18 Tips for Environmentally Conscious Publishing
1. Make “green” publishing company policy. That may sound daunting, but it can be done. Tyson Miller, director of the nonprofit Green Press Initiative (GPI), which helps publishers make informed environmental choices, suggests publishers make a commitment that demonstrates to printers, suppliers and mills that the market is shifting, and they will need to invest in developing new papers to meet the growing need. “Publisher commitments have been instrumental in the development of 24 new environmental sheets in North America within the last four years. The policy or commitment also serves to reinforce environmental responsibility as a priority in addition to creating cohesion within the many layers of a publishing company,” Miller says.
According to Miller, after making environmental responsibility a company priority, many “early adapters” have followed a process that includes the following steps:
2. Specify recycled paper. When Scholastic Inc. published 12 million copies of the U.S. edition of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the book was printed on paper that contained a minimum of 30-percent post-consumer-waste (PCW) fiber. Moreover, 65 percent of the 16,700 tons of paper used in the U.S. first printing was certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a global standard-setter for responsible forest management. When the book was officially released on July 21, its publication marked the largest purchase of FSC-certified paper to be used in the printing of a single book title.
In addition, the company printed 100,000 copies of the book’s deluxe edition on paper that was FSC-certified and contained 100-percent PCW fiber. All jackets were FSC-certified and contained 30-percent PCW fiber, and were manufactured using energy generated from wind power. For future printings of all books in the “Harry Potter” series, Scholastic plans to use paper with a minimum content of 30-percent PCW fiber and that is FSC-certified, when available.
“The vast amount of paper needed to print 12 million copies of the 784-page ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ made the decision by Scholastic to invest in environmentally preferable paper a significant step in the company’s ongoing commitment to responsible environmental stewardship,” says Kyle Good, vice president, corporate communications, Scholastic Inc.
3. Maximize post-consumer recycled content. Post-consumer recycled fibers come from recovered paper and are not to be directly sourced from ancient or endangered forests. “Publishers committed to eliminating the use of fiber from old-growth and endangered forests in their printed books will set goals and objectives to maximize their use of post-consumer recycled fiber,” Miller suggests.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Environmental Paper Network, publishers are encouraged to meet or, ideally, surpass these minimum standards when using recycled papers: uncoated minimum: 30-percent post-consumer recycled; coated minimum: 10-percent post-consumer recycled.
4. Maximize the use of certified virgin-free fiber. “… Publishers committed to eliminating the use of paper with fiber from endangered forests, preventing forest conversion and valuing indigenous rights, will set goals and objectives that incorporate recommended strategies for sourcing environmentally preferred virgin fiber,” says Miller.
• Where available, use paper certified by the FSC, which is generally accepted in the conservation community as the best practice standard for forest management, suggests Miller.
• If FSC-certified paper is not available, publishers should encourage suppliers to use chain-of-custody forms to track the source and origin of any virgin fiber, work in partnership to eliminate papers with fiber from endangered forests, and set goals for incorporating FSC-fiber into paper.
5. Think “outside the book.” Simon & Schuster Inc., which recently announced plans to increase to 25 percent or more the level of recycled fiber in its purchased paper by 2012, is making additional commitments to green publishing, including the purchase of shipping cartons made from 100-percent recycled post-consumer paper, the recycling of all inventory destruction as mixed-use paper, the use of recycled office materials, and other energy-efficient practices in its offices and distribution facilities. “These supplement the company’s ongoing efforts to carefully manage print runs and distribution, and to exploit the increased use of digital means for the production and distribution of content,” says Adam Rothberg, vice president, corporate communications.
6. Don’t be afraid of a price increase. “Using recycled paper seems like a no-brainer to me,” says Margo Baldwin, president and publisher of Chelsea Green Publishing. “That’s a mandatory thing to be doing, and consumers are willing to pay more if the book is on recycled paper. Studies have been done that show that.
“My advice is not to be afraid to use recycled paper because you’re adding only pennies to the retail price. And, tell consumers that you’re doing it. It is worth it to add a bit of cost to a book if you’re not cutting down trees. We even promote that on our books,” says Baldwin.
7. Discourage returns. With the price of oil soaring and increasing concerns about global warming, cutting down on returned books is an industrywide issue that needs to be addressed, says Baldwin. Chelsea Green tries to discourage returns through a partnership program the publisher has established with its independent retailers. Partnering retailers get first priority to authors [for author appearances/book signings], and they have a choice of receiving an extra two percent of each sale, or Chelsea Green will pick up the freight charges, which can be substantial, especially for the publisher’s West Coast stores. However, the partnership does not allow any returns. “They receive a lot of benefits as a result of the partnership and now they do more conservative re-ordering,” says Baldwin. “We work closely with them to promote our books. They are constantly on our radar.”
8. Reduce your carbon footprint—the impact your business activities have on the environment, measured in units of carbon dioxide. “In order to understand your carbon footprint, you have to conduct a rigorous carbon audit,” suggests Andrew Van Der Laan, director and senior project manger, Random House, Inc. “You must take a look at all the carbon emissions in your business, measure them. That will tell you how big an issue you have and highlight where you will get the biggest payoff by focusing your efforts.”
