Into the New
It is estimated that 42% of the global wood harvested for industrial uses goes to paper production. Is it possible that the book publishing industry, a sector that depends heavily on paper production, can implement policies that help preserve endangered forests and biodiversity?
Over 120 North American publishers believe it is possible, and they're working with the non-profit Green Press Initiative (U.S.) and Markets Initiative (Canada) to implement innovative production practices that have tangible environmental benefits.
Innova, the root of the word innovation, means 'into the new'. The 'new' in this case is a growing movement among businesses to include social and environmental considerations into their profit equation. These 120 book publishing innovators realize that evaluating profit goes beyond quarterly earnings and shareholder returns.
They have committed to maximizing their use of recycled paper, and to phasing out paper that contains fibers from endangered forests. These publishers understand that we all profit when natural treasures are preserved.
Efforts are under way to catalyze policy innovations within the book, magazine, and catalog sectors. With book publishing representing such a small portion of the printing and writing market, some ask why the focus on books? The answer is, why not?
Over the past three years, book publishing in the U.S. alone required the equivalent of 900,000 to 1.1 million tons of paper per year. This equates to between 20 and 25 million trees cut per year. Innovation within this industry is bringing about market shifts, and has potential to pave the way for transformations in other sectors.
The momentum is building for continued change. Some recent highlights:
1. Green Press Initiative (GPI) members currently represent 3 million pounds of recycled paper use per year, at a level of 30% post-consumer recycled content or higher for uncoated text stock, the minimum standard for GPI publishers.
2. GPI members have begun featuring the GPI logo and eco-savings statements in their books and press releases. The GPI logo is the paper environmentalist's equivalent of the Good Housekeeping Seal. The GPI logo promotes the value of buying books that use recycled paper to educated readers. Increasingly recognized by consumers, it is a marketing advantage to publishers and authors.
3. With help from GPI's partner, the Markets Initiative, Raincoast Books printed Scholastic's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on 100% post-consumer recycled paper, saving the equivalent of nearly 30,000 trees.
Some other compelling and incontrovertible facts well worth considering by book publishers and manufacturers:
1. Most of the world's paper supply, about 71%, is not made from timber harvested at tree farms, but from forest-harvested timber in regions with ecologically valuable, biologically diverse habitats. (Source: Toward a Sustainable Paper Cycle: An Independent Study on the Sustainability of the Pulp and Paper Industry, 1996.)
2. Tree plantations host about 90% fewer species than the forests that preceded them. (Source: Allen Hershkowitz, Bronx Ecology, 2002.)
3. The southern U.S., which contains the most biologically diverse forests in North America, is the largest paper-producing region in the world. The paper industry is the largest consumer of forests in the southern U.S., logging an estimated 5 million acres of forests—an area the size of New Jersey—each year. (Source: USDA Forest Service Southern Forest Resource Assessment, 2001.)
4. 90% of the logging in British Columbia occurs in ancient forests, according to the British Columbia Ministry of Forests. Over 40% of the trees cut in British Columbia are used to produce paper. (Source: Markets Initiative, 2001.)
Paper manufacturers and printers are in business because end-users (in this case, book publishers) buy their products and use their services. Book publishers are, therefore, a potent force that can reshape the paper market.
As publishers ask for and, indeed, require papers with superior environmental qualities, these papers will be developed and made available at competitive prices. In Canada, prior to the Markets Initiative beginning its work, there were virtually no book papers that met strict environmental criteria.
After only two years of working with book publishers, eight environmentally friendly sheets were developed and stocked at all major print houses. In the U.S., new sheets are also being developed.
- Tyson Miller
Tyson Miller is founder and director of the non-profit Green Press Initiative. He can be reached at Info@GreenPressInitiative.org.