Mike Kaufman decided to go green for two very specific reasons: his young daughters.
“I thought it was important to show them that printing doesn't have to be an ink smudged industry. Our goal is to leave the planet in a better place,” says the president and founder of Cox Printers, a full-service printing company in Linden, N.J., that just happens to be one of the greenest businesses around.
“It all started when we were in a different location and I wanted to add solar panels to our roof. But I didn't own the building so I couldn't do anything about it. Then I bought this building six years ago, and knew I was going to be able to start fulfilling some of my vision of becoming a very green company,” he says.
The company actually began in 1907 when it was founded by Thomas H. Cox and son. In 1984 the Kaufman family bought it from the 3rd generation of the Cox family.
Kaufman says he always planned to run a high-quality printing business but what was almost as important to him was doing it in a sustainable, eco-friendly way, a trend that has caught on rapidly in foodservice.
“I initially wanted to differentiate my company from the competition. At the time, everybody was talking green, but it was mostly 'green-washing.' Everybody talks it but very few people walk it. That's not my personality. If I tell you I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it. So we really wanted to walk that path,” he says. “We became very green, and were recognized by other similar-thinking companies and people for our achievements. If a company is trying to decide who to use for their printing needs why not use a company whose presses are partially powered by his own solar system and wind turbines on the roof.
Kaufman’s commitment to greenness has struck a chord with many tri-state food service operators. The company prints menus for, award winning Neuman's Catering, out of New York, which is also very green. “We do printing and their promotional materials,” he says. “We share Neuman’s commitment to being green and their commitment to excellence.
“Being green doesn't allow me to charge more, but it lowers my costs in many cases because we are producing our own electric. As long as the sun keeps shining and the wind keeps blowing, we are getting the payback.”
Cox’s green strategy has evolved into a comprehensive agenda that has been lauded by many of the firm’s foodservice costumers. “Inside the building, we retrofitted and swapped out over 150 fluorescent light fixtures for high-energy. We also recycle our paper and actually track how many trees we save. All our wood skids and pallets are ground into industrial grade mulch with a goal of zeroing out our landfill. We even purchase carbon credits for all of our UPS shipments.
The Cox team has also committed itself to a common sense agenda. “If you're not in the warehouse, turn the lights off. It's a simple thing but we do it and you would be amazed at how much it saves. We recycle even our hand towels because they're clean and can easily be recycled. We also have worked diligently to minimize what we put in our garbage bin.”
Kaufman's two small wind turbines partially power his graphics’ department. “We consume a fair amount of electricity. The wind is blowing in Linden, but it's not the beach, where it's constantly windy. But the wind is blowing here, and whatever it produces, why not capture it,” he says.
Many of the firm’s food service customers are intrigued by Kaufman’s recently installed roof garden. “The weight of the plants was a big concern. Rather than have a big solid square, we outlined a little patio area, lined with succulent rooftop plants, and added annuals and flowers, and bees. My bees love the plants and flowers. I know that many chefs are now harvesting their own honey.”
The reason for the bees is a little different, but no less green. “Honey bees are dying. It's a serious issue, and I found a company: Bee Bold Apiaries that's doing beekeeping for people so I reached out to them,” he says. “I decided to try it, and the truth is, I love my bees. They're awesome.”
Kaufman says recycling and going green is, indeed, a major trend throughout the food industry. “Especially in the paper and plastic business, with all the packaging that goes along with foodservice,” he says. “You can't ever be too green.”
The company has had more than a little acknowledgment for its green agenda. “We won the Garden State Greenfest award for being a green business in New Jersey,” he says. “New York Reporter magazine recognized us as being the greenest business in the New York area. Cox Printers is infact a finalist for a “green” contest for the NJBIZ sponsored manufacturer of the year awards.
With the Cox focus on the needs of their foodservice customers they have taken a unique approach to the actual sourcing of paper on which menus are printed. “We simply will not use what he calls “virgin paper” out of Southeast Asia. “They're cutting down all the forests, there,” he says. “If you can't afford the extra $100 we charge for this, I'll pay it. I want to use reforested paper. There's more trees grown today in this country than 10 years ago and100 years ago.”
Like what a vegetable farmer does we are constantly growing and reutilizing the resources. We're supporting a whole recycling industry, growing, cutting, growing, cutting. If we don't use reforested paper, we're going to kill an industry and those landowners are going to put a Walmart up there, knock it down, put some concrete in, build condos. If landowners can't make money reforesting, they'll just knock the trees down and get paid for something else. I'm just one small company but if there were 5,000 other small companies out there like me, can you imagine the results,” Kaufman added.
It’s Kaufman and his Cox team’s passion that has made his firm a priority resource for food service operators that seek a truly green resource.