Magazine Article


Going Green
Manufacturing processes, product lines, facilities-everyone's climbing onboard the environmentally friendly bandwagon

Fujifilm established a one-time-use camera recyclable center in 1990. By 2006, 61 million one-time-use cameras had been recycled. "We take the batteries out and test them," says Joe Vaughy. "If they can be reused, they are. If they can't be reused, we recycle them."

Thirty-five percent of Unibind's products are made with recycled materials, and the company has implemented recycling programs at both its Belgium and U.S. operations.

Epson uses recycled products and collects and recycles waste in an effort to minimize the company's impact on the environment.

About 1 billion printer cartridges are manufactured yearly (most designed as single-use disposable products), so there is progress made in this area as well. IQcartridge, for example, has teamed up with the Meijer retail chain to help the environment. Meijer has installed ink cartridge refill stations in their photo and electronics departments so customers can drop off the cartridges in envelopes and pick them back up refilled the same day.

LexJet's inkjet cartridge recycling program provides a free and convenient method for returning and recycling used inkjet cartridges. The company provides consumers with prepaid shipping labels and envelopes; the customer can then call UPS for free pickup. The majority of returned cartridges are reused for the production of ink replacement cartridges. In the event that a cartridge isn't reusable, LexJet will undertake waste stream procedures to ensure proper dismantling and recycling of the cartridge components. In either case, LexJet's processes ensure that toxic ink and solid waste are not disposed into landfills and that recycled plastics are properly accounted for and transported to recycling centers.

MediaStreet has also started a recycling program, taking back used Epson cartridges from dealers. MediaStreet will pay 50-cents for each returned cartridge.

Spreading Eco-Info

With all of these various initiatives in the works and planned for the future, it's imperative that manufacturers continually relay information to their employees to keep them in the environmental loop. Olympus, for example, promotes in-house education with its "environmental management system," which develops basic environment plans for every year and medium-term plan every three years.

Other environmental education Olympus provides annually includes training for internal auditors on ISO 14001 certification; environmentally conscious product seminars for designers; green procurement and purchasing seminars; and prominently featuring of environmental issues in company news. The annual Olympus Eco-Forums for senior management and executive-level employees allows participants to share information about environmental planning and the results of the company's environmental initiatives.

Fuji is another example of the big guns' commitment to disseminating eco-info to its employees. "We do a lot of individual programs and printed materials, as well as post information on our website," says Celia Spence. "Our Sustainability Report is on our site, as well as our Green Report."

The Fujifilm Group is dedicated to providing its employees with in-depth knowledge about the environment. Special environmental e-learning programs have been in effect for the past few years, with educational materials available in several languages for Fuji's global workforce. Every year, Fujifilm also holds an Environmental Forum for the presentation of initiatives related to the latest environmental technologies, environmentally friendly products, activities to improve the environment, and legal regulations in Japan and elsewhere.

Green Partnerships, Events, and Contests

Teaming up with ecofriendly organizations or sponsoring green events is one way manufacturers can both appease Mother Nature and customers who are looking for companies blazing an ecoconscious trail. For instance, Canon lends its support to a wide range of environmental and youth programs designed to conserve the planet's limited resources for future generations. This includes the Canon National Park Science Scholars Program (which awards doctoral dissertation scholarships to the next generation of scientists in the field of conservation, environmental science, and park management); the Canon Envirothon (one of North America's largest high-school environmental education competitions); the PBS Nature series; programs at Yellowstone National Park; and many additional local programs.

Lowepro actively supports a variety of organizations, including Amazon Watch, The Conservation Alliance, Native Planet, and Raincoast Conservation Society. To commemorate Lowepro's 40th anniversary, the company established a philanthropic partnership with Polar Bears International (PBI), a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the polar bear through education about global warming and its devastating effects on the species. Toward this goal, Lowepro developed the Primus AW, the world's first camera backpack made of mainly recycled material, with 10% of the proceeds to be donated to PBI. [Editor's note: At press time, we received an update from Lowepro that the company will be handing a check to PBI for more than $43,000 and will continue their fundraising efforts in 2008.]

In support of the recent launch of its Bamboo fine-art paper line [see our accompanying products section], Hahnemühle set up its Green Rooster website ( Customers were able to log on and propose an environmental project through 2007, and now users can vote on their favorite project through the end of 2008. Hahnemühle will then donate a fixed amount, depending on project size, from the sale of each Bamboo paper product with a green rooster logo toward this project at the end of the campaign (companies can also support this initiative by becoming a Green Rooster Partner).

Nikon got in on the environmental action by cosponsoring the 2006 World Eco-Friendly Rally, an event that organizes hybrid-car rally racing and a sports event combining biking and marathon. The monthlong eco-event, which took place in the Mt. Qomolangma (Mt. Everest) region, included such challenges as driving a hybrid car alongside a gas-driven car to compare the effects of both cars on the environment.

The Save the Earth Foundation partnered up with Sakar, with the foundation endorsing the Sakar Eco Trends product line (featuring digital camera, computer, and MP3/iPod accessories), while Sakar will feature info about Save the Earth on all of its Eco Trends packaging.

Laptop computer casemaker Targus has partnered with Dell in the computer company's Plant a Tree for Me program (, launched to offset the CO2 emissions from consumers' computer equipment. Targus will donate a portion of the proceeds of every eco-friendly Grove case sold by Dell to the program. The Grove cases are part of Targus' overall Eco-Smart initiative, which involves key aspects of the company's operations, from implementing a recycling program and utilizing energy-efficient light bulbs to taking a more ecofriendly approach to product packaging, such as using recycled and recyclable materials.

PNY Technologies has teamed up with the National Geographic Society to be a Mission Partner and the "Flash Memory of Choice" of the Emerging Explorers Program through 2010. The partnership kicked off with the intro of a new line of PNY-brand high-speed flash memory.

Olympus participated for the fifth time in Eco-Products 2007, Japan's large-scale environmental exhibition. Using the circle as its theme (with the company as a manufacturer on one hand, and ecoconsciousness on the other), Olympus's display included new packaging technologies and information on environmentally conscious manufacturing and Olympus environmental initiatives.

The company also boasts the "Global Warming Witness-Mitsuaki Iwago Special" website (, which informs the public about the effects of global warming as observed by wildlife photographer Mitsuaki Iwago.

If you've ever doubted the commitment of these major manufacturers to the environment, or thought, "Well, what difference could one company make?", these initiatives should put those doubts to rest. "We were at the forefront of this before it was mandated," says Fujifilm's Joe Vaughy. His colleague, Celia Spence, concurs: "If you don't have support from the top, you don't have a chance of getting initiatives through. Fujifilm has always supported this from the top."
Bill Pearson, president of Cobra Digital, perhaps most eloquently explains his feelings toward environmental action. Pearson has always been concerned about the impact his company's manufacturing facilities have on the environment, and he supports the Arbor Day Foundation and encourages his employees to do likewise. His take on the whole green scene? "I may be one person, but I'm one more that this planet needs."

What Is the Ecological Footprint?

According to Global Footprint Network (, the Ecological Footprint is a resource management tool that measures how much land and water area a human population requires to produce the resources it consumes and to absorb its wastes under prevailing technology.

Today, humanity's Ecological Footprint is more than 23% larger than what the planet can regenerate. In other words, it now takes more than one year and two months for the Earth to regenerate what we use in a single year.