Monday, March 11, 2013

Paper: Color it Green

Do you believe that using paper results in forest destruction and overburdened landfills? Do you believe that papermaking is energy-intensive and creates pollution? Do you think that electronic communication is always better for the environment than using paper?

If you have been using assumptions like these as part of the decision making process on whether to use print in your business or organization, we’ve got some important information for you. Not only is paper not an environmental threat, it actually helps keep forests healthy and productive.

Paper is a renewable resource

According to the Forest Stewardship Council, the United States is the largest market for paper products in the world. The United States produces about 90 million tons of paper annually and consumes about 100 million tons. Material to make paper comes from three primary sources, each accounting for about one-third of the raw material supply: recycled paper, wood chips and scraps from sawmills, and trees and other plants. The trees used for paper come from forests grown specifically for that purpose.

One-third of the United States – 750 million acres – is forestland. Of that, 56% is privately owned; 39% by family forest owners and 17% by commercial growers. The remaining 44% is owned by the federal government (33%), state governments (9%) and county and municipal governments (2%).

The paper industry supports forests that are managed and continually replanted. Landowners plant about 600 million trees each year, surpassing the amount harvested. As a result, the amount of forestland in the United States today is about the same as it was 100 years ago.

Besides supporting the paper industry, forests provide wildlife habitats, capture rainwater, protect against erosion, absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, and sequester carbon. Just 400 trees can capture 140,000 gallons of rainwater annually. Approximately one acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon and puts out four tons of oxygen, or enough to meet the annual needs of about 18 people.

In its publication Sustainable Procurement of Wood and Paper Products, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the World Resources Institute pointed out that wood and paper-based goods are an environmentally sound choice.

Papermaking and the environment

Besides cellulose fibers (which may come from trees, recycled papers or plants), paper making requires water and energy. In the United States, nearly 60% of the energy used to make paper comes from carbon-neutral biofuels such as wood waste and wood pulping fibers and is produced on-site at paper mills. In the United States, the pulp and paper industry is the largest producer and consumer of renewable energy.

The cellulose fibers that are the raw material of paper are mixed with water to create a slurry that runs onto a continuously-moving mesh screen above a trough. As the wet fibers catch on the screen, the water falls into the trough and is captured, to be used again to create slurry. The wet fibers on the screen, which are beginning to form the paper, go through a series of dryers before being wound into rolls.

In each step of the paper making process, from tree chipping to drying, scraps of wood and paper – called mill broke – are collected and recycled back into the manufacturing process. Some rolls of paper are converted into paper products like envelopes. Any waste from converting is collected and sent back to the paper mill and used as a direct substitute for wood pulp with no additional processing required.

Digital media and the environment

The substitution of digital media for printed materials initially was seen as a better choice for the environment. But as new research emerges, there is growing recognition of the environmental concerns associated with electronics – among them, energy use and toxic e-waste from obsolete or upgraded electronic devices.

Environmental benefits of recycled paper

In the early 1970s, the EPA conducted a study on the benefits of recycled paper. The study concluded that using one ton of 100% recycled paper saves 7000 gallons of water, 4100 kwh of energy (which is enough to power the average home for six months), keeps 60 pounds of pollution out of the air, and saves 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space.

When recycled papers first came on the market in the 1980s, there was a marked difference in availability, appearance and performance between them non-recycled paper. Our customers complained that recycled paper jammed in their copiers and printers and had visible flaws.

All that has changed. Recycled paper now performs well on press and in copiers, laser and inkjet printers. Almost all paper mills make recycled papers, in grades ranging from high quality bonds and writing papers to commodity sheets.

Interest in recycling paper has grown steadily. The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) reported that in 1995, nearly 12 million tons of printing and writing paper were recovered out of nearly 29 million tons consumed – a recovery rate of 41%. By 2010, over 63% of paper consumed in the United States was recycled. Paper product recycling has become a major business, providing both economic and environmental value.

