Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The state of green printing: An interview with Deb Bruner of Pinnacle Press

We're constantly talking about the need of the book industry to increase its efforts to lower its environmental impacts and adopt greener practices. At the same time, we try to do a reality check every couple of months and learn from those who actually print the books how things are doing.

Last January we had an interview with Greg Barber of Greg Barber Company, who shared with us insights on what it means to be a green printer. Today we have the pleasure to host another experienced green printer, Deb Bruner of Pinnacle Press.

Deb Bruner serves in Pinnacle Press as director of book publishing and eco-friendly initiatives. She has more than 25 years experience in the publishing, paper and printing industries. Prior to Pinnacle, Bruner worked as the director of book publishing papers for New Leaf Paper, the environmentally friendly paper merchant, where she managed mill relationships and developed sales opportunities.

As you can see, Bruner has a vast experience with a specific focus on green printing, so we decided there's no better person to get our current update from. We also wanted to learn more about Pinnacle Press of St. Louis, MO, which is well-known for its quality services and commitment to the environment.

We hope you will enjoy this opportunity to learn what's going on in one of the major fronts of the book industry - the printing machines.

Hello, Deb. Could you describe please Pinnacle’s efforts to go green?

Pinnacle Press was the first book component printer to start stocking a recycled sheet for book jackets at price parity with virgin stock. We started doing this back around 2002 or 2003 due to customer demand from the university press community; presses like Cornell University Press wanted a recycled coated sheet for book jackets to help them meet their recycled paper commitments to Green Press Initiative.

It’s worth noting that the stock we continue to offer at price parity is New Leaf Paper’s Primavera Gloss, which is 80% recycled/60% pcw/FSC-certified/PCF and manufactured with Green-e Certified energy. It is also one of the very few sheets on the market to carry the Ancient Forest Friendly logo, which is awarded by Markets Initiative in Canada.

Two years ago we started stocking Kallima C2S, a board stock for covers, at price parity with virgin paper. This stock contains 10% pcw and is FSC-certified.

Whether or not our customers ask for recycled paper, we use these papers on all our jackets and covers since there is no premium to consider.

In addition to our recycled paper stocking program, we are an FSC-certified plant. We are also an AmerenUE Pure Power Business Leader and an EPA Green Power Partner.

Within our plant and offices, we have comprehensive recycling programs in place and continue to look for ways to incorporate more earth-friendly practices, including the elimination of Styrofoam coffee cups and using ceramic coffee mugs instead.

What is the biggest value Pinnacle gains from its eco-friendly practices?

Incorporating eco-friendly practices and offering eco-friendly products serves our business and customers well. Regardless of whether customers ask us for recycled paper on their projects, we take pride in our efforts to be environmentally responsible at the corporate level. Through breakfast “green sessions” at our plant, through our active participation at publisher meetings, and through our involvement with organizations such as the Book Industry Environmental Council, we strive to educate publishers and other customers on green products and practices so they can become more knowledgeable. The “green marketplace” is constantly evolving and we must stay up with it.

What responses does Pinnacle receive from customers when we tell them about our green practices? Does it make a difference for them?

Some customers come to us because of our green practices and paper offerings. Others are happy to learn about our practices and paper offerings and will try and use recycled and/or FSC-certified papers if they’re able, even if there is a premium involved (e.g. on special orders). Of course, there are customers who come to us strictly for pricing or other reasons and are not interested in green options. That is ok. We let our customers know that we are a resource for them regardless of their particular needs or interests.

You hear a lot these days that the price of recycled paper is decreasing; is there still a premium you need to pay for printing on recycled paper?

From my experience, which includes over 20 years in publishing as well as approximately 5 years in the paper industry and printing, paper prices are all over the map when it comes to recycled or FSC-certified papers. Whether coated or uncoated, some high pcw sheets are less expensive than lower pcw sheets.

For the most part, there does seem to be a bit of a premium on many eco-friendly papers, but because the availability of such papers has been increasing for several years, the competition has made pricing more competitive. Virgin paper, because it’s made on larger machines and on a larger scale, still remains the less expensive option for the most part.

As has been said many times, greater demand (for eco-friendly stocks) will increase availability and as such drive down prices. Since much of our domestically collected wastepaper fiber is shipped overseas to China and elsewhere, I remain curious as to how that will affect pricing over the long term. When we quote a job, we look at various papers and present our customers with a few options. Sometimes a sheet with 10% pcw will cost more than a sheet with 50% pcw. It’s never clear cut so we have to do our homework in looking for the best priced option.

What are the main issues that prevent more publishers and others who print with Pinnacle to use recycled paper?

Since we offer our cover and jacket stock at price parity with virgin, there is no price issue for publishers, but when we have to special order a paper (for a catalog, for example), some publishers just won’t pay more for a green sheet no matter how small the premium. In today’s economy every penny counts more than ever.

Back in the 1990s (and even earlier) the quality of recycled papers (particularly the brightness levels in coated) would often be an obstacle to using recycled (at least for a majority of designers) but now there are very bright recycled papers on the market and I don’t encounter any quality concerns at all.

I do find that sometimes customers need to be reminded that recycled or FSC papers can be an option for them; some still are on “auto pilot” when it comes to sticking with virgin. They have a “workhorse” sheet and just don’t think outside the box.

Does Pinnacle print on demand? If so, do we see a growing demand for POD in comparison with the “regular” printing model?

Yes, we do 4/c POD and short-run work on our Indigo Presses. We do see an increase in using this technology, and part of that comes from our efforts to inform our customers as to how this technology can best serve them. I will frequently show our customers the quality of our Indigo work and end up brainstorming with them about projects – it can be a lot of fun.

Pricing and quality are first and foremost our customers’ concerns when it comes to this technology. We have found that more and more eco-friendly papers are available to run on the Indigos and customers have been appreciative of that.

What are the current trends we see in the market with respect to green printing?

When I was working for New Leaf Paper prior to joining Pinnacle, I saw a demand for more and more FSC-certified papers; in fact, the demand for FSC-certified stock seemed to be bigger than for recycled. More and more printers are getting FSC-certified, and they are also carrying other certifications as well, such as from SFI or PEFC.

I have heard that some printers are not renewing their FSC certification due to economic reasons given the current state of our economy, but I don’t yet know how widespread that is. Again, printers follow demand, so where customers are asking for green papers, printers will offer them. When customers express an interest in a printer’s operations in regards to how green it is, printers take notice.

What is the influence of the economic downturn on green printing?

For anyone not fully invested (for philosophical or other reasons) in being green, belt-tightening will rule the day and some green options or processes may disappear if money can be saved by using alternatives. At the same time, I think most people are aware that being good environmental stewards is more important than ever and we have to consider our global footprint.

My feeling is that so many of us in the publishing and book printing industry are now so invested with such organizations as Green Press Initiative and the Book Industry Environmental Council that we will continue to “green up” and not let eco-friendly policies and practices fall by the wayside. . . .

Do you see the electronic book as a threat to our business?

I do not.

Thank you Deb! You can learn more about Pinnacle Press at their website -

Raz @ Eco-Libris
www.ecolibris. net