Guest Column: 8 Steps to Going 'Green' Without Seeing Red
4. Reduce and reuse.
Given all of the interest in recycling lately, it’s easy to forget that “recycle” is actually third on the list of tiered priorities (reduce, reuse and recycle). One publisher keeps the idea of “reusing” top of mind by making its interoffice envelopes out of discarded design layouts. Another reduces company waste by composting in the office. Others, of course, have reduced the basis weight of the papers they use, recognizing the large cost and environmental opportunities around paper.
Look for ways to reduce or reuse in your operations and production processes, because efficient use of resources saves dollars and carbon emissions. This might be by switching light bulbs in offices or warehouses—compact fluorescents use 60 percent to 80 percent less energy than standard incandescents and can save you about $30 to $45 over the life of each light bulb you buy. Or, it may be by printing double-sided (saving on paper costs), or any other number of efficiency improvements. And if you’ve already made progress doing this because of cost-savings initiatives, find ways to make those temporary reductions permanent even after the economy rebounds.
5. Talk to your employees.
Employees are the in-house experts who see waste and inefficiency firsthand, and more often than not, already have ideas on how to improve. And they’re going to be the group that’s asked to implement whatever environmental improvement initiatives you develop, so involving them early makes twice as much sense.
6. Understand government regulation.
Book publishing has been relatively free of environmental government regulation so far, but increasing concern about worldwide deforestation and sustainable fiber supply has led to legislation like the Lacey Act, which created civil and criminal penalties to protect plants and wildlife, including those that have been illegally taken, possessed, transported or sold. It soon will apply to books printed overseas. While publishers that use best efforts to source fiber from legitimate sources—in particular, certified sources—should avoid civil or criminal penalties, finished books made from dubious fiber sources could be seized as evidence. No one wants to explain to accounts or authors why books aren’t available on the release date, or lose sales during well-timed marketing and publicity plans. Understanding government regulation and enforcement efforts will allow you to stay a step ahead and avoid those onerous costs.
7. Nudge people in the right direction.
It can be hard to get large groups of employees to adopt environmental initiatives, but a nudge in the right direction can work wonders. Some publishers have found savings by investing in software that automatically turns off computers at night, or timers and motion detectors to turn off lights when no one’s around. Another great example is a publisher who switched from asking employees to request electronic pay stubs with direct deposit (opt-in), to asking employees to opt out of receiving electronic stubs (i.e., employees now automatically receive electronic pay stubs unless they specifically ask for paper). This lowers the number of people receiving paper pay stubs, and saves emissions as well as printing and postage costs.
8. Solve the returns problem.
There’s ample business rationale to reduce returns, but this also is the single “greenest” project any publisher could undertake. The “Environmental Trends” report, commissioned in 2008 by the Book Industry Study Group and Green Press Initiative, pegged industrywide carbon emissions at 12.4 million metric tons; at least 2.6 million tons, or 20 percent, of these emissions are completely wasted as returns. While this statistic is staggering, it represents a tremendous opportunity: It’s difficult to imagine any other industry that could achieve a 20-percent reduction in emissions by resolving one issue, while simultaneously growing the profitability pie for supply chain partners to share.
Not all of the steps toward a “greener” industry are easy, and most will require the active engagement of supply chain partners. The good news is that they are possible, and are likely to save you money to boot.
Andrew Van Der Laan previously led sustainability initiatives at Random House, and is currently consulting on strategy and sustainability projects for a variety of clients. He can be reached at email@example.com.