We use paper responsibly

For our part, we use paper responsibly. Like you, we conserve and recycle paper used in our business operations. In our production operation, we do even more:

  • We use standards for makeready and setups. Each printing job requires makeready – sheets of paper used to register the image and come up to color. Jobs with post-press steps like folding and cutting require setups. We have standards for the number of sheets needed for makeready and setups so we don’t waste paper.
  • We keep an inventory of house sheets. We select our house sheets with two things in mind – how well they perform, and their suitability for the kinds of projects our customers regularly order. This helps keep us from accumulating a lot of surplus paper.
  • We donate our surplus paper. If we have leftover special order paper from a job, we wrap it, store it, and donate it to schools who use it in classroom projects.

Don’t be afraid to use paper

We end with a quotation from Dr. Patrick Moore, the co-founder of Greenpeace and currently the chair and chief scientist of Greenspirit Strategies, Inc., and the author of Trees are the Answer:

Forestry is the most sustainable of all the primary industries that provide us with energy and materials . . . To address climate change, we must use more wood, not less. Using wood sends signals to the marketplace to grow more trees.

Make Paper With Your Kids!

If you would like to try your hand at papermaking, here is a recipe you can use at home.


  • Fine mesh wire screen (9”x12”)
  • Blotting paper (available at craft stores)
  • Basin or tray (10 qt)
  • Laundry starch
  • 30 sheets of facial tissue
  • Eggbeater or blender
  • Rolling pin
  • Electric iron
  • Scissors


  1. Tear facial tissue into the basin. In a separate bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of starch with 2 cups of water. Add to tissue along with 10 quarts of water. Mix thoroughly with eggbeater or in the blender.
  2. Dip the wire screen into the tray or basin and allow water to drain through the bottom of the screen.
  3. Dry the screen and wet pulp between two pieces of blotting paper. (The pulp sheet will stick to them so that the wire can be separated from the pulp sheet.)
  4. Press out excess water with the rolling pin.
  5. With the sheet still between the blotters, iron the paper on a low setting until it is dry.
  6. Trim the edges with scissors.

Basis Weight and Thickness

One confusing aspect of paper is its basis weight – the weight of a ream of paper (500 sheets) in the parent size. The parent size for bond paper is 17”x22”; for text, offset and coated papers 25”x38”; and for cover paper, 20”x26”. Each paper grade has a range of basis weights: 16#-24# for bond, 50#-70# for offset, 50#-100# for coated book, 60#-100# for text, and 60#-100# for cover. (Pounds is often indicated by using the # sign.)

Counterintuitively, the basis weight does not indicate the thickness of the paper. The thickness of paper is called the caliper, and it is measured in thousands of an inch and referred to in points. (This is different than the point size of fonts, which measures the height of characters.) One-thousandth of an inch equals one point, so ten-point paper has a thickness of 0.10 inch. Because the caliper of paper is not related to basis weight, a smaller-sized, thick sheet may have the same basis weight as a thinner paper in a larger parent size.

How Did Paper Making Get Started?

The word paper is from the Latin word papyrus, the Nile Delta plant from which Egyptians made their writing material. Known as a wetland sedge, papyrus-based writing material was abundant but fragile and susceptible to damage. It gradually gave way to parchment, a writing material made from animal hides.

What we know today as paper – writing material made of pulp, rags, and plant fibers – was invented by the Chinese almost 2,000 years ago. The plant material they used was bark, primarily from the paper mulberry tree.

For thousands of years after its invention, paper was made by hand and relied heavily on rags as the main fiber ingredient. It wasn’t until the 19 century that steam-driven papermaking machines were developed and wood became the main source of fiber.

Paper Keeps Forests Healthy and Productive

Over the years, we have noticed a trend that we applaud: our customers are requesting recycled papers as part of a heightened sense of how their buying decisions affect the environment. We have a personal understanding and appreciation for paper that makes us happy to see this turn of events.

At the same time, we are dismayed by the conventional wisdom that paper use must be curtailed to protect the environment – particularly when this notion causes our customers to forego the benefits of using printed materials for sales, marketing or other purposes. Evidence shows that paper – the product of trees grown specifically for papermaking – is a beneficial, renewable resource.

Please understand, we’re not advocating you waste paper. But we do feel strongly that printed material, including direct mail, still has an important and valuable role in helping businesses and organizations reach their target audience. After reading this post, we are sure you’ll agree.

