Green Publishing

This post has been cross-posted from InDigital, the online magazine for the Society of Young Publishers. It was written by Chris Boor, Co-Chair of the Oxford SYP

Seacourt printing awards

The wall of awards

It’s not easy being green. Or so a frog puppet with ping pong ball eyes once informed me. However, since the song’s debut in 1970, the environmentalism movement has grown from tiny shoots into a tree whose branches overshadow almost all aspects of 21st century life. Green issues have been prominent for some time now, certainly in terms of public awareness, though how much progress has been made is a matter of debate for greater minds than this one.

Following on from last month’s speaker meeting on green issues in publishing, Gareth Dinnage, MD of Seacourt Printing, invited the Oxford SYP to come and visit his printers. So one fine Tuesday evening, he and his colleague Vanessa very generously showed a dozen of us around his company.

After a brief introductory talk, we were shown the meeting room, dominated at one end by the ‘wall of fame’, a collection of the numerous (and growing) certificates and awards presented to Seacourt. After all, to borrow the words of a global beer brand, it is probably the leading environmental printer in the world. Which might sound like an easy claim to make, but it is certainly in the top three and as the only one with zero waste, it seems like a fair assertion. Oh, and Gareth was off to meet the Queen later in the week to pick up an award for being an industry leader, and if it’s good enough for Her Majesty, it’s good enough for me.

Where the Magic Happens

Seacourt Printing

Where the magic happens

We then headed downstairs to see where the magic happens. Firstly we were shown the digital print room, where we were talked through the print process for smaller jobs. In contrast to traditional printers, Seacourt uses lasers and silicon on their print plates, rather than water and highly toxic IPA (isopropyl alcohol, not, I was pleased to find out, Indian Pale Ale, which is an altogether different and more tasty form of alcohol). All of this new technology does not come cheap, and there is a complete lack of government legislation to enforce better environmental practice. But as Gareth pointed out, Seacourt is living proof that it is a viable business model.

The death of print?

Gareth also expressed his belief that the death of print has been very much exaggerated and that digital is not the only way forward. Certainly there are question marks over its effectiveness as opposed to print, not to mention a lot of myths about digital being more sustainable. As Seacourt has next to no environmental impact, it is difficult to argue against this notion and this thought reduced us to a contemplative silence for a while.

printing press

One printing press

The main press room was a bit of a surprise to someone who has frequented a few different factory floors over the years. It was nice, bright, airy, and by necessity kept at a constant temperature and moisture level all year round in order to be able to print this way. The press works in a similar fashion to traditional presses, with rollers applying colours one at a time as it moves down the line, only without the associated health risks from the chemicals found in most inks. And as we could testify, vegetable inks, recycled paper and all the rest of it definitely produce the goods – there is no loss of quality for the environmental principles.

“I only came for the worms”

And finally onto Gareth’s self-proclaimed favourite part of the tour – the bins. The company has, impressively, produced no landfill waste since 2009. Absolutely everything is recycled, from paper and ink, to printing plates and aerosol cans. All food waste goes to the wormery, which we also got to see. As one happy punter put it, “I only came for the worms.” The by-products are then harvested for fertiliser and compost, some of which the more green-fingered amongst us were able to take away with them.

environmentally friendly ink

Environmentally friendly ink

The question we all wanted to know, though, was whether this could be applied elsewhere and how we could all help to make changes at our respective employers. As Gareth pointed out, Seacourt proves that it can work and this is for a manufacturer, not an office, and that the methods are transferable. He rattled off a list of things that anyone can introduce – recycling, car shares, cycle schemes, light sensors, rainwater harvesting, renewable energy, to name but a few. The hard part, he confessed, is persuading people to take action, but by taking one step at a time, big changes can be made.

Filled with a new sense of purpose and determined to do our bit, we left in a positive mood, ready to change the world. The message was a simple one: it is easy to be green and you’d have to be a muppet not to realise that.


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