‘Soy’tainly’ We Can Get Greener: Businesses Dig Deeper

boiled_soybeanSoy is quite a bean. While it’s small in size, its impact is huge. Self Nutrition Data reports that soy flour is very low in saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol and is a good source of essential vitamins like thiamin and iron. It is high in dietary fiber, protein and folate, among other things. While there have been concerns that too much soy is bad for certain organs, overall it enriches our body with essential nutrients.

Soy is appetizing in its unripe, green form called edamame. It creates a tasty cooking stock and provides a fine alternative to dairy products. But this little bean does a whole lot more than the general public may be aware. It aids manufacturers to produce greener products and services. As businesses attempt to minimize their toxic chemical emissions, the public becomes more sensitive to environmentally conscious products and their respective processes. Take for example the use of soybean oil in printing inks and industrial paint.

Don’t Stop the Presses

Petroleum-based inks came into question in the late 1970s as a way to lower costs. The Newspaper Association of America found soy ink to have valuable benefits and high quality. Cleantechnica.com reports that 25 percent of printing companies today use soy-based ink. While certain forms may not be completely biodegradable, soy ink is an excellent alternative to petroleum-based inks because of its low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOC) which can cause cancer and birth defects, according to the EPA. VOCs are released into the soil of landfills and into the air when materials are trashed.

VOCs = very bad. The Printers’ National Environmental Assistance Center lists benefits to vegetable-based inks like soy:

  • High quality, brighter colors
  • Less likely to build up on printing plates
  • Greater stability
  • Flexibility in press settings
  • Greater coverage per pound of ink
  • Less waste
  • More forgiving
  • Faster to change from dark to light color
  • Better adherence to recycled paper
  • Easily de-inkable, producing less hazardous sludge

A number of health-conscious printing companies don’t stop at using friendlier ink. By offering recycled paper with post-consumer content, they are saving landfill space while consuming less energy and water. One company uses vegetable-based inks, 100 percent wind power and other innovative green printing practices. Montana-based PrintingForLess.com says it built an environmentally friendly business from the ground up, which has enabled it to keep prices low.

Painters Rejoice

When it comes to the painting and coating industry, soy and other vegetable oils win again. Manufacturers produce high-performance oils from linseed and soybeans for consumer products including primers, paints and stains. Paint strippers, like Franmar’s LEAD OUT Lead Paint Remover, contain soy and are 100 percent biodegradable. They render heavy metals and lead paint non-hazardous. The website touts the disposal to be easy and inexpensive. And, unlike traditional paint strippers, a soy-based product reduces odor, making it tolerable to apply.

The EPA states that when toxic products that contain VOCs are used inside a structure, they persist in the air long after they are released. What does this mean to you? Health effects include nausea, headache, eye, nose and throat irritation and internal damage to the liver, kidney and nervous system. Epa.gov goes on to mention that some VOCs can cause cancer in animals and possibly humans. The further away we can get from coming into contact with chemicals like this the happier and healthier we can be.

Guest post by Jim King
From a large family of farmers, Jim supports sustainable living, organic farming practices and knowing how to live off the land. He writes from his home in New Hampshire.

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