The Eco-Printer Route to Being Green
by Erin Johnson
To be a green publisher you want to make as many green choices as possible, starting with paper.
From the Environmental Trends and Climate Impacts report (see “Resources for Publishers in Search of Eco-Printers,” below), we know that paper accounts for most of a book publisher’s carbon footprint—85 percent or more. You can learn about the best environmental choices to make from Green Press Initiative’s Small publisher toolkit (see the URL in the Resources sidebar).
But you can also take a shortcut!
The other, and maybe easier, way to produce a green book is to start by finding an eco-printer. To identify a legitimately green printer, you need the answers to these questions:
Is the printer Forest Stewardship Council certified, and can it provide FSC-certified virgin and recycled papers?
In some cases, these papers include coated sheets with 10 percent or more recycled content.
There are 2,600 FSC-certified printers in the United States. Many of these don’t print books, but enough do that you can find one fairly easily; they include printers that offer print-on-demand and short-run printing. There are FSC-certified printers in Asia as well. Any print broker should be able to find one for you.
As added benefits, these printers can make it possible for you to include the FSC logo in your book(s) as well as develop an eco-audit statement to include—both to educate readers.
Does the printer make recycled content papers available—especially post–consumer recycled book grades?
This matters, because each ton of recycled fiber that replaces a ton of virgin fiber saves 17 to 24 mature trees and up to 7.5 tons of CO2– equivalent emissions.
Also, recycling keeps paper out of landfills, where it degrades and produces methane, a greenhouse gas with 23 times the heat-trapping capacity of carbon dioxide. Landfills are the source of 34 percent of methane releases—the single largest source in the United States.
Has the printer demonstrated its internal commitment to best environmental practices?
GPI does not audit or certify printers’ green claims. But it is a good sign if the printer has endorsed the Book Industry Treatise on Environmentally Responsible Publishing, developed by publishers, printers, and mills.
By signing on to this, a printer publicly declares its intention to meet best environmental practices. Printers that have signed include Bang, Cushing-Malloy, IBT Global, Friesens, Maple-Vail, McNaughton & Gunn, Thomson-Shore, and Webcom. (For a link to a full list, see “Resources for Publishers in Search of Eco-Printers.”)
Some of these folks may be IBPA members and will perhaps offer fellow members a discount.
What other eco-production choices has the printer made?
Choices that indicate greenness include use of low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) inks, a cleaner ink process, a preference for chlorine-free papers, and a variety of initiatives that reduce the printing company’s own waste and energy use.
Some printers have focused on greening their manufacturing processes, which is a positive trend. You can learn about a related initiative in the commercial print world at sgppartnership.org.
If you strive to be a green publisher, the choice of printer should be guided by its ability to deliver a product with the most eco-attributes possible (that you can afford), since the product itself is what matters in marketing to readers.
How about pricing? Printers that stock recycled and/or FSC-certified papers are usually able to pass along cost savings, since they don’t have to order paper in small batches, job by job.
You may also be able to save money at a green printer who serves other publishers with similar production values to yours and can offer you a group discount on certain eco-paper grades.
Several IBPA publishers have been pioneers in eco-production, and we’d be glad to help you make appropriate contacts.
Feel free to ask GPI for help; just e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Erin Johnson is the associate director of Green Press Initiative (GPI), a nonprofit program that has been helping the book industry make environmental improvements since 2001. To reach her, e-mail email@example.com. To learn more about GPI, visit greenpressinitiative.org/about/faq.htm.
Resources for Publishers in Search of Eco-Printers
To read a summary of the Environmental Trends and Climate Impacts report, go to: greenpressinitiative.org/documents/trends_summary.pdf.
To access the GPI small publisher toolkit, go to: greenpressinitiative.org/documents/Small%20Pub%20Toolkit.pdf.
For a list of FSC-certified printers, visit: fscus.org/images/documents/FSC%20certified%20printers.pdf.
To see who has signed the Book Industry Treatise on Environmentally Responsible Publishing, and to sign it yourself, go to: greenpressinitiative.org/treatise/treatiseIndex.htm.
For a list of printers that have signed the Book Industry Treatise on Environmentally Responsible Publishing, see: greenpressinitiative.org/documents/TreatiseSignatoryList.doc.