How Lexmark does green

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While many companies have environmental sustainability programs and pledges these days – it’s finally cool to be green – Lexmark has taken their environmental pledge to the next level by including their employees and community in an effort to “go green”.

Based in Lexington, Kentucky, residents of the community and around the world can see Lexmark’s pledge not only to “provide innovative, high-quality printing solutions and services for our customers in a safe, environmentally responsible manner” but to “extend our support of community, where Lexmark employees are dedicated to creating cleaner, smarter, safer futures where we live and work.”

Lexmark also invested over $400 million – 8 percent of their revenue – in creating products, solutions, and services that promote sustainability while creating the “re.” mantra: reduce, recover, reuse, and recycle.

To achieve this goal and to live up to their four “re.” promise Lexmark has three main areas of focus: Product and Customer Solutions, Operations, and Community.

PRODUCTS AND CUSTOMER SOLUTIONS
In this particular area Lexmark believes that “reducing the environmental impact of our products through all phases of the product life cycle” can help achieve their goal of sustainability while producing more efficient products that can save consumers money in the end.

So when the company began in 1991, they immediately started the Design for Environment Program, a product development program with green practices in mind.  Design for Environment is a series of built-in specific checkpoints to make sure products are meeting Lexmark’s Product Environmental Specifications (PES).  The PES can be considered sort of a checklist of materials that can or cannot be used in development and, if allowed, how much of each material is acceptable in any given product. 


Lexmark life cycle through end of life

PES goes beyond product development; Lexmark holds outside manufacturers accountable to their specifications as well.  To guide sustainability with their products they follow  RoHS guidelines and are validated by a third party company based out of Europe, BIOS Intelligence, which follows ISO protocols.

But how does Lexmark come up with new ideas for Design for Environment? Through a thorough evaluation Lexmark calls a Life Cycle Assestment; it’s basically an examination of the entire life cycle of a product – from the moment of inception to the end of life.  A whole picture idea of how the company creates, the manufacturers distribute, and the consumer uses and disposes.

Speaking of the consumer, Lexmark offers several recycling programs to their customers.  Lexmark will take back inkjet cartridges, toner cartridges, and hardware through their collection programs. 

The Lexmark Cartridge Collection Program began in 1991 with toner cartridge collection.  Today, Lexmark recovers 4 out of 10 toner cartridges worldwide and 5 out of 10 in North America.

Inkjet collection began in 2004 but by 2007 the program had achieved a 500 percent growth.  As of this writing, Lexmark’s collection program enables consumers in 50 countries to recycle cartridges, representing 90 percent of their global market.

Cartridge recycling is free and customers can even receive a discount on cartridges by participating in the Lexmark Return Program, guaranteeing that the cartridge will be returned only to Lexmark.

Lexmark will also recycle your printer for free, provided you pay the shipping and handling required to send the printer back to the company.

The company also participates in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sponsored program, Plug-in to eCycling.  The program is based on a partnership between the EPA and consumer electronics manufacturers, retailers and service providers offering consumers ways to donate or recycle used electronics for free.

OPERATIONS
Lexmark owns facilities on three continents; that includes laboratories for research and development, manufacturing and distribution centers, and offices for administrative services and sales support.

So as you might imagine, that can make regulating sustainability practices a tad difficult.  Lexmark focuses their in-house practices on four core areas: pure air, energy efficiency, water conservation, and waste minimization.

Pure air is the focus on reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions through programs like Climate Leaders, an EPA sponsored partnership between industry leaders and the U.S. government.  The goal of Climate Leaders is to help companies reduce their impact on the environment by analyzing their current emission levels and then establishing a timeline for reduction of emissions.

Energy efficiency is not just about creating for efficient products but by making the factories that assemble products efficient as well.  Lexmark accomplishes this by purchasing and using renewable energy – overhead solar lighting can cut costs and reduce energy compared to the fluorescent lighting found in many offices today.  It might also improve morale (although that is my own personal opinion because fluorescent lighting makes me feel gloomy).

Lexmark conserves water by tracking their usage in facilities and then setting goals to reduce overall consumption.  But it’s not just about limiting water used; it’s also about keeping the water clean and coming up with new ideas.  A Lexmark facility in the Philippines actually uses “grey water,” water captured from roof after rainfall, for watering their landscapes and running their toilets.

Lexmark creates products that help offices reduce waste and through their in-house operations they are doing the same.  The company focuses on limiting waste in facilities, reusing or recycling waste materials that are created in the manufacturing process and when that isn’t an option, they try to dispose of the waste using environmentally preferred methods. 

In-house programs include: facility recycling programs, use of duplex and scan-to technology in office, test labs will print actual documents for schools or non-profits instead of test sheets, purchases recycled content for new construction or renovation projects, and new innovative cartridge facilities reduce the liquid waste stream.

COMMUNITY
Lexmark believes that being a responsible neighbor and employer starts with “good management practices that help us reduce our environmental impact, improve workplace safety, promote our employees’ health and well-being, and provide opportunities for us to contribute to the quality of life in the communities where we live and work.

The biggest way they do this?  By getting their employees involved.  All Lexmark employees are eligible for three additional paid days off to do good works in their community through Lexmark sponsored projects. 

Projects include: the Cane Run Creek Cleanup and the Reforest the Bluegrass in Lexington, Kentucky; the Olango Island Mangrove Reforestation in Philippines; Tree Planting in Serra da Lousa, Portugal; and the LifeGate Impatto Zero, LifeGate Energy in Italy to name a few.

Lexmark also celebrated Earth Hour on Earth day this year by turning off the lights in all their facilities worldwide for one hour.

For more information on Epson sustainability practices, visit Lexmark.com or check out their 2007 Sustainability Report

For more information about green practices, visit our Green Info Center of visit our Earth Day 2010 roundup.

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