Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Computing used to be something we all paid attention to and mostly understood. We knew what processor powered a Mac or a PC or a server, and we completely got the difference between Ethernet and IBM’s Token Ring for instance. It was long ago, but in years gone by understanding the network and computing platform was vital for efficient prepress. It was part of how we improved processes and kept costs down, and because it was part of a rolling investment it was an important contributor to improving print’s environmental impact.
It’s not like that anymore. Like Lord Grantham in the global television phenomenon that is Downton Abbey, we understand that change is all around us, but we’d really rather not join in. Nowadays beyond their operating systems, do we really understand the difference between computing platforms? And more importantly do we understand the implications of cloud computing for media production and environmental impact reduction? Fortunately for printers and publishers it doesn’t matter if we join the cloud revolution or not, because it will join us. The equivalent of an energy grid is the future for our industry. It’s not only because it is a better economic proposition, but it is also better for the environment.
A shared IT infrastructure can help match digital resources to demand. So instead of you and your customers having lots of little independent and often incompatible IT systems to deal with, computing can be managed so that energy waste is reduced and resources optimised. If many organisations share a common digital platform, servers can be load balanced so that they are in constant use, instead of ticking over waiting for something to happen. And then there is the knowledge issue within our industry. Printers struggle to keep even their Raster Image Processors up to date and too many still limp along with IT systems based on long forgotten technologies.
But if they are to take advantage of such things as advanced cooling and power conditioning, desktop computers and servers must be regularly upgraded. For most of us, young or old, the upheaval involved to do it ourselves is mostly too much to contemplate. This is why moving to the cloud ought to make sense. Let someone else provide the machines and maintenance. Let someone else manage their disposal and control their emissions.
The move to the cloud is still much easier said than done, because it remains a massive leap of faith for many companies. We are understandably very reluctant to trust our infrastructures and data to a third party. The idea of outsourcing vital computing services is just too radical to contemplate. But like the aristos in Downton Abbey, it’s time to start abandoning the old ways and to embrace change. Those days have gone and letting third party providers manage our digital infrastructures will help reduce print’s environmental impact even more.
Monday, November 10, 2014
Environmental stewardship sounds impressive. It comes down to the basics of managing the business with a view to waste and cost control and environmental impact. There are loads of printing and publishing companies around the world positioning themselves in this way; sometimes they live up to the images they want to project, and sometimes they don’t. That matters less than the fact that they are trying to improve their environmental engagement in the first place.
Stewardship is too lofty a term and risks sounding really pretentious, especially for small businesses. It refers to the management, use and protection of the natural environment, so printing and publishing companies who want to take on such a massive challenge must first focus on their own impact. For instance the New York Times Company has made a public commitment to protecting the environment “in all of the communities in which it operates, and it continually strives to minimise and reduce waste and emissions whenever and wherever it is practical and possible to do so”. And of course New York Times journalists cover developments in global warming and greenhouse gas emissions, and most newsprint is produced from recycled pulp. This is big enough to be considered environmental stewardship.
Most smaller companies can start with less lofty language. For instance, printers can commit to using only paper produced by companies committed to the environment and to working with ethical pulp providers. Printers can also make sure that recycling is high on their agendas, and monitor volumes. Encouraging customers to use recycled papers is a given, and a surprising number of printers are finding this an easier sell as environmental awareness amongst print buyers rises. Using water soluble chemicals that are biodegradable and recyclable and reducing the amount of solvent used are other steps in the right direction.
Perhaps the most important thing for companies who want to be environmental stewards, is to set up programmes to reduce electricity consumption and minimise waste of all raw materials. Working with customers to raise awareness of these programmes can help to extend awareness of useful initiatives, and even their implementation along supply chains.
Increasingly companies such as the New York Times Company are boasting about their environmental stewardship, and increasingly these are not idle boasts. Simple steps may not have the grandeur of a stewardship programme, but they can make a difference nonetheless. Using ecologically sensitive packaging made from recyclates, or using materials that are easily separated for recycling do make a positive contribution to the overall manageability of print media’s environmental impact. It may not have the superficial authority of environmental stewardship, but it does have the authority of action. Doing is always far better than just talking about doing.