A Call to All Publishers
The book-publishing industry faces a new challenge: to improve its ecological footprint—significantly. The call was brought upon the industry by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Green Press Initiative—a nonprofit group that promotes environmentally responsible practices in the publishing industry—and was announced at the recent Book Expo America in Chicago.
Currently, the industry uses less than 5 percent recycled paper. That's 5 percent of an average of nearly one million tons of paper consumed each year by the book-publishing industry alone. The industry's consumption of non-recycled paper produces 5.2 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions and the loss of 19 million trees each year. It also contributes to the loss of Endangered Forests in the United States and Canada, according to the Green Press Initiative.
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Specifically, the new challenge urges book publishers and industry stakeholders to:
- Reduce waste.
-Eliminate the use of Endangered Forest fiber.
- Increase the use of post-consumer recycled fiber from an industry average of 5 percent to 30 percent by July 2008.
- Preference papers that are processed chlorine free (PCF).
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If this recycled fiber-use goal is reached, the annual savings will be:
- 4.9 million trees
- 524 million pounds of greenhouse gases
- 2 billion gallons of water
- 388,137 pounds of hazardous air pollutants.
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"The EPA has launched resource conservation challenges in other sectors that have helped to create real changes," said Dave Hockey, EPA's director of the Resource Conservation Challenge Program. A similar challenge in the electronics industry is helping to create a nationwide electronics recycling infrastructure.
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THE HARD PART
The challenge that was presented to the book publishing sector is one that all institutions and individuals face—how to prosper without negatively impacting the social and environmental systems that sustain us.
Yet today's consumer is making that challenge easier to accomplish. Research suggests that those companies that proactively take up the cause will also benefit financially:
• 83 percent of U.S. consumers said they would refuse to invest in a company with negative corporate citizenship practices, and 76 percent would boycott that company's products (Cone Corporate Citizenship Study, 2002).
• 70 percent of consumers say they would not buy from a company if they didn't think that they were socially responsible (Walker Research, 1998).
Representatives from New World Library and Chelsea Green Publishing were also on hand at Book Expo to address the challenge. Each addressed the fact that producing books in an environmentally responsible way is a part of company values. Some publishers are able to achieve complete cost parity when switching to environmental papers. Others end up paying slightly more.
For New World's eight new fall 2004 titles, the added cost is $24,790—or approximately 10 percent more due to paper-stock costs. This adds an average of approximately 10¢ per book.
New World Library's president and co-founder, Marc Allen, said, "I feel strongly that every profitable company should support both community and worldwide causes." His company is indeed abiding by this philosophy. It also donates a portion of company profits to charitable causes and uses solar panels to provide power for company operations.
READERS WILL SUPPORT THE MOVE
For those publishers who end up paying more for ecologically responsible paper, there is evidence that this cost can be subsidized by readers. Polls commissioned by the Green Press Initiative and Markets Initiative (in Canada) show that consumers are willing to pay more for books with strong environmental characteristics. A poll of 1,800 randomly surveyed North American consumers revealed:
- 78 percent are willing to pay more for books printed with environmental integrity.
- The median amount that readers are willing to pay is $1.00 more per book.
Printers and manufacturers are already making ecological improvements, building momentum for environmentally responsible book publishing. There are now a number of suitable publishing papers in existence, and more in development. Almost 130 North American publishers have made commitments that are helping to lighten the footprint of their industry. Nearly
6 million books were printed on recycled and Endangered Forest-free paper in 2003.
Despite this growing trend, large and multinational trade publishers have yet to commit to the goals of the Green Press Initiative. Both the EPA and the Green Press Initiative are looking forward to continuing to work with publishers, large and small, and others who are willing to meet the challenge.
Tyson Miller founded and directs the Green Press Initiative and serves on the steering committee for the Environmental Paper Network. He can be reached at: Tyson@GreenPressInitiative.org.