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Modernistic, Inc.: Educating for Sustainability

Modernistic encourages clients to print green.




Founded in 1938, Modernistic ( was originally a die-cutting company. It eventually morphed into a screenprinting company, and 10 years ago the Stillwater, Minnesota-based company began getting into digital printing.

“Primarily our business was in point-of-purchase, so it was quick-turnaround,” recalls marketing manager DeAnn Strenke, “We also now do a lot of prototyping of different stores' signage packages. We'll print out one store's worth, and they'll set it up in a store near corporate headquarters, and the bigwigs will walk through.”

According to Strenke, Modernistic has always recycled its substrates (when feasible) and other manufacturing products. “Probably in the last 10 years we've been getting more into sustainability and lean business practices,” she says. “In 2008 we decided to look at the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership, and we got certified at the end of 2009. It's in our marketing piece, among our top three reasons 'Why choose Modernistic.' We're in the process of redoing our website to make that much more apparent.”

Beyond using its green initiatives as a marketing tool, Modernistic also educates its clients about sustainable options and encourages their use. “We make recommendations to our customers about what's out there as far as different materials they can print on,” says Strenke. “Say, for instance, a retail buyer was ordering a temporary sign and was used to doing it on a styrene substrate. We might say, 'You know, if this is only for a short period of time, it might make sense to run it on card stock.' Not only is that sustainably produced, almost every store has a cardboard recycling system, so the card stock will be much more recyclable than the plastic.”

But sometimes customers have their own reasons for declining to switch: “If you're switching from a styrene to a corrugated substrate,” Srenke explains, “the edge is no longer finished, so it has a rough kind of 'granola'-y feel to it. Some people like that, and it makes sense for some businesses to switch depending on their clientele – like it makes more sense for a natural foods market to use a recyclable substrate with an unfinished edge than it does for a high-end fashion chain.”




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