In another life I was addicted to horse racing, especially the dangerous jumping variety. As a teenager I imagined someday riding in the Grand National, the world’s greatest steeplechase. Instead I find myself riding in an altogether different kind of race. But there are some curious similarities between fast and thrilling horse riding and negotiating the constantly changing landscape of matters environmental in the graphic arts.
The Grand National had its first official running in 1839 and was won by a horse called Lottery. The race has undergone considerable changes since then and when it comes to changing perceptions of print’s sustainability, we’re also in it for the long haul. Attitudes to the Grand National have changed over the years, and it now attracts a global viewing audience of over 500 million people in 140 countries. Attitudes to print’s sustainability and to its environmental impact have changed, with more and more companies worldwide understanding that waste and overproduction matter. Today effective waste management and production control determine profit margins.
Constantly gaining improvements in the environmental footprint of the graphic arts takes stamina, resilience and patience. The Grand National is 7,141 metres long and horses (their riders in the saddle) must jump 30 fences, before approaching a final run up of over 400 metres, longer than any other steeplechase. The distance, run up and of course the number of obstacles blocking knowledge development in the graphic arts is immense. Some obstacles are bigger than others and require more careful negotiation.
Developing standards to improve printing and publishing’s environmental accountability is amongst the biggest obstacle for the graphic arts. It is the equivalent of Becher’s Brook, a fence in the Grand National that is 1.5 metres high at take off but drops over two metres on the landing side. In each case we must always expect the unexpected, if we are to continue and complete the course.
There are often many fallers and unseated riders in the Grand National. Many environmental initiatives to improve print and publishing’s environmental accountability have also come to nothing. Just as riders and horses make poor choices when negotiating obstacles, so it is in business. In both cases a lack of knowledge and resources will lead to expensive errors. Printers and print buyers who don’t have all the facts will make expensive mistakes that will cost them the race.
Understanding how to improve your business’s carbon footprint takes knowledge and commitment, just as training a horse to win the Grand National does. You simply must not be scared of how big the task is, or of the opposition. This year’s Grand National winner is Pineau de Re, an eleven year old owned by John Provan, who also owns a printing and packaging business. After the win he said: “It's fantastic, absolutely fantastic. We love taking on the big guys.” Let’s ignore the strength of the opposition and keep pushing on hard. That way we can all be winners.
– Laurel BrunnerVerdigris supporters who make the blog possible: Agfa Graphics (www.agfa.com), Digital Dots (www.digitaldots.org), drupa (www.drupa.com), EFI (www.efi.com), EcoPrint (www.ecoprintshow.com), Fespa (www.fespa.com), Heidelberg (www.uk.heidelberg.com), HP (www.hp.com), Kodak (www.kodak.com/go/sustainability), Pragati Offset (www.pragati.com), Ricoh (www.ricoh.com), Unity Publishing (http://unity-publishing.co.uk) and Xeikon (www.xeikon.com)