EDDM: Direct Mail Made Easy

If we told you there is an easy way to send direct mail pieces without having to buy a mailing list, would you be interested? If we added that the postage cost for the mailing could be under 15 cents, would we have your attention?

Let us introduce the United States Postal Service (USPS) program Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM). Originally launched in March 2011, it has been steadily growing in popularity as a direct mail tool.

What is EDDM?

It is a mailing sent to every residential unit (house, apartment, condominium or mobile home) and business in a specific geographic area.

  • The geographic area is one or more USPS letter carrier routes or one or more entire zip codes – basically a specific neighborhood, zip code or city. Letter carrier routes vary in size from under 100 to over 1,000 addresses.

  • Because the mail piece goes to every single residence and business, the USPS does not require that each piece have its own address. Rather, it only has to have “Postal Customer”.

In mailing parlance, an EDDM mailing is a saturation mailing using the simplified address format. A mailing with these characteristics is very efficient for the USPS to process because it bypasses postage cancellation, address correction, and mail sorting steps and goes straight to the individual letter carrier. In recognition, the USPS assigns a very low postage rate to these mailings – as low as 14.5 cents per piece as of December 2012.

What’s in it for me?

There are several benefits to an EDDM mailing, especially for business owners with a very limited marketing budget and very little time to spend on marketing.

  • No mailing list is required. This saves the cost of acquiring a list, the cost of addressing, and the cost of maintaining the list.

  • Small mailings can be quickly produced. Most city carrier routes are 400-600 addresses. By eliminating the time to gather a mailing list and address the mail piece, and by using digital equipment for printing the mail piece, a small mailing can be in the hands of prospective customers in just a few days.

  • No postage permit is required. Regular presorted mailings require use of a permit in order to send mail at discounted postage rates. For EDDM, the USPS waives this requirement.

  • The mailing panel can be very small. Because the mail piece does not go through normal mail processing, there are few requirements for the location and size of the mail panel (the area containing the return address, indicia and outbound address). Note, however, that there are requirements for the wording of the indicia and the simplified address.

  • The mailing can be directed to residential addresses only. Even though a carrier route or zip code may have a mix of residences and businesses, it is possible to exclude the businesses from the mailing and send mail only to residential addresses. It is not possible to do the reverse and mail to businesses only.

One limitation of EDDM is that it cannot be used for business-only mailings. It is simpler to consider EDDM for residential or a mix of residences and businesses.

Size of an EDDM mail piece

The USPS has established a classification system for mail based on physical characteristics – height, length, thickness, weight, shape and flexibility. Simply stated, mail pieces are classified as letters, flats or parcels.

  • Letter mail has a maximum dimension of 6.125 high x 11.5 wide. Some familiar sizes for letter mail are a #10 envelope and postcards measuring 4 x 6, 5 x 7, 5.5 x 8.5 or 6 x 9.

  • Flat mail is a mail piece that exceeds the maximum dimension for letter mail in either the height or width. The maximum dimension for flat mail is 12 x 15 inches. A 9 x 12 or 10 x 13 envelope are examples of flat mail.

  • Parcels exceed the height, width, thickness, weight or flexibility limits for letter and flat mail.

EDDM mail pieces must meet the physical characteristics of flat mail. This means that some mail pieces commonly used for direct mail marketing – such as 4 x 6, 5 x 7, 5 ½ x 8 ½ or 6 x 9 postcards, trifold brochures or #10 envelopes – don’t qualify for the EDDM program. (They could, however, qualify for reduced postage rates using a presort discount.)

What size can be used for an EDDM mail piece?

  • The length of the mail piece must be greater than its height.
  • Its overall measurement cannot be more than 15 inches long and 12 inches high. 
  • The mail piece must be either greater than 10½ inches in length or more than 6¼ inches in height.
This means a mail piece measuring 8½ x 11 qualifies for EDDM, as does 6½ x 9.

