Seacourt was a well-established printing company (having been launched in 1946) before becoming one of the first printing firms to achieve EMAS certification in 1999. The company has been recognised as ‘one of the top three leading environmental printers in the world’ by a worldwide printing association. They have won two coveted Queen’s Award for Sustainable Development.
We’re honoured to have Seacourt as part of our story. They are responsible for printing The Fableists’ clothing passports, which we told you about in a previous post.
We spoke to their Green Guardian, Lynda Willis.
The Fableists > So, wow! You really are the best of the best when it comes to green printing! Tell us how it happened that you changed from traditional printing to green printing back in the 90’s.
LW > Our then MD and Sales Director went to a printing conference and discovered that printing, the UK’s 5 largest manufacturing industry was classed in the same environmental risk industry as mining, oil and nuclear power. Imagine that multiplied throughout the UK and then throughout the world – scary stuff ! We decided there and then to clean up our act. The most radical change was the conversion to waterless printing. Our poor printers had to completely relearn their skills, it was a lot of hard work and needed a massive commitment from all the staff. But we stuck with it and have continued to improve our environmental performance.
The Fableists > You have won several awards and accreditations. How much do these help with winning business?
LW > It certainly helps because these awards are independently assessed so it supports what we do and gives value to the work we produce. It’s wonderful to have the recognition of the Guardian, SEEDA and of course her majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.
The accreditations keep us on our toes, EMAS for instance is difficult to gain in the first place and even more difficult to keep as you have to show continuous improvement. Over the last 15 years we have reduced our water consumption, changed to 100% renewable energy and were the first printing company in the world to achieve accredited zero waste to landfill, but we still have plans to do even more.
The Fableists > Do you find that businesses come to you as a result of your reputation for stringent green standards?
LW > More and more businesses and charities are looking for ways to improve their environmental performance. Frankly, changing to Seacourt is an easy win. Nothing has to change from the client’s point of view – the artwork is just the same. The client gets back a job which has been produced without water and Isopropyl alcohol, using 100% renewable energy, on 100% recycled paper using vegetable oil based inks, is carbon neutral and zero waste to landfill. Add into this bundle of goodies the fact that Waterless printing produces brighter colours and sharper text you can see why printing from Seacourt is a must for many organisations.
The Fableists > Everyone has been asking us about the rhino poo paper that we’ve chosen for our passports. Can you tell us how the paper is made?
LW > Yes, it’s a great product, and I think it’s probably the greenest handmade paper you can buy. Initially waste paper is collected from UK schools and colleges. The paper is de-inked but no bleaches or detergents are used. The resulting pulp is mixed with various elements which gives the paper its unique qualities, including petals, old bank notes, even rhino poo (collected from UK zoos). The paper is produced on a Fourdrinier paper making machine. Not only is the paper making green but it is ethical too: the ellie poo paper supports an elephant charity, and the denim paper is made from charity shop donations which cannot be sold.
The Fableists > What other amazing papers and surfaces do you print on?
LW > Exhibition and event graphics and banners are sadly still being produced with PVC (which for Seacourt is a no no), so part of my remit is to find environmentally responsible materials for our large format section. We have a biodegradable outdoor banner material with clear eyelets, and to complement our bamboo banner stands, a lovely bamboo fibre material.
For the digital and waterless printing most people just need a good 100% recycled paper, but recently we were asked to find a paper not just made in the UK but made from UK pulp, we found one and the client is delighted with the quality. Of course we have fun too, we have used paper with British wild flower seeds and for Christmas there will be Reindeer poo with conifer seeds!
The Fableists > We understand the paper is made using traditional techniques in a heritage building. Can you visit?
LW > Certainly you can visit, the paper mill dates back to 1803 and promotes and educates schools on sustainable living. Just call 01442 231234 for details.
The Fableists > What kind of ink did you use on our passports?
LW > We used a fluorescent green ink, in a pantone number specified by the brilliant creative agency, Brothers and Sisters [and designed by Freytag Anderson]. The vibrancy was a great contrast to the rough texture of the rhino poo paper. Apart from our 5 colour waterless press we also have single and two colour presses so that we can print pure pantone colours with vegetable oil inks based when specified.
The Fableists > Printing processes can have very harmful effects on the environment, from chemicals being dumped, to excess water usage. How is Seacourt different?
LW > Have look at our Naturally Responsible logo.
See all those 100%s? We carry that through all of over business, so it’s not just the printing presses that are waterless, so is our plate making and so is the urinal ! Although we use 100% renewable energy we don’t waste it and have light sensors in the building.
Without getting too technical, ordinary litho printing requires water which needs a wetting agent, this Isopropyl alcohol is nasty stuff, that horrid smell you get when you open a box of not waterless printing is produced by VOCs. We don’t use water, so we don’t need IPAs- simple stuff !
The Fableists > Seacourt is a pioneer in the field of green printing. Do other printing companies come to you for advice on ‘going green’?
LW > As a pioneer we are now so far ahead of the field that it is difficult for other printing companies to replicate what we do. It takes years and dedication to work sustainably in this industry so a lot of printers are taking short cuts. Sadly most of the so-called green printers just have basic accreditations such as ISO 14001, use recycled paper with vegetable oil based inks and call themselves a green printing company. There is no accepted definition of what makes a green printing company but we believe that it means a total belief in the ethos and values of sustainability and keep pushing the boundaries. Who would have thought it possible for a printing company not to send any waste to landfill?
The Fableists > From Seacourt’s perspective, does it feel like mentalities are changing and that more people are embracing greener, more sustainable practices in business?
LW > When we first changed our way of printing, climate change was not on the agenda. Now everyone has heard of it and it and is aware that we should all be doing what we can.
Most of us recycle at home without thinking about it, we may shop for locally grown or locally made produce, we insulate our homes and turn off the taps, but it is only quite recently that this care for our environment has come into the workplace, but it a gathering force for good. Most of our clients do come to us because we have the highest environmental standards, but we also have some who come to us for our service and quality. At one of our recent environmental seminars, one of our clients, who is a major producer of consumer goods, contacted us to say he had no idea that print was so damaging and he was going to specify waterless printing as standard. Of course we love working with charities and environmentalists, but that kind of convert makes our day.