Next time you spot a leaflet campaigning against the closure of Temple Cowley Pools, or whipping up support for the local branch of the CND or Amnesty International, take a closer look.
Chances are it has been produced by Oxford Green Print, an ethical and
eco-friendly workers’ cooperative based near Cowley Road.
Unlike many commercial printers, who use petroleum-based inks containing solvents and other potentially harmful chemicals, only vegetable-based ink is tolerated here.
There is no paper waste, no chemical
wash-downs or toxic fumes and everything is printed on recycled paper bought from another workers cooperative.
Co-founder Deborah Glass Woodin explained: “It is much nicer to work with vegetable-based ink because you do not have to worry about it being toxic and the waste can go in recycling bins. Our machinery is all second-hand and we make it last forever.”
Just as importantly, with no shareholders to please, the members are free to turn down material or organisations they consider unethical.
She explained: “Someone came in with artwork for a talk about research into links between neuro science and post-traumatic stress disorder but the speaker was an army doctor and it did not feel right to support it.”
The business operates from a corner of a room stuffed with colourful sofas and bookshelves in the East Oxford Community Centre in Princes Street.
Working with Ms Glass Woodin is print technician Beth Tichborne who handles the Risograph high-speed ink printer, a model often viewed as ideal for schools, clubs, political campaigns and other short-run print jobs, because it bridges the gap between a photocopier and a commercial printer.
Next to it stands a rather battered-looking guillotine which does an excellent job of cutting printed matter down to size.
With a £30,000 turnover, Oxford Green Print will not give commercial printers sleepless nights but it does have plenty of satisfied customers and sees itself as fulfilling a community service, printing booklets, leaflets, posters, newsletters, office stationery and business cards for those who cannot afford an alternative.
And it never advertises, relying on past and present clients to spread the word.
As Ms Glass Woodin pointed out: “We don’t do books but we do pretty much anything else that is printed.
“Price-wise, we are pretty competitive for short runs of full colour or big runs of spot colour.”
The 52-year-old mother-of-two is a trained occupational therapist and there is a neat twist to the fact she has found herself in the print trade.
Her grandfather owned a print works in London’s Brick Lane and she remembers helping him collate pamphlets and calendars when she was a child.
The business that became Oxford Green Print was originally set up by the local Green party to produce cheap leaflets, although there is no ownership link now.
Once it became apparent there were many community groups interested in producing cheap leaflets in an eco-friendly, sustainable way, it blossomed.
At one time it was based in the back office of a business in Magdalen Road, before moving into a shop front, a few doors down the street.
That was back in the 1990s, when Ms Glass Woodin’s husband Mike was involved.
Mr Woodin, who died of cancer ten years ago aged 38, was national spokesman for the Green party and Oxford’s first Green councillor.
As a widow with two children under five, Ms Glass Woodin, who is also a former councillor for the Greens, took over the reins at Oxford Green Print.
She said: “The emphasis became to see if there was the market for an efficient, reliable, affordable and sustainable printer. It aims to offer a service that is not being provided elsewhere.
“We do printing for student groups who can’t afford to do it unless they come in and do the finishing themselves. It lets them put out some fairly radical publications.”
Officially, the work hours are 12-5pm Tuesday to Friday but she stressed there is a huge element of flexibility when it comes to deadlines.
“If people need us to come in earlier, or stay later, we are often able to do that,” she added.
Ms Tichborne, who started out as a customer before she ended up working there, pointed out: “When I was a customer and ringing up on a Saturday to ask if they could squeeze in 400 leaflets, they always came to the rescue.”
Ms Glass Woodin added: “Part of our ethos is we will help you if we can. We really like what we do, so if we can enable people to carry on doing what they do, that is great.
“It has always been about making cheap leaflets available for small groups with no money and it’s nice to be still part of that tradition.”
Sometimes, to meet those deadlines,
Ms Glass Woodin’s children, Talia, 14 and Rafi, 12, help her collate pages and stuff envelopes.
Talking of tradition, there is a neat symmetry to the idea of a third generation involved with ink, albeit green now.