According to the US Energy Information Administration the country’s energy related CO2 emissions are rising. So much for all that green-speak; more a bath than a wash. But it might not be as bad as it seems because increases of 2% to 3% are actually small relative to overall US growth which has been pretty muscular over the last couple of years. Historically growth and emissions rates are similar so these increases are progress of a sort from the world’s biggest polluter.
Print’s contribution to the rise is hard to quantify, if not impossible because few other developed economies have such a large and sprawling print industry. How many of the many printers in the US strive to quantify their contribution or their CO2 emissions is unknown, but it’s unlikely to be very many. Even the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership hasn’t got this data, so perhaps it would be a good idea to track our industry’s emissions. This is an opportunity for local associations to provide interesting economic growth information and a measure of progress in reducing print’s environmental impact.
So how might that work in the US and elsewhere? It starts at local level, with emissions gathered to build up a national picture. Encouraging printers to capture and share the data, would be a first step in calculating benchmark CO2 emissions values. Printing companies, manufacturers and industry associations could begin with their own efforts, and take it from there. There would need to be some sort of database, say an online list where companies could post their emissions, the time period for the measurements and information about their set up, how much energy the company used and the generation method, such as coal, hydro or renewables.
This last sounds complicated but energy companies in developed economies can provide the necessary percentages. For instance in the UK the Green Energy company supplies electricity entirely generated using renewables, but most big energy providers have a mix. This last would have to follow a standard method for doing the calculation, so that we could be certain that the numbers weren’t fudged. It would need to include energy sources, transport data and the size of the factory. ISO 14064 provides the parameters for how a company can quantify its emissions, however it is a daunting document and one that few graphics companies are likely to bother with. An easier start is to simply measure energy and report its sources. Maybe this is a project associations and manufacturers should be thinking about? Our industry should be able to provide the data that governments use to measure CO2 reductions, and to demonstrate our own progress.