Some Businesses Start in a Garage, Others in a Bus


Today we are excited to have a guest blog from Roger Telschow, President and Founder of Ecoprint, a sustainable printing and mailing business located in Silver Spring, Maryland. Starting out of a bus in 1978, learn how Ecoprint emerged from Roger's passion as an environmental activist. Roger is a lifelong clean water champion, and has been a Potomac Conservancy member since 2000.


"When I rented a canoe from Fletcher’s Boathouse around 1980, friends poked fun, saying I’d be a dead man if I capsized and took a plunge in those toxic waters.  Fortunately for me, I stayed afloat!  But I never forgot how our hometown river had been so neglected."

"When I rented a canoe from Fletcher’s Boathouse around 1980, friends poked fun, saying I’d be a dead man if I capsized and took a plunge in those toxic waters.  Fortunately for me, I stayed afloat!  But I never forgot how our hometown river had been so neglected."

When I first came to live in Washington over thirty years ago, I was an idealistic political organizer working on environmental issues.  Many solutions to the important conservation issues of the day were being debated in our capital city.

It was astonishing to learn, in a city rife with progressives, that our Potomac River was one of the nation’s dirtiest (with President Lyndon Johnson dubbing it “a national disgrace” many years before I got here).

When I rented a canoe from Fletcher’s Boathouse around 1980, friends poked fun, saying I’d be a dead man if I capsized and took a plunge in those toxic waters.  Fortunately for me, I stayed afloat!  But I never forgot how our hometown river had been so neglected.

At that time of my life, I began funding my political activism by getting a small printing press, bolting it to the floor of our campaign vehicle (an old, reconverted school bus), and taking a few paying print jobs from friends in other nonprofits.  Of course, we printed our own propaganda in that bus, too.

The printing press was followed by other equipment and eventually the traveling print shop moved into the basement of a ramshackle old row house in downtown DC.  We still parked the bus in the back.  But Ecoprint was born.

Ecoprint—Environmentally Responsible Printing.  We were environmentalists running a business replete with solvents, ink, and other chemicals. We used virgin paper (and we knew how polluting paper mills were, especially in those days). There had to be alternatives that could create a “green printing” model of sustainability for our industry!

 
 

Over thirty years later, after many innovative changes, we have achieved much.  We’ve helped to create new paper products that set the bar for recycled content and chlorine-free bleaching, eliminated toxics in the printing process, and developed a line of inks that was free from heavy metals.  We began using 100% wind power in 2003.

Along the way, we have had the pleasure of serving hundreds of nonprofit organizations in our area that are changing our world for the better.

Potomac Conservancy is one of those organizations.  For over 20 years, the Conservancy has worked tirelessly with public and private interests to protect and improve our community’s life blood:  its water.  

I have been a contributor to the Potomac Conservancy for over a decade, and am pleased to have them as a client, too.  Ecoprint and the Conservancy share a common mission. What a great privilege it is to know that our work supports their good work!

So, I thank Potomac Conservancy whenever I raise a glass of our local tap water—and whenever I’m out in a canoe on the Potomac.