There’s no arguing that book publishing has an impact on the environment. From sourcing the timber to turning it into paper to transportation and disposal of printed books, each book published has a significant carbon footprint and effect on the forest ecosystem. Setting and following sound environmental practices are essential for a greener future, and book publishers are increasingly looking at ways to source responsibly, reduce harmful emissions, and produce less waste. Here’s a quick look at what the book publishing industry, as well as your publishing operation, can do to lessen their contribution to the environmental impact.
The printed page
When we think about the environmental impact of book publishing, the first thing that usually comes to mind is paper usage and the destruction of forests. Although paper is a concern, it’s no longer just about the trees. The environmental movement of the past few decades has resulted in forestry practices that sustain the growth of paper fiber and preserve forest habitats and ecosystems. We now know it is the production of paper that has the biggest environmental impact. There are many steps involved in the production of paper ― sourcing the raw product, turning timber into paper, transporting raw source products, etc. Throughout every step, sound practices must be used to limit the impact that each has on the environment. Further, there is also a problem of landfill waste because of unsold and end-of-life book disposal.
In an effort to combat any impact that paper production and usage may have, there is a notion for some that the solution is electronic publishing and eBooks. Certainly, the paper usage is reduced, but materials used to manufacture electronic devices and transmission infrastructures necessary to deliver the eBook content require mineral mining and energy consumption. In fact, e-waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the U.S. In addition to the detrimental impacts of digital publishing, going paperless actually won’t help the forests in the long run.
Better ways to go green
With the carbon footprint of print and electronic books being very similar, some may say that at least going paperless will save forest habitats and ecosystems. But with today’s sustainable forestry practices, cutting back drastically will cause landowners and forestry managers to repurpose the forested lands because of lower wood pulp demands. A better solution is to make sure you use papers that have been sourced from a chain of vendors, mills, and forests that are certified to use sound environmental practices from forest to sheeted paper. For example, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) are the two major forest certification programs operating in the U.S. These programs ensure that wood or paper products come from a sustainably managed forest.
It’s also important to reduce energy consumption in your everyday business and operational activities. Your business can help by partnering with certified paper manufacturers and/or printers that use environmentally friendly printing inks (e.g., vegetable, soy based), recycle their waste (inks, plates, and scrap paper), and employ other sound environmental practices.
Save a tree with POD
Print on demand (POD) is another way publishers can lessen their environmental impact. By printing only as needed after the first press run, POD reduces wasted paper, ink, and associated printing costs, lowers energy consumption, and has zero warehousing and storage costs. POD results in fewer unsold books, which leads to less waste in landfills. Digital printing also enables shorter print runs, reducing energy consumption and waste.
From utilizing plant-based inks to consciously reducing energy consumption and paper waste, the publishing industry has an abundance of opportunities to reduce its carbon footprint while still providing the magic that is a printed and bound book to readers. The steps toward a greener future begin with eco-friendly practices today.
Contact your Sheridan representative for a consultation to discuss how Sheridan can streamline your publishing processes.