BBI International becomes carbon-neutral

By Timothy Charles Holmseth | March 17, 2008
The carbon footprint that is left by printing BBI International Inc.'s publications has been neutralized. Joe Bryan, vice president of media, said the company has implemented an environmentally friendly, carbon-neutral printing process.

BBI addressed the carbon-neutral issue in 2007 and was surprised at the difference some basic changes can make, Bryan said. The company prints its magazines and directories at R.R. Donnelly. Just a change in the type of paper had positive results. "The carbon output in the production of the paper that BBI was originally using per issue (one individual magazine) was 49,102 pounds of carbon dioxide," said Timothy Portz of R.R. Donnelly. "The carbon output for the new paper is 32,155 pounds. The savings is 16,947 pounds, the equivalent of taking two cars off the road for a year."

BBI, which publishes six trade magazines (three monthly, two bimonthly and one quarterly), in addition to two annual directories and two biannual wall maps, implemented its carbon-neutral plan for the printing of the 2007 directories. Bryan said when Portz explained the effects of the change in paper after the first printing run, he was stunned. "It was unbelievable," Bryan said. "For that one publication, it was enough to power four houses for a year, just by changing the weight of our paper." BBI clearly views paper as an operational necessity, Bryan explained.

The printing run of the directories was the springboard that started a complete printing overhaul. "Tim explained to us that if we invested 'x' amount of dollars, we would be one of the very first publications in the country to be completely carbon-neutral," Bryan said. "We knew right away we had to do it."

Portz said the collaborative effort between R.R. Donnelly and BBI is the real deal and not just what he called "green-washing." He said the unflattering title is used when companies try to hang a green marketing message on something that's not truly worthy. "We spent a lot of time getting an accurate assessment of [BBI's] carbon footprint as it stood before we took over," he explained. "We drew a baseline and then developed real strategies to drive out real carbon. It wasn't just, 'OK, here is the carbon footprint. Let's buy offsets. See you later.' We came up with a manufacturing strategy that reduced [BBI's] total cost [and] reduced the environmental footprint. We cut the carbon footprint nearly in half."

Portz uses a special calculator (found at to determine paper reduction results and impacts. For example, in order to print 7,800 copies of a 168-page issue of EPM on 70-weight paper, it requires 18,655 pounds of paper. BBI changed the weight of its paper to 50, and it increased the amount of recyclable content in the paper to 30 percent, he explained. "The total weight of paper (used for printing) becomes 13,325 pounds," he said. The calculator also indicates how many trees were saved. Previously, one issue of the magazine used 24 tons of wood. After the paper change, that number was decreased to 13 tons. "That saved 73 trees," he said.

The calculator also determines the impact on total energy, purchased energy, sulfur dioxide, greenhouse gases, nitrogen dioxide, particulates, hazardous air pollutants, volatile organic compounds, total reduced sulfur, wastewater, biochemical oxygen demand, total suspended solids, chemical oxygen demand, absorbable organic halogens and solid waste.
Bryan said BBI is very pleased with the results of carbon-neutral printing, and the company will continue to implement viable and environmentally friendly projects whenever possible.
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