Trends and Climate Impacts: Findings from the U.S. Book Industry
- 3-part coverage of the report
Trends and Climate Impacts: Findings from the U.S. Book Industry'
is probably the most important report that was published recently
on the environmental impacts of the book publishing industry.
This 86-page report, published on March 2008, was prepared
Green Press Initiative (GPI) and The
Book Industry Study Group (BISG).
Eco-Libris covered this report in a series of three articles,
including an introduction, a review of the report and an interview
with Tyson Miller, one of the people who led the work on the
report. All the three parts were gathered into this page.
We hope you enjoy them!
If you want to order the report, you can do it on GPI and
BISG websites. A
summary of findings is available on GPI's website.
Part 1 - Introduction
This is a very exciting week for the book industry and anyone
involved in the efforts to green it up. The reason? 'Environmental
Trends and Climate Impacts: Findings from the U.S. Book Industry'
has been published. This 86-page report was prepared by The
Book Industry Study Group (BISG) and The Green Press Initiative
(GPI) (with support from a number of industry sponsors). 76
publishers, representing just under half of the market, participated
in the study, along with 13 printers (about 25 percent) and
6 paper mills (about 17 percent).
Why is this report so important? because this is an up to
date analysis of the industry's ecological footprint. This
is the most detailed survey someone has done for years to
receive a clear picture of the book publishing industry's
These measurements will help not only to know better where
the industry is standing now, but also to better plan how
to move forward and green up the industry as well as to evaluate
the progress later on. In one word: Benchmark. Or as BISG
describes the report on its website - "a benchmarking
survey which will establish a baseline for tracking climate
impacts and progress by the U.S. book industry in environmental
The report also gives us a better perspective on the steps
taken by few of the big publishers, such as Simon and Schuster,
Random House and others in the last two years, and how much
at all is already done within the industry both on the level
of creating green policies and greening up the operations.
Here are few highlights from the report that were published
by AP on their article 'Report:
Book publishing industry getting greener':
- The book world (in the U.S.) uses up more than 1.5 million
metric tons of paper each year.
- Just over half of publishers have set specific goals for
increasing use of recycled paper. About 60 percent have a
formal environmental policy or are in the process of completing
- Around 150 publishers, along with 10 printers and four
paper manufacturers, have backed a treatise (initiated by
GPI) supporting recycled paper and fiber from forests certified
by the Forest Stewardship Council.
was originally posted at the Eco-Libris blog.
Part 2 - Review of the report
Firstly, I would like to give big kudos to both to The Book
Industry Study Group (BISG) and The Green Press Initiative
(GPI) for the report. I enjoyed reading it and I found it
thorough, well structured, substantial and very clear. Since
the 86-page report is all about findings from the book industry,
I would like to share with you the findings I found the most
important in the report.
1. What's responsible for the
biggest part of the book industry's carbon footprint?
The answer is very clear from the report: forest and forest
harvest impacts with 62.7% share of total carbon emissions.
Second is paper production at the mills with 22.4% share.
The conclusion is very simple - the paper consumed for the
production of books (1.6 million metric tons in 2006) is the
main responsible for the industry's carbon footprint of 12.4
million metric tons or 8.85 lbs. of carbon dioxide per a book
The report puts its finger on many environmental issues
associated with the life cycle of books - from transportation
and energy consumption by publishers and retailers to the
huge amount of books that are printed but are unsold (more
than 1 billion books in 2006!) and then are either returned
for pulping or reach landfills. But it is very clear that
the main environmental issue, when it comes to the industry's
carbon footprint, is the amount of carbon taken from the forest
when the trees are cut down for the production of paper. Any
change in the carbon footprint of the industry should start
2. The sources of paper and
Endangered Forests: The report shows that
the sources of paper used for the U.S. book industry are all
over the world. The paper is sourced from the U.S., Canada,
parts of Asia and Europe, and in addition wood chips, pulp
and roundwood that are used by paper mills in these areas
come from South America (Chile for example), Tasmania (Australia)
One main problem with the use of forests in these areas as
source of paper is that in many of these areas, trees are
cut down in Endangered Forests, which results in significant
environmental impacts. One result of this process is the conversion
of reach ecosystems in these areas into tree plantations,
which means severe damage to biodiversity, fundamental changes
and losses in natural systems, severe impact on species, etc.