For example, measure how much electricity and natural gas your facility regularly uses; can it be reduced? How many employees drive to work alone? Can they carpool or take mass transit? How many business trips are taken that could be handled via Web conferencing?
9. Go paperless. The Simon & Schuster sales division recently launched an electronic manuscript program in which all sales reps have been given an e-book reader, replacing photocopied manuscripts. “Reps will now download manuscripts, and only those manuscripts that they choose to read. S&S estimates that this initiative has the potential to reduce the number of manuscripts reproduced for its sales division by 20,000 per year,” says Rothberg, who notes that a similar e-book reader program is currently being piloted by a Simon & Schuster editorial department.
Similarly, Harvard University Press has moved increasingly toward paperless production. “We don’t get copies of page proofs delivered by UPS to our door. Instead, we get a link from our typesetter where we download the file and forward it to our authors, proofreaders, etc. We do that even with bound galley printers. Everything is supplied as electronic copy,” says John Walsh, associate director for design and production at Harvard University Press.
10. Eliminate unneeded proofs. Harvard University Press no longer reviews printers’ proofs for all of its black-and-white books with noncritical halftones. Does Walsh feel comfortable doing that? “I can’t believe how many publishers are uncomfortable with it. You’re responsible for what’s in the file you provide the printer,” he says.
11. Proof electronically. While text may often be proofed electronically, Harvard University Press has gone one step further and proofs all of its jacket covers electronically. Except for the final proof, the publisher either distributes a portable document format (PDF) file by e-mail, or the jacket is proofed via a password-protected Extranet on an offsite server that allows anyone, regardless of location, to access the site, review the jacket cover, and share notes and comments with everyone else in the approval chain.
12. Travel the Web. Simon & Schuster’s sales division makes extensive use of webcasts, video and teleconferencing for key seasonal meetings, which significantly reduces their reliance on energy consumed for travel.
13. Turn the office “green.” Turn off computer monitors and printers at night to conserve energy. Replace traditional light bulbs with fluorescent bulbs. Set office lights on a motion sensor so they go off when no one is in the room. Disable “sleep modes” and screen savers from computers; turn them off instead. Cancel duplicate subscriptions and catalogs that are unneeded. Ask vendors to send invoices electronically. Likewise, send any invoices electronically as well. If possible, cut checks electronically, too.
14. Look for win-win opportunities. It’s important to achieve cost parity in any situation, and when it comes to environmental initiatives, costs have been significant enough to deter some publishers from their lofty ideas. To achieve cost parity, Van Der Laan suggests publishers prioritize their initiatives and rank win-win initiatives at the top of their “to-do” lists. “If you use less electricity, you’ll not only benefit the environment, but pay less for energy costs,” he says. “You’ll be surprised. There are a lot of those initiatives that are win-win.”
15. Partner with “green” companies and organizations. Scholastic worked with the Rainforest Alliance, an international nonprofit conservation organization, in making its decision to use FSC-certified paper and its continuing development of an environmentally and socially responsible paper-procurement policy.
Lisa Holton, previous president of Scholastic Trade Publishing and Book Fairs, says, “Scholastic worked hard with our suppliers and the Rainforest Alliance to secure this extraordinary amount of recycled and FSC-certified paper for ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.’”
16. Seek helpful resources. The GPI exists to support publishers in their environmental efforts. Paper, suppliers, printer lists and other tools are available online at GreenPressInitiative.org. “We provide tools and resources, planning and implementation assistance—day-to-day problem solving, and are a resource for support,” says Miller. “The GPI also works with printers and mills to continue developing an infrastructure for book publishers that meets production needs with the least environmental impacts.”
17. Set goals and benchmarks. “Publishers have the opportunity, through the products they choose and those they reject, to serve as environmental stewards in improving the production practices of the entire book publishing sector,” says Miller. “Establishing goals is the best way to provide clear signals and build alliances with the supply chain.” The process for implementation will vary between publishers; however, all publishers are encouraged to meet or exceed the following goals:
• By 2012, achieve an aggregate average (based on weight) of 30-percent recycled content (majority post consumer), and
• By 2012, utilize FSC (or equivalent) certified papers, for at least 20-percent of paper-use.
“Publishers are also encouraged to develop their own incremental benchmarks, which can assist in realizing the above objectives,” adds Miller. “For example, 20-percent recycled content, and 10-percent FSC certification by 2010; 25-percent recycled content and 15-percent FSC by 2011, etc.”
18. Communicate at all levels. To accomplish these goals, Random House’s Van Der Laan suggests reaching out to employees at all levels of the organization. “It is important to talk to people who are doing the actual day-to-day work because they understand the company’s processes and practices better than two or three people in a conference room ever could,” he says.
Cheryl Dangel Cullen, president of Cullen Communications Inc. (www.CullenCommunications.com), is a writer and author of 15 books on marketing, printing and graphic design. She is a contributing writer to scores of trade and consumer publications.