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Making Sustainability Stick: Discount Labels works to preserve the planet.

You just got a request to bid 40,000 4-color paper labels on a 48-hour turnaround. It’s safe to say trees may not be the first things on your mind. 

But when you call Discount Labels for a quote, they’re on our minds, because using environmentally-certified, sustainable materials is a big part of who we are. So in addition to fast, high-quality, high-value printing, we can help you pass a special “bonus” on to your customers: that feel good moment that comes from knowing their labels are part of a sustainability program that’s working to save the world.

Discount Labels’ Inventory Manager Bryan Wills also spearheads our environmental initiatives. He says that of course, sustainability “just makes sense, from an economic bottom line as well as a human one. “

One big area is material sourcing. In the case of labels, that would be paper. Wills says, “I source all materials. We’re a big company, and we do a lot of work. About 80% of our orders ship the next day – if they come in before 5 today, they’ll ship tomorrow. To keep that level of performance, we have over 150 different materials on hand, in all the right sizes. Every single day I order tons of paper – on average, we receive 8 - 10 truckloads of paper every day.”

Wills says when you see that much paper, you know why Discount Labels makes a company-wide effort to use only materials and suppliers certified by the North American Forest Stewardship Council. 

Called FSC for short, this group’s mission is “to promote environmentally sound, socially beneficial and economically prosperous management of the world’s forests,” and has earned a reputation as the most rigorous, credible forest certification system available. 

Bottom line? Reforestation. To certify suppliers like the paper companies from whom we buy most of our stock, the FSC focuses on what’s called “chain of custody.” For our purposes, this is the path paper takes from the harvested tree to the end-user, requiring a demonstrated reforestation program for every tree harvested. To become Chain of Custody (COC)-certified, suppliers are audited by an independent third party approved by the FSC. If certification is earned, then the supplier can proudly display the FSC logo. About 3,500 U.S. suppliers have FSC certification, and Discount Labels makes it our business to do business with these suppliers.

“We do a lot of ROHS compliance here already,” Wills says. “Certain customers need to know everything about what we do. We also do FDA certifications for food-contact labels. If you want to put labels on tomatoes, you need the right kind of materials and adhesive, because it’s all about health. So in that vein of buying the best materials for the purpose, we also buy the most biodegradable materials for other purposes, too.”

“Of course, vinyl, polyester, polyethylene, and other labels that have to last for years outside, or in wet conditions like on water bottles … aren’t environmentally friendly. But we try.”

Wills keeps his fingers on the pulse of available materials, regularly asking suppliers how they’re progressing on more environmentally-friendly vinyl or adhesive products. And, because of Discount Labels’ enormous 1800-orders-per-day volume (and, we like to think, Bryan’s passion), they are listening. So watch this space, because when the right products are available, we’ll be offering them!

Another big Discount Labels initiative: recycling. With 1800 orders and millions of labels running through the plant every day, there’s a lot of recyclable material. Vellum alone was contributing to tons of waste each month. Now we partner with a recycling company to help turn that waste into reusable product.

Wills says that while recycled-paper label technology hasn’t really matured yet, he’s hoping it will soon. “We’re really looking into the recycled materials-area. It’s hard to get recycled materials for labels, but it’s coming along.”

Discount Labels is also working to use as many water-based inks as possible, and has been for years. Wills says, “We are striving to be a better company We’re striving to be the whole deal … to help this country, and this planet, do better. You have to do things now to help the world stay stable and moving forward. We don’t just live for today.”

 “We’re not just your partner, we’re partners with the planet. We’re helping our customers be more sustainable, and we’re making it easy. We’ll work with customers any way we can produce things more sustainably.” 

So next time you call Discount Labels with a paper-label order, you have another thing to feel good about: the knowledge that not only will your order be delivered fast, accurately, and expertly, but that it will also be earth-friendly.