SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITY - Coffey's green efforts include people, practices, products

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When Coffey Communications Inc. claimed the grand prize among local businesses in the Green Commute Competition this past spring, the company's event organizers were a bit surprised.

After all, Coffey was taking part in the event to support the community and the environment, and the local competition hadn't been mentioned when discussing participation with employees.

That well over half of the more than 100 Coffey employees who arrived to work on Green Commute Day did so via bicycle, on foot or other "green" modes of transportation was no surprise, though, to those who work here. The company is known for focusing on the health of its employees as well as the health of the environment.

That focus is evident in the workplace as well as in the actual products and services Coffey provides, says Alan Coffey, chief executive officer.

Light work


Incorporated in 1975, Coffey creates publications and websites devoted to health care. Considering the dozens of computers used for desktop publishing, along with the printing presses, bindery equipment, lights and air-conditioning units, Coffey recognized in the late 1990s that its greatest energy need was electricity.

So the company installed automatic switches that turn off lights when rooms are not in use, used heat-reducing ballasts in light fixtures and reduced the number of fluorescent tubes by replacing them with longer-lasting, more powerful tubes. By 2006, even with an increase in energy needs brought about by a new press and more air-handling units, the company's electricity usage was still down 10 percent from what it was in 1999.

Paper-pinching practices


At the recommendation of Jane Coffey, president and chief operating officer, the company recently provided employees with step-by-step instructions on how to use double-sided printing for documents sent to office printers capable of implementing this paper-saving technology.

Staff in our Walla Walla offices were already relying on a paperless process for writing and editing stories. In the fall of 2008, a new system developed in-house allowed remote writers to file and retrieve documents electronically as well. In addition, any research material not already available in electronic form is scanned and stored on computer-based file servers, and the original paper documents eventually recycled.

Proofs of customized health publications, formerly printed out and mailed, have for the past several years been sent to clients electronically as portable document format/PDF files. Of course, PDF technology was also the key to paperless submission and tabulation of the company's Green Commute Day participation forms.

Planet-minded printing


Print is still in high demand by clients, and Coffey generates an estimated 60 million pieces of printed material per year, says Bob Morgen, Coffey's vice president for manufacturing and distribution.

Coffey follows the guidelines of the Forest Stewardship Council, an international nonprofit organization that promotes responsible management of the world's forests. Per FSC guidelines, all pulp used for paper comes from approved forests and contains at least a portion of recycled content, Morgen explains. A handful of Coffey's clients choose to use 100-percent recycled paper, he adds.

All of the printing plants used by Coffey across the country also adhere to FSC guidelines. In addition, those printers make use of soybean-based inks, which are better for the environment than petroleum-based inks, Morgen says.

At Coffey's own printing facility, recent installation of a new plate processor promises to drastically reduce the volume as well as the number of times that chemicals used by the processor need to be exchanged. Using fewer chemicals "makes for a stronger, environmentally friendly alternative," Morgen says.

Coffey's print division also works closely with Walla Walla Recycling, Inc., to recycle all paper and cardboard, notes Jeff Paff, Coffey's print production manager.

People power


Employees at Coffey have separate containers for recyclable and nonrecyclable items at every workstation. Recycling bins for plastics, glass and paper are strategically placed throughout corporate buildings.

A bike rack is available to help encourage cycling commuters (although it couldn't hold all of the bikes on hand when two avid cyclists on staff offered a bicycle maintenance session prior to Green Commute Day). Many employees spend their breaks walking the loop in front of corporate headquarters at 1505 Business One Circle.

Coffey staffers take part in a number of environmentally and socially aware events. In the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Coffey sent employees as part of a Habitat for Humanity crew that worked to rebuild communities in the Gulf Coast.

Since its inception, Coffey's mission statement has been "to communicate health and health care information for the enrichment of people's lives."

That goal now encompasses enriching and sustaining the environment we live in.

Kevin R. Stauffer has been employed at Coffey Communications Inc. for the past 23 years.

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