Marshall Atkinson estimates Visual Impressions has saved more than $860,000, since an initial push into sustainable printing in 2011. It’s no wonder then that the Milwaukee, WI-based shop has become the first – and only – apparel decorator to earn a certification from the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (www.sgppartnership.org). “It’s kind of like getting the Energy Star stamp on your printing facility,” says Atkinson, chief operating officer of Visual Impressions. “It’s a big deal.”
Visual Impressions’ green strategy has been to focus on making little changes wherever possible – and meticulously tracking every process in the shop. “It’s more death by a thousand cuts than one magic bullet,” Atkinson explains. The shop launched a recycling program in 2013, diverting just under 80 tons of materials from landfills. Every two years, Visual Impressions schedules an energy audit with its local utility to pinpoint areas where energy is being wasted.
85% of the 25 billion pounds of textiles generated each year in the U.S. end up in a landfill.Source: Council for Textile Recycling, weardonaterecycle.org
The shop saves $700 a month by cleaning squeegees and other screen-printing parts with a bio remediation process (www.chemfree.com), where microbes essentially eat excess ink, converting it into water and carbon dioxide. Rather than use masking tape to protect screen frames, Visual Impressions outsources to a company that inserts a special caulk between the mesh and frame. The process saves the shop about $7,000 a year in masking tape costs. A commitment to being green, Atkinson says, requires a lot of time and effort. But, “Once you start doing this, you realize you were wasting so much. … By trying to get orders out of the door, you were stepping on dollar bills without realizing it.”
Visual Impressions in Milwaukee, WI, has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in the four years since the shop made a commitment to sustainable decoration.