Friday, March 30, 2007

Green Printing: 12 things you should know

Today while cleaning out my inbox, I came across this article on Dynamic Graphics, which talks about green printing, and outlines some basic principles. Writer Cassie Hart makes some excellent points, and I even discovered a few new tips to use here at the zen kitchen. A quick excerpt:

Many of us make a conscious effort to practice environmental responsibility. We haul old newspapers to local recycling centers. We use ink refi ll kits instead of buying new cartridges for our printers. And who doesn’t have at least one blue recycling bin wedged underneath the desk?

But is this enough? Noah Scalin, founder of ALR Design doesn’t think so. “Social consciousness isn’t just about making good paper and ink choices,” he says. “A lot more of it has to do with how work is produced.” For designers, this means keeping the environment in mind when planning projects.

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Should you blog for your business?

Over the last week or so, I've started to get lots of questions from folks in my network about blogs - should I blog? What should I blog about? Can a blog really help me grow my business? The answer, of course, differs from person to person. Blogging works for me because a) I was a personal blogger and journaler for years before I ever started a business blog, so I knew how to use the technology fairly well and was used to writing, and b) I talk. A Lot. About my business. A. Lot.

So, blogging works pretty well for me. I log on, try to keep things updated fairly often (although not as often as I should sometimes), and I have links to my blog everywhere - from comments left in other blogs and in forums, to my e-mail signature and the zen kitchen's website.

Now, given this, should YOU blog? Ask yourself these questions first:

  • Do you have time to write daily or weekly, on a topic you're passionate about that relates to your area of expertise?A good blog is updated pretty frequently, at least once a week (if your posts tend to be longer) or at best daily (if the posts are shorter). I'm in the process of transitioning to mostly shorter entries updated daily. It's a challenge, but I'm managing it.

  • Do you like to write, and are you good at it? The best blogs are conversational, the posts aren't outrageously long (even some of my longer posts push the limit sometimes, although I've seen some that are longer), and they're updated pretty frequently with information relevant to the topic of the blog.

  • Do you know what you want to write about, and who you want to write for? Blogs tend to work when they're focused - you have 1-3 things that you talk about, and you're speaking to a very specific audience. I tend to cover the issues I face both as a green designer, and as an independent designer and business owner, and my audience tends to be not only other designers, but other socially responsible business owners. Once you have that target audience and subject matter identified, finding things to write about becomes much easier.

If done well, blogs can be a terrific marketing tool. They are completely paperless (always good for a greenie), and they give you a unique chance to create conversations with your target market. At the same time, however, a blog should never feel like a chore - it should be something you enjoy doing and can really put the effort into. One thing you realize quickly is that any discontent you feel with the blogging process will show in the final product - and that reduces the effectiveness of your blog.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Is Oprah's publisher avoiding the green question?

My good friend Eric at Re-Nourish sent me a link to this article by Marc Gunther, about Hearst Magazine's (publisher of O and several other magazines) refusal to answer questions posed by Aveda, one of O Magazine's advertisers, about the magazine's paper-buying policy. The article details conversations between Gunther and Hearst representatives wherein the Hearst rep clearly gives Gunther the runaround about their procedure, and somehow implies that the amount of recycled content in their paper is proprietary. Seriously? Proprietary? Like somehow a competing magazine is going to find out you use Lustro Dull on your magazine and rush out to get some?

An excerpt from the article is below.

Probing further, I asked Luthringer whether the company buys paper that is certified. The Forest Stewardship Council sets standards for forests are well-managed. (A competing industry-backed standard called the Sustainable Forestry Initiative isn’t as stringent.) Many companies buy paper that comes from FSC-certified forests. As for Hearst, you be the judge. Here’s what they said:

Hearst (19 magazines including Oprah magazine) only purchases paper from suppliers that utilized independent third party certification programs and also have certified chain of custody to verify certified fiber levels.

Maybe we’re getting somewhere, I thought. That sounds like Hearst buys certified paper. How much, I wondered? The reply:

Hearst only buys paper from suppliers who use certification.

Hmm. Reread that statement. When I did, I turned suspicious. I only buy groceries from suppliers (Giant, Safeway, Whole Foods) who sell organic. That doesn’t meant I eat organic food. In fact, it says nothing about what I buy or eat.

The full article (which is pretty interesting) is located here.

There are a couple of things that miff me about this. For one, publishing is a HUGE industry, and Hearst is a HUGE player in it. With all the buzz about "green living" lately, it still amazes me that there are so many magazines that are more than willing to ride the Al Gore bus to more readers, but aren't willing to put their money where their mouth is and actually do something that can benefit the environment - something which they are in an extremely strong position to do.

For another, this isn't just one publisher we're talking about - it's several. While several companies have joined Co-Op America's Magazine Paper Project, a number of the largest, including Hearst and Vanity Fair publisher Conde Nast are still mum on the subject.

The magazine and publishing industry has a responsibility to its readership, plain and simple. As they print hundreds of thousands—even millions—of sheets of paper each day, would it kill them to look into more responsible options?

Monday, March 26, 2007

E-Waste: A Mounting Concern

E-Waste (or, what happens to those lovely iPods and Treos and desktop machines after you upgrade to The Next Hottest Thing) has been a bit of a fascination of mine since I started working with 5-Trees, LLC last year. In my research for their marketing materials and website, as well as for another client’s website that’s going to be released in the next month or two, I learned that electronic waste is the fastest-growing wastestream on the planet. Over 30 million computers get thrown out each year in the United States ALONE. And when these electronics end up in the landfill (a rather overwhelming number of them still do), they release all their inner toxins, like mercury and other nastiness, into the groundwater.

According to a recent article in PLENTY magazine (E-Waste Not, Plenty Magazine April-May 2007, p. 31), there is a growing e-cycling movement, but the actual process of recycling electronics is labor-intensive and costly, and thus, many “recyclers” are actually just re-selling old electronics to “brokers who ship them to developing countries with lax environmental standards and cheap labor.” The article also suggests that, according to the Basel Action Network, 50-80% of US electronics are shipped to India, China and parts of Africa, and often they aren’t recycled at all – the workers there take the most valuable bits and dump the rest. Not very nice, is it?

The good news is that the industry seems to be waking up. The Basel Action Network, a non-profit which monitors toxic waste, lists over 40 e-cyclers on their website that have taken the BAN pledge to make sure their e-waste is actually recycled and taken apart the right way. Washington and Maine are starting to require manufacturers to take back their equipment for recycling, and Maryland is starting a pilot program that requires counties to collect and properly recycle them.

And what about Massachusetts (my home state)? Well, honestly I haven’t seen anything here. The BAN site lists WeRecycle! in Connecticut as the closest BAN-pledge acceptor, and a quick Google Search for “mass electronics recyclers” brought up quite a bit of info, including this site that lets you search for a local recycler throughout Massachusetts. It’s a bit clunky, but I was able to find about 26 folks that would take cell phones. When you’re ready to recycle, do a search and call around to a couple of places, and call to ask them what they do with your old stuff. And while you're at it - ask them to take the BAN pledge (note: the following link is a PDF on the BAN website. Don't ask me why - it doesn't need to be.)!