Uses for EDDM

The USPS designed EDDM to appeal to smaller businesses that haven’t used direct mail marketing in the past because of the cost. By eliminating the need for a mailing list, simplifying preparation, and offering a very low postage rate (14.5 cents per piece), EDDM is an affordable marketing tool, especially for local businesses offering a product or service that people use regularly and whose customers and prospects come from an area adjacent to the business.

Here are the kinds of businesses most likely to benefit from EDDM:

  • Restaurants and Fast Food
  • Dry Cleaners
  • Hair Salons, Spas and Barber Shops
  • Real Estate Firms
  • Gyms
  • Retail and Service Businesses
  • Drug Stores and Pharmacies
  • Clothing Stores and Boutiques
  • Banks
  • Jewelers
The target audience could be in a residential neighborhood where the convenient location of the business is a selling point, or in a mixed residential and business area for businesses offering services that people might use before and after work or during lunch.

EDDM can also be used for community service or other legal notices when the object of the mailing is to reach a residence or business rather than a specific individual. For new businesses, EDDM is a great way to notify neighbors of the business’s products and services or to extend an invitation to a grand opening. In some instances, EDDM may also be appropriate for political mailings.

Design and printing of EDDM mail pieces

If you would like to try an EDDM mailing, you can use us for design and printing of the mail piece. This provides several advantages over doing the work yourself. We will guide you through a series of questions to help formulate the sales message, with emphasis on the fundamentals of direct mail marketing – an answer to the question What’s in it for me? from the perspective of the mail piece recipient, a call to action, a sense of urgency, and an eye-catching design with the proper balance between text, graphics and white space. If you want to try EDDM, but you’d rather not learn how to do all that, we can handle the mailings for you.

For businesses that regularly mail newsletters or postcards to their customers using standard addressed direct mail, EDDM may be a way to prospect for new customers who are the neighbors of existing customers. With all these possibilities, EDDM is a great marketing tool for many businesses. For more information and to discuss how EDDM benefits your business, call Brigid or Marya at (215) 923-2679 or email

Increase Sales on the Cheap

Want an inexpensive way to increase sales by expanding into a new market located in a well-defined geographic area? I urge you to take a look at Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM), a new program from the United States Postal Service. EDDM is an outreach program aimed at helping businesses with small marketing budgets use direct mail as an effective way to promote their products and services.

The USPS launched EDDM in March 2011 after making changes to postal regulations to allow the use of the simplified address format in city mail delivery routes. To help make EDDM a success, the USPS heavily promoted the program using self-mailers, in-person presentations, and online seminars.

And it worked. According to Paul Vogel, USPS president and chief marketing/sales officer, as of January 2012 EDDM mail was approaching the one billion mark and had generated $270 million in revenue in 2011. If you aren’t familiar with what EDDM can do for your business, give me a call at (215) 923-2679 and I’ll bring you up to speed.

Using EDDM Regionally and Nationally

Because of the requirement that an EDDM mailing be entered at the destination post office or a bulk mail unit that serves the destination post office, it is most convenient for local mailings. However, if you need to mail regionally or even nationally, you may still be able to use EDDM by using the USPS service Priority Mail Open-and-Distribute (PMOD).

This service allows you to use Priority Mail to transport prepared EDDM mail to the destination post office. It is easy to use. After preparing the EDDM mailing for bulk mail acceptance, the mailing is put into a USPS-approved container, marked with a special barcoded label, and entered at a bulk mail entry unit. The charge for Priority Mail postage (which is in addition to the EDDM postage) is based on the weight of the mailing (excluding the tare weight of the container) using the standard Priority Mail distance-based pricing.

I use direct mail and fully comply with “do not mail” requests. How are those handled in the EDDM program?

We commend you for being sensitive to the wishes of those who don’t wish to receive marketing mail. For mailings using the simplified address format, the USPS cites market research indicating that such requests are minor. Even so, the USPS offers a way for mail recipients to opt out of simplified address format mailings. The recipients notify the mailer, who in turn notifies the destination post office using the same processes as those used for notification on rural routes. If a mail recipient has opted out of simplified address format mailings, your EDDM mailing will not be delivered to their address.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Saving Money On Print

Saving money is of interest to any business owner and to anyone who
is managing a budget. So in this post we offer our take on how to best manage your printing costs.

