Today, the Washington Post is reporting that the Book Industry Environmental Council announced a goal of reducing the U.S. book industry’s greenhouse gas emissions 20% by 2020 (from a 2006 baseline) with the intent of achieving an 80% reduction by 2050. This industry-wide commitment is a global first in publishing. In 2008, an industry-focused report concluded that the U.S. book industry has a climate impact equivalent to 12.4 million metric tons of carbon. Using the same methodology as this report, this 20% reduction will represent a savings of nearly 2.5 million metric tons per year, the equivalent annual emissions of approximately 450,000 cars.
“I’m very pleased that our industry has set aggressive but achievable goals that will have tangible benefits and will surely set a precedent for other industries,” said Pete Datos, chair of the Council’s climate subcommittee and a Vice President at Hachette Book Group.
The Council (see www.bookcouncil.org) that set this target is comprised of more than 40 industry stakeholders representing more than 60% of market-share from the largest to the smallest publishers, printers, mills, and others. The Council has been chaired by Random House and was initially formed and is now coordinated by the Green Press Initiative – a non-profit organization working to reduce the environmental impacts of publishing since 2001. The Council is also co-coordinated by the Book Industry Study Group; an industry trade association with a 30 year history of advancing innovation and efficiency in the book industry.
“It is wonderful to see the industry’s expanding commitment to taking action on these issues. There’s a lot more work to be done, but this is a momentous step and will help to unify many of the other efforts underway in the industry,” said Todd Pollak, Program Manager at the Green Press Initiative.
Paper is arguably the industry’s largest impact – nearly 65% of the sector’s carbon footprint according to the analysis completed in 2008. There are a broad range of steps companies in the book industry can take to achieve or surpass this goal including increasing the use of recycled paper, using paper efficiently, reducing returns and preventing books from ending up in landfills.
“Achieving this goal will require major strides as it relates to changing practices. The industry will need to capitalize on efficiencies as it relates to paper usage, but also to transportation, energy consumption, chemicals, and a lot more,” said Julie Loyer, a member of the climate committee and representative from Cascades – a manufacturer of high recycled content book papers with a low carbon footprint.
In addition to the significant commitment represented by the greenhouse gas reduction target, the Council is also working on additional priorities including the development of a green publisher certification program modeled after the LEED system – a certification initiative of the U.S. Green Building Council. This program will measure and certify leading publisher’s environmental performance and will require certified publishers to successfully eliminate virtually all fiber coming from Endangered Forests or areas of social conflict.
The U.S. book industry has steadily intensified its commitment to improving environmental performance in recent years and the unanimous approval of this climate goal is yet another positive step forward.