friendly” practices.