You may wonder why we’re interested in helping you cut the amount of money you spend with us. The answer is long term relationship. We are a local, family-based printing company. That means we see, talk to, help and visit with our customers. We’re the printer you go to for advice, options, answers and true assistance with a printing order.

And we love that! We strive to build efficiency and accuracy into our production processes which means our quality and on-time delivery performance meets or exceeds that of our competition (whether local or Internet). What we add – what makes us different from our competition – is exemplified by this post  – we provide you with the information you need to manage your printing needs and printing budget. We look forward to serving you.

Are There Trade Customs For The Print Industry?

Printing industry trade customs are a set of best business practices prevalent in the industry but adopted by each individual business owner voluntarily.

They include guidelines for digital-asset-management issues, terms and conditions of sale, including estimates, orders, delivery and production schedules; and a glossary of the industry’s most common workflow terms.

Like trade customs, the purpose of the best practices is to act as a framework so that printers and their customers can discuss and develop a clear understanding of how they will do business. When printed on the back of an invoice, they become the Terms and Conditions of Sale.

Jason Lauts Joins the Team

Please help us welcome our newest team member, Jason Lauts! Jason has significant experience in electronic media.

Jason grew up in Montgomery County before he moved to Chester County for High School. He went to Clarion University where he studied Philosophy and Computer Science. At Clarion, he worked for his school newspaper and radio station gaining experience in print media, public speaking and communications.

Jason likes working with computers and technology. He says, “That’s why I went to Clarion University for Computer Science. I picked Computer Science because it’s like a giant riddle, just waiting for you to solve it.” He is also a “people person”. During the summer, Jason volunteers at Junior Friends Conference Summer Camp at George School in Newtown, PA. He works with children from 1st grade through 8th grade as a Camp Counselor to ensure their safety and that they have a fun experience. Currently, Jason works in production where he does everything from answer client questions to printing and bindery to delivering completed jobs. 

Jason is currently living in Roslyn, PA with his brother. He enjoys reading a lot of different kinds of books like Atlas Shrugged, Lord of the Rings and Me Talk Pretty One Day. Jason also spends a lot of time with his family now that he’s living in the area again. Jason is excited to be working as part of Creative Characters team and he cannot wait to see what lies ahead.

Please join me in welcoming Jason Lauts to the Creative Characters team! Jason can be reached by phone at (215) 923-2679 or by email at 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Please Let Us Know!

As we have stated, it is very important to us to deliver your printing order exactly as you expect it – on time, as ordered, and at the price agreed upon. While we will never knowingly deliver a substandard product, there may be times when you are dissatisfied with the job, for whatever reason.

When this happens, please let us know! We want and need to know when you are unhappy with our work. If we print a job that isn’t satisfactory, it could be because the communication between us wasn’t clear. For example, if you placed an order for 1000 2-part carbonless forms, we take that to mean 1000 sets, or 2000 sheets of carbonless paper, while you may have thought you were ordering 1000 sheets of paper, which yields 500 sets. We want to know about any misunderstanding so we can take appropriate action.

Next Time You Order...

Ask us to look at your history to see if you can save money by changing quantities. Actively managing your inventory of business stationery and forms is a great way to avoid the stress of last minute ordering and to stay within your printing budget.

  • Estimate a 3-6 months supply. We recommend you order enough to last between three and six months.  Less than a three-month supply and you are foregoing cost savings that result from a longer print run. An easy way to estimate is to ask yourself how many of this item you use in a specific interval (per day, per week, per month).

  • When you order an item, ask to have it included in our reorder reminder system. We’ll check your order history, predict when you might be running low, and notify you when it is time to reorder.

  • When reordering, ask us to price additional quantities. Our computerized estimating and pricing system makes it easy to recall a job from history and to produce a current quotation using multiple quantities. Then you can evaluate the tradeoff between storing an item and the cost savings of a longer print run.

If you need help developing reorder quantities, contact Brigid or Marya at (215) 923-2679.