Two examples for such areas outside the U.S. are the "interior
temperate rainforest" in British Colombia, Canada and
the native siempre verde forests of Chile. In the U.S., a
good example is the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Forest of the Southeastern
United States. Unfortunately, it seems that though the use
of FSC-certified paper becomes more popular (though as you
can read later, this is not totally clear from 2007 data),
too little is done to protect these natural resources from
the exploitation of industries, including the paper industry.
3. Some increase in the use
of post-consumer waste (PCW) recycled paper:
In the report it is estimated that the percentage of recycled
paper in books was 5% in 2006, which is no different than
previous data, but it also presents few more indicators that
show that this assumption might be a bit conservative and
the actual percentage might be higher.
For example, 13 printers who took part in the survey, reported
on increase in the use of PCW recycled paper from 2,038 short
tons in 2004 to 19,145 short tons in 2006. Also, the six mills
that participated in the survey reported on increase in recycled
content from 2.4% in 2004 to 13.3% in 2007. Of course, these
data may be biased and hence the caution of the report, but
nevertheless it seems that there is a growth in the use of
PCW recycled paper, not only in absolute numbers, but also
relatively to the total use of paper.
4. More policies, but not
enough quantitative targets: Many publishers,
printers and other companies in the book industry are developing
or have developed environmental policies (60% of the companies
responded to the survey). The Green Press Initiative Book
Industry Treatise on Responsible Paper Use that was already
endorsed by 150 publishers, is being used as a benchmark by
many others in the industry.
This is good news. The problem is that some of the issues
that these policies refer to lack quantitative targets, which
are very crucial to the successful implementation of these
policies (just think of the difference between saying 'I'll
lose some weight this year' and 'I'll lose 10 pounds this
For example, only 11% of the companies that replied to the
survey said they have quantitative targets for limiting the
sourcing of fiber from Endangered Forests or High Conservation
Value Forests. Only 14% have policies that advocate reduction
of paper consumption. The only exception is with the increased
use of recycled paper - 54% have quantitative targets.
5. Certified paper use:
The report explains that due to partial reporting for 2007,
total increases in certified paper use cannot be reliably
calculated. Nevertheless, four of the six mills that replied
to the survey reported on an increase in Forest Stewardship
Council (FSC) certified paper for books. The FSC certification
is also the most preferred certification program on publishers
and printers - 94% of the publishers that replied to the survey
chose it as their preferred certification program (SFI reached
the second place with 35%).
The report also brings few stories of publishers mainly
that went through a process of green changes in the last couple
of years, such as Random House, Scholastic, Lantern Books
and others. These stories as well as the data and the analysis
in the report are evidence of the change that is going over
the book industry. It is only the beginning, but it's definitely
there. Now the question is more and more not when or if the
change will happen, but how long it will take.
All in all the report is very extensive, but there are still
few points that I wanted to learn more about and I hope to
see in the next report:
- There was no reference to the growing e-book industry.
True it is still a fraction of the whole book industry, but
it has the potential to grow fast with the last developments
(Kindle for example), and we see more and more publishers
that are experimenting with publishing digital versions of
new titles. I think it's important to evaluate the environmental
impacts of e-books and analyze whether or not e-book can be
considered a green alternative.
- I also hope to have comparative data on the book industry
in other areas such as Europe. Is the U.S. book industry in
better or worst position compared to its European equivalent?
are there any lessons it can learn from the experience of
others? I think it would be interesting to get that perspective.
- What are the main reasons that stop publishers and other
companies to go green? is it lack of supply? financial reasons?
lack of green vision? The report brings a detailed list of
the primary challenges in the process of going green in the
book industry. What I would like is to learn more on the significance
of each one of these obstacles that stop the industry from
moving faster. Similar to the way the carbon footprint is
analyzed by segments to see which is more significant in order
to know where the focus should be, these obstacles can be
further analyzed to learn which obstacles should be dealt
was originally posted at the Eco-Libris blog.
Part 3 - An interview with Tyson Miller, the Founder
and Director of the Green Press Initiative (GPI)
Tyson Miller is the Founder and Director of the Green Press
Initiative (GPI). Not only that Tyson Miller is one of the
people who led the work on the report, but he is also one
of the most knowledgeable people about the issues brought
up in the report. In the last seven years he directs the Green
Press Initiative (which he also founded) – a program
which is catalyzing environmentally responsible book publishing
in the U.S. He initiated the Book
Industry Treatise on Responsible Paper Use, which more
than 150 publishers have signed so far, and is also involved
in the efforts of big publishers, such as Simon & Schuster
and Scholastic, to develop green policies.
