Two Major Developments on the ‘Green’ Front
As Kermit the Frog used to say: “It’s not easy being green.” While the beloved puppet was referring to his skin color, the saying has been applied to being “green” in the environmental sense. And, not to make light of a serious situation regarding our environment, the saying has been relevant in book publishing for years—many publishers have “good intentions” (as Book Business columnist Gene Schwartz suggests in this month’s “Gene Therapy”), but they struggle to balance those good intentions with negative impacts on their bottom lines and/or their lack of know-how for making their intentions realities.
But as Kermit’s outlook changes in the course of the “It’s Not Easy Being Green” song (he realizes there are a lot of great things about being green and that, as he says, “It’s what I want to be.”), the industry’s outlook may be undergoing a sea change as well.
Last year, Random House Inc.’s announcement of its significant environmental initiative shook up the “green”-scene and put glimmers of hope in the eyes of environmental advocates. Would Random House (which purchases approximately 120,000 tons of paper annually) be the first of many other publishing conglomerates to take serious action to improve their environmental impact?
It seems that the answer may be “yes.” As we get ready to send this issue off to press, news is making its way around the industry about two major developments on the “green” front. The first “green” Bible has been released by Thomas Nelson, the sixth-largest trade publisher in the United States (see the November 2007 print edition of Book Business magazine ). With the Bible being one of the most widely distributed books in history, this news is quite significant.
Then, on Nov. 7, publishing behemoth Simon & Schuster Inc. announced a new environmental initiative and paper policy that includes plans to increase to 25 percent or more the level of recycled fiber in the company’s purchased paper by 2012. The company reports that it purchases approximately 70,000 tons of paper annually, 70 percent of which it says contains some recycled fiber content. The new goals, according to Simon & Schuster, signify “a 150-percent increase from a current 10-percent baseline level.” The company also reports that it aims to eliminate the use of paper that may contain fiber from endangered and old-growth forest areas, with a specific goal of using 10-percent Forest Stewardship Council-certified paper within four years.
Like Random House’s policy, Simon & Schuster’s policy goes beyond publishing-paper guidelines. It also includes the company’s mandate to purchase shipping cartons made from 100-percent post-consumer recycled paper, the recycling of all inventory destruction as mixed-use paper, the use of recycled office materials and other energy-efficient practices in its offices and distribution facilities. (You can read about the company’s policy in more detail at www.SimonSays.com and in the next issue of Book Business.)
Simon & Schuster UK is expected to implement a similar policy in the future.
Other major publishers have adopted policies and/or projects that involve the use of Forest Stewardship Council-certified or recycled paper, energy conservation, or other “green” efforts, including Pearson (and Penguin UK), Scholastic and McGraw-Hill. But Random House and Simon and Schuster’s policies still are by far the most comprehensive initiatives, as their policies set specific and laudable goals and timelines. From what I hear, though, we can expect several other major companies to announce significant sustainability policies in the next few months.
Besides the big guys, more than 150 small and mid-size publishers have implemented environmental sustainability policies. Many publishers have been able to increase their use of recycled-content paper at cost parity, while some still incur additional costs, “but the difference today is pennies,” says Linda Secondari, creative director of manufacturing and technology at Columbia University Press, in Gene Schwartz’s column.
Even the small changes that big companies make or the big changes that some small companies make can have an enormous impact on helping to conserve our planet’s resources. In the words of Kermit the Frog (who—many people don’t know—was, in addition to being a lovable puppet, a great a philosopher): “Green can be big like an ocean or important like a mountain or tall like a tree.” So, maybe being “green” today still isn’t easy, but it seems to be something that more and more publishers want to be.