Results of the Industry’s First-Ever Environmental Survey Released
History was made at the Publishing Business Conference & Expo on Monday, March 10, as the Green Press Initiative (GPI) and the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) presented findings from the first-ever environmental survey of the U.S. book industry. GPI, a nonprofit environmental advocacy organization, and BISG, an industry trade association, commissioned the study to help the industry understand its environmental impacts, assess areas for improvement and make recommendations for improving its ecological footprint.
Michael Healy, BISG executive director, and Tyson Miller, GPI director, unveiled the 73-page “Environmental Trends and Climate Impacts: Findings from the U.S. Book Industry” to a crowded conference room of book publishing executives. They were joined by Jim Ford, policy director, Borealis Centre for Environment and Trade Research (which prepared the survey); Bill Long, vice president, Maple-Vail Book Manufacturing; and Andrew Van Der Laan, director, senior project manager, publishing operations projects group, Random House Inc.
“A large and diverse group of companies sponsored this report and helped guide its scope. This shows a real willingness to grasp the complexity of the issues and improve business practices,” said Healy, noting that invitations to participate in the survey were sent out in August 2007 to more than 1,000 stakeholders from all segments of book production.
Miller addressed key findings from the survey, including data showing that the U.S. book industry consumes 1.6 million tons of paper per year—or greater than 1,000 of New York City’s Central Parks, Miller noted. “That figure is 50- percent greater than we thought,” he said.
The survey also found that the industry, through all steps of publishing, production and retail activities, emits more than 12.4 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, or approximately 8.85 pounds of carbon for the average book, with most of the impact connected to forest carbon loss.
The survey results were not all sobering, however. According to the report, the book industry’s use of recycled fiber has increased six-fold in the past few years, from 2.5 percent in 2004 to 13.3 percent in 2007. In addition, many companies in the industry are developing environmental policies and setting goals to increase their use of recycled and certified paper, improve impacts on forests, reduce energy consumption and lessen their overall carbon footprint. Fifty-nine percent of study respondents indicated that they have or intend to have an environmental policy in place.
“The report shows trends moving in the right direction and also presents the data and the motivation for continued improvement,” said Miller.
Maple-Vail’s Long spoke of an increased demand for recycled stocks in the past five years, and said Maple-Vail expects a 55-percent increase in recycled paper usage this year compared to 2005. He attributed the increase to a higher awareness of the environmental movement in recent years; GPI’s efforts within the book industry to raise awareness of the ecological benefits of using recycled stock; and mills expanding offerings at lower prices due to increased demand. In 2007, Maple-Vail offered 12 recycled grades and 38 total sizes compared to 8 grades and 29 sizes in 2005.
Van Der Laan of Random House— which, in May 2006, announced a major environmental initiative to increase its use of recycled paper tenfold by 2010—spoke on the implications of the survey results for publishers. He stressed that publishers sit at a crucial point in the supply chain, as they select the paper, contract with a printer, produce the final product and own the marketplace brand. Therefore, publishers must continue to drive environmental improvement, Van Der Laan urged. “The consumer lens is focused on the publisher, and the burden of responsibility lies on the publisher,” he said.
To obtain a copy of the “Environmental Trends and Climate Impacts: Findings from the U.S. Book Industry,” visit Green-PressInitiative.org or BISG.org.