Therefore, I was very happy for the opportunity to have this
interview with Mr. Miller, shedding more light on the report
and its implications. I hope you'll enjoy it as well!
Can you tell us about the work on
the report - how many people were involved, who led it, how
much time it took, etc. ?
It took about 9 months and was led primarily by BISG, GPI
and our research partner, the Borealis Centre for Environment
and Trade Research. We also were very fortunate to have a
generous group of report sponsors and a diverse committee
of industry stakeholders to help guide the process.
Over 1,000 constituents involved in all segments of the book
industry were invited to take part in the survey that was
the base for the report. Eventually 104 responded. Were you
satisfied with this response rate?
I would have been happier with better participation...but
it was the first effort and we were asking for a lot in terms
of the time commitment to answer all of the questions. I'm
confident that future studies will have a higher participation
rate. Nevertheless, the data gathered accurately reflects
trends and for publishers, at least, we had 45% of market
How difficult was the calculation of
the book industry's carbon footprint?
Quite a challenge, but our findings were in line with the
findings of several large publishers that have done their
own carbon audits. I was surprised to see that the CO2 equivalent
emissions connected to paper represented over 70% of the industry's
emissions. I figured transportation would have had more of
You report that the average use of
PCW recycled paper is 5% - what do you see as the main obstacle
that currently stops publishers from using more PCW recycled
We had to use the 5% figure as an estimate for the printing
and writing sector. The actual trend for recycled fiber at
the mill level was over 13% and had jumped sixfold from just
2.5% a few years prior. But since we only had 17% of mills
reporting, we couldn't use the figure. My guestimation is
that the industry is likely at about 15% recycled fiber. Either
way, the biggest hurdle is cost and with increasing demand
and a lack of corresponding infrastructure development, costs
How many of the trees cut down for
the production of books are grown in tree plantations? what
can done to stop the conversion of rich ecosystems into tree
Most of the world’s paper supply, about 71 percent,
is not made from timber harvested at tree farms but from forest-harvested
timber, from regions with ecologically valuable, biologically
diverse habitat. (Toward a Sustainable Paper Cycle: An Independent
Study on the Sustainability of the Pulp and Paper Industry,
Do you think that the effort to go
green in the industry should be solely voluntary, or it might
be that we need legislation to move faster, for example, a
legislation that will tax paper sourced from non-sustainable
I think that market transformations are inherently voluntary
initiatives and are moving along at a pace quite quickly without
legislation. Legislation could be useful for big-picture objectives
like carbon-reduction emission reduction targets across all
What is the reason that e-books weren't
part of the report and is there any plan to further explore
the environmental impacts of e-books in the next reports?
In order to address e-books effectively, I'd need to look
at a lifecycle comparison that analyzes the impacts of e-readers
vs. paper as a medium. I do hope that we can explore much
more in-depth in future iterations.
How's the U.S. book industry doing
in comparison with the European book industry?
I haven't seen a benchmarking analysis from Europe...but
I'd say we're on par or ahead.
What's the most important lesson we
can learn from the report?
Likely that the emissions associated with paper constitutes
approximately 70% of the industry's carbon footprint and also
that the industry is really meaning making meaningful progress
- a sixfold increase in recycled fiber at the mill level over
the past fours years. I also found it telling that such a
significant portion of surveyed companies had environmental
policies that are completed or intended.
This report will definitely become
an important benchmark in the industry. When we can expect
the next report?
Hopefully we can track a reduced number of metrics annually.
What's next? are there any planned
actions on an industry scale?
More of the same - we'll keep plugging away and supporting
the leaders and those that aren't quite ready to lead.
I read in the report that there's a
Book Industry Environmental Council in development - can you
tell us more about it?
We felt that it would be great to have industry leaders helping
to inform important priorities such as the development of
a standardized tracking mechanism for monitoring environmental
indicators and progress, determining parameters and protocols
for reducing the industry's carbon footprint, guiding future
revisions to the Treatise, and developing standards for an
on-product environmental label.
was originally posted at the Eco-Libris blog.
Articles from the media on the report:
Tyson Miller Offers Insights on Report Detailing Book Industry
Environmental Efforts, Bookselling This Week, Karen Schechner,
April 16, 2008
a Greener Future, Publishers Weekly, Jim Milliot, March
fact: Books publishing gets greener, MSNBC.com, Associated
Press, March 10, 2008
to Eco-Libris homepage