With a background in design and one successful entrepreneurial venture already behind him, Dan Mulligan decided in 1996 that he wanted to change the way the printing industry worked – his bit of it, at least. That’s when, together with his wife Jenny, he founded YellowDog Printing, which is now a shining example of a small business that has built its success by addressing the increasing demand for business services that are both environmentally friendly and cost competitive.
The printing industry has long had a grim reputation from an environmental standpoint because of the high toxic chemical content of conventional printing inks and the solvents used to clean the presses. Less obvious from a waste standpoint is the fact that the very expensive printing presses used by traditional printers require long set-up routines, which themselves generate a large volume of waste paper as operators tune the presses to the desired print outcome.
Long print runs are also required to reduce the fixed set-up cost to an acceptable level per page printed, which often leads to the printing of excessive quantities of things like brochures and flyers.
For all these reasons, the volume of wasted print stock in traditional print shops is huge; much of it is hard to recycle because of the toxic nature of the ink.
Dan knew that the then-emerging digital print technologies would drastically reduce, or even eliminate entirely, the waste and cost associated with these eco-damaging operations and that it would also offer customers the flexibility of being able to print small batches cost-competitively and permit them to make frequent minor changes to the printed material they needed.
Named after Maggie, a yellow Labrador who amiably guards the entrance to the company’s shop), YellowDog set out from the beginning to be the printer of choice for companies committed to creating a supply chain that shared their environmental values.
Once the business had grown to the point where cash flow would permit, Dan and Jenny began to purchase credits from Renewable Choice Energy to offset the electrical energy used in his operation – which in many cases was dramatically lower than the considerable demands of the presses in a comparably-sized traditional shop.
He has now extended this policy by purchasing offsets from the Colorado Carbon Fund to cover the carbon emissions of his delivery vehicles. Energy-efficient lighting contributes to low electricity consumption.
YellowDog’s monthly waste cost averages no more than that of a normal office operation. The company uses Alpine Waste to recycle cardboard packaging materials while plastic printing material waste is sent to Boulder Path for repurposing into a variety of consumer products.
Ink and toner cartridges used by the printing machines are, without exception, returned to the OEMs for cleaning and refilling, while printing equipment is typically returned after 4-5 years of use to these same OEMs under a leasing arrangement in exchange for updated models.
The company is thus able to rely on the programs of global giants like HP and Mimaki to responsibly handle obsolete electronic equipment and ancillary supplies. These arrangements also enable the company to take advantage of the latest digital printing technology and to avoid a major challenge confronted by most traditional printers associated with expensive legacy equipment that they cannot afford to replace and that compels them to stick to the wasteful, eco-unfriendly, economies-of-scale driven practices described earlier.
Dan handles the company’s business development effort, much of which consists of involving the company with the activities of local green and sustainability organizations such as CORE and the Colorado Cleantech Industry Association.
Not only does this enable him to demonstrate the firm’s commitment to enhancing the cause of sustainable business, but it also exposes the YellowDog name to companies in these organizations that are likely to be seeking vendors with a demonstrable commitment to sustainability. Janus Funds and Red Robin count among the company’s largest customers.
YellowDog has been unable to afford the cost involved in obtaining one of several “green” certifications available: (Rain Forest Alliance and the Forest Stewardship Council will both audit printers and certify that their practices are in accordance with their standards).
Historically, this posed a challenge in securing business from very large corporations, many of which demanded this type of certification as part of their efforts to green their supply chains. Dan and Jenny have found, however, that in the past few years they have been increasingly able to demonstrate the sustainable nature of the firm’s practices without obtaining certification.
During a decade when thousands of traditional printers have gone out of business, YellowDog has prospered and grown steadily as a result of its sustainability-based strategy. It now has ten employees and is nicely positioned to provide the kind of lean, flexible, just-in-time, eco-friendly services required by more and more companies seeking green vendors as part of their own commitment to environmental and social responsibility.
If you’re looking for a green printer, visit YellowDog at: www.yellowdogprinting.com
Bark on, Green YellowDog!