Potholes on the Road to Recycled
Committing to recycled paper is not an easy decision for a publisher. Here at New World Library, a 25-year-old publishing company known for books by personal growth pioneers Shakti Gawain (Creative Visualization), Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now), and Deepak Chopra (Seven Spiritual Laws of Success), it's been an incremental process. But each step forward has resulted in a more Earth-friendly product.
Committing to use recycled paper was the first step. We became a member of the Green Press Initiative (GPI), a non-profit environmental advocacy group, to take advantage of their information, contacts, and planning assistance for converting to recycled and environmentally friendly publishing.
GPI's planning templates in particular have helped us define our goals, and manage our progress. Following their published recommendations, we aim to print all of our titles on 30% to 100% post-consumer recycled paper by 2007.
And this season, we chose to print our lead title, Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle, using 100% recycled, 100% post-consumer waste paper. It's a company first.
The corporate decision to use recycled paper is only the first hurdle a publisher must overcome. Price is the next. In the past, the high cost of 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper made it impractical for independent publishers to use.
That's changed. With the first 150,000-copy print run of our lead title this season, recycled paper cost us only nine cents per unit more than virgin paper.
When considering this slightly increased cost, it's important to also consider the environmental savings. Our first print run saved 983 fully grown trees, 400,000 gallons of water, and 617 million BTUs of energy.
It also avoided producing more than 47,000 pounds of solid waste, and 92,000 pounds of greenhouse gases, according to estimates calculated by New Leaf Paper in San Francisco, a recycled paper vendor.
Our publisher, Marc Allen, certainly wants a healthy bottom line, as do publishers throughout the industry. But Marc is willing to cede some profit—in this case, a few pennies per book—in the interest of environmentally responsible publishing and manufacturing.
To that end we also invested in a solar energy system to run our entire office this year. Using recycled paper goes hand-in-glove with our other environmentally-motivated business initiatives.
Paper availability is another challenge. Two years ago, neither of our two top printers, Friesens in Manitoba or Transcontinental Printing in Quebec, stocked recycled paper, although both would special order on request.
But with our steadily increasing demand, both printers are now stocking 100% recycled, 100% post-consumer waste paper. Our increasing demand has also reduced costs considerably. Transcontinental Printing is also working directly with the Boise Cascade mill to supply their stock of 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper.
This strategy of working closely with our printers, keeping them abreast of our upcoming needs, making them aware of our commitment to green publishing, and encouraging them to build up the supply chain has led to more paper options and greater availability.
While we are an unusually (these days, at least) environmentally-conscious publishing house, we still decide on a book-by-book basis whether to use recycled paper and, if so, what type (ranging from 30% to 100% post-consumer recycled).
For example, on reprints, when quantities come down and printing costs rise, recycled paper is rarely an option. Also, the bulking of recycled paper and virgin paper differs. Reformatting the cover to fit recycled paper's thinner spine width also drives up reprint costs.
To support our recycled-paper efforts Transcontinental Printing offered to make spine changes at no charge. This lets us run larger reprint runs on lower bulk recycled paper, and smaller runs on higher bulk traditional paper, as costs go up.
This also makes it easier for us to use the recycled paper for reprints, while holding down costs on lower print runs. And of course, we naturally gravitate to this printer for reprints, boosting their business, thanks to their progressive pricing strategy.
There's one final, often unforeseen benefit to becoming a green publisher, according to our associate publisher and marketing director Munro Magruder. He points to the consumer response, interest from publishing colleagues, and press coverage that we have received as a direct result of our going green.
"People are interested in what we are doing, how we are accomplishing our goals, and whether our foray into green book publishing is succeeding," Munro says. "So far, it is. By helping the environment, we are helping our independent publishing concern, and gaining broad recognition we might not have otherwise enjoyed."
Tona Pearce Myers is production director at New World Library, in Novato, Calif. She can be reached at Tona@NewWorldLibrary.com. Interested publishers can find the Green Press Initiative at GreenPressInitiative.org