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Stella Color practices sustainability in Seattle

Graphics | January 1, 2011 | By:

Lynn Krinsky, owner and president of large-format printer Stella Color, is used to people saying they can’t remember her name, but they know she’s the one with the dog on the card.

Founded more than two decades ago in Seattle, Wash., Stella Color was named after Krinsky’s dachshund, who is immortalized in the company’s logo, along with the “Small dog, big color” slogan. It’s a branding strategy that has worked, and Krinsky is sticking with it.

“We had somebody who I was going to possibly consult with who told me that my business card with the little dog on it was too cartoonish—so I got rid of him!” she laughs.

There is a lot more to Stella Color than a memorable dog. While every company these days talks a green game, Stella Color has put sustainable business practices into action on every level—from eco-friendly substrates and inks to employee lunchroom habits. In doing so, the company earned certification from the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP).

“SGP certification stresses that you run your business with processes you can measure and take corrective action,” Krinsky says. “We study our electric bill, we recycle, we also compost our food, and we’ve all gotten to where we watch each other—we look at the trash can and say, ‘Why isn’t that piece of paper in the recycle bin?’”

About 25 percent of the company’s work involves fabric graphics with a wide range of applications, but part of the movement to be “green” involved choosing alternatives to solvent inks, such as Latex and UV inks. With the economy being the biggest challenge facing the company, sustainable business practices and eco-printing options are ways that Stella Color has differentiated itself from competitors, Krinsky says. Still, pricing bids competitively while being able to earn a profit when some printers lower prices to the point that profit margins disappear, is a daily struggle.

“We try to be careful we don’t go too low, because what’s the point of keeping your shop busy, and then when you get a real job in you don’t have the time to do it,” she says.

Equipment maintenance is one area where being green and being efficient in a challenging economy intersect, Krinsky says.

“By putting systems in place you can look at, you can measure, you can check off, not only do you know it’s getting done, but you know all of your equipment is going to last longer, you know your quality is going to be better,” she says. “That’s a real sustainable business practice isn’t it? It’s keeping things in line.”

Jill C. Lafferty is editor of InTents magazine and a freelance writer and editor based in Burnsville, Minn.

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