Environmentally friendly ink

"To tell the truth," says School of Art graduate Shari Shifrin '85, "owning a business was something I never wanted to do."

But when she worked for others, she quickly rose to a leadership role because she knew more about the business than anyone else. "I realized the value of the education I got at RIT. I learned about art but also the management side."

In 1989 she became co-owner of the company now known as Planet Ink Inc. in North Fort Myers, Fla. They produce organic cotton T-shirts printed with a patented botanical ink formula invented by Shifrin. Customers include many environmental groups. The development of the organic ink came out of a concern that inks used to print 90 percent of T-shirts contain toxic chemicals. "I've been a textile screen printer for 17 years," says Shifrin. "When my son was born in 1993 with minor birth defects, I began researching the effects of plastisol inks on screen printers. In 1994 I developed and patented a botanical, all-natural, water-based textile ink.

"A lot of what I came up with was founded right there at RIT," says Shifrin. "One of my professors, Donald Bujnowski, was very concerned about toxins in ink, and always insisted we wear gloves, goggles and respirators. When I called him years later when I was working on the formula, he was really helpful."

Today, Shifrin says, many people appreciate the value of Planet Ink's Earth-friendly approach. "When you go into business, I think you need to think about the customers and suppliers you'll be dealing with," says Shifrin. "I love being involved with people in the environmental groups."

For more information, see www.planet-ink.com.

The University Magazine, Spring 2001