Secrets to Saving Money on Printing

Are you the person who buys printing for your company or organization? If so, we should talk! Whether you are ordering business stationery, functional forms and documents, or marketing materials and sales collateral, we’d like to help you get the most from your printing budget. Keep reading to learn our secrets to saving money on printing.

Printing = Manufacturing

Printing is a custom manufacturing process. When we fill your order, we aren’t taking something off the shelf and shipping it to you. We start from scratch each time, with paper (either blank or preprinted, like business card shells), ink or toner, and a digital file to be printed (either provided by you or retrieved from our secure archives).

All printing jobs have at least two manufacturing steps: prepress and printing. The prepress step uses a digital file (usually a PDF) to create a raster image. Printing is the output and reproduction process, which may be done on an offset press or a digital printer.

Depending on the project’s requirements, it may require finishing such as trimming, folding, stitching, drilling, binding and assembly. Jobs being printed for the first time may need design and preflight.

Like all custom manufacturing jobs, printing requires clear, unambiguous specifications that guide the manufacturing process. These include the type of paper, the ink color(s), the finished size of the printed piece, and any finishing work required. For each printing project, the specifications are based on the choices you make.

Custom manufacturing takes time, and haste makes waste. Recognizing this, we have developed production standards that tell us how much time to allow for each step in the manufacturing process. Our production standards aren’t arbitrary; rather, they were developed to allow our production team enough time to read and understand the job specifications, decide the best equipment to use for the job, and operate the equipment in a manner that produces quality results while ensuring operator safety.

Can we speed things up when necessary? Can we pull rabbits out of hats and perform minor miracles? Of course. But that’s exceptional work, not our production standard.

Printing = Partnership

We learned long ago that being dependable is the most valuable thing we can offer you. Our goal is to deliver your printing on time, as ordered, and at the agreed-upon price. But we need your help to do this.

  • Tell us the real due date. We will have your job done at the agreed-upon time – period. That means you don’t have to pad the due date  because we might be late. If you prefer to have all printed materials in-hand a week before the meeting at which they will be used, we understand and will have the jobready. If you intend to pick up the job on your way to the meeting, we also understand. Either way, we won’t let you down.
  • Respect the price we give you for the job. We don’t pad our prices. If you find a lower price somewhere else, it is because the specifications changed (even though you may not know it) or the other printer may specialize in that particular item. Can we shave the price a bit to meet your budget? Possibly, especially if you are a regular customer. Will you get us to lower our price by announcing you can buy it for half as much somewhere else? Not likely. Instead, we’ll congratulate you on finding a better price for that item and suggest you take the deal. 
  • Provide what we need from you by the agreed date and time. Remember our production standards? They are the basis for developing the timeline. When you are providing a PDF file, text, photographs, illustrations, mailing list, or postage deposit – we will give you an interim due date for each item. The interim due date is when we must receive the item to stay on schedule and be ready on time. If others in your company are responsible for some of these, we suggest you share the interim due date with them so you won’t be late. You be on time and we’ll be on time.
  • Provide your files in industry-standard format. Microsoft Word is an industry standard for a report, but not for a brochure or a mailing list. Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop are industry standards for drawings and illustration or color correction and photograph manipulation but not for page layout. Some programs can make print-ready PDFs; others cannot.

A special word about design, file repair and desktop printing: our job is to make you look good in print, and we take this seriously. We want all your printed materials to represent you well and for your branding to be consistent. That is why we may suggest that you let us design your new printed piece, or redesign an older one that needs refreshing. We may suggest redrawing a pixelated logo or creating a digital file of a document that currently exists only as hard copy. We may also offer to print something that you have previously printed yourself on desktop equipment.

We make these suggestions as part of our job as print professionals. We will always provide a cost estimate and will not proceed with work you have not authorized. Most of the time our suggestions are based on a short-term or one-time expense that we can demonstrate will save money in the long run.

The secret to saving money on printing

So what is the secret to saving money on printing? Simply this: find a printing company whose equipment and capabilities match your needs and develop a relationship based on mutual responsibility and trust. Learn about printing as a manufacturing process so you can provide inputs and evaluate suggestions. Be a key liaison between your company and the printing company. And give us a call at (215) 923ac-2679 to learn just why we are that printing company.