The Green Press Initiative (GPI) and the Book Industry Study Group released on Monday a landmark study measuring the environmental impact of the U.S. book publishing industry. Monitoring publishing activity in 2006, which saw 4.15 billion books produced, the study found the industry's annual carbon footprint to be 12.4 million metric tons (or 8.85 pounds of carbon per book). The figure reflects carbon created by paper production and printing, transportation of books, landfill disposal of returned titles, and paper and energy use by retailers and publishers, combined with carbon storage lost when trees are harvested.
Implemented to create benchmarks for the industry as a whole, the study emphasizes the importance of reducing the consumption of virgin-fiber paper and increasing the use of recycled paper and fiber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), an international organization that develops standards for sustainable forest management. In 2006, roughly 1.6 million metric tons of paper were used to produce books.
The report noted two concrete objectives, established by GPI in its 2007 "Book Industry Treatise on Responsible Paper Use," for the industry: to increase use of recycled fiber to 30 percent (from an estimated five percent in 2005) and FSC-certified paper to 20 percent, by 2012. Some publishers have already been working toward this goal—according to the study's survey of thirteen printers, post-consumer fibers in books rose 852 percent from 2004 to 2006.
Several publishers are also attempting to cut back on paper and energy consumption, Publishers Weekly reports in this week's issue, by distributing manuscripts and catalogs digitally, providing incentives for employees to carpool or take mass transit to work, and creating recycling programs for technology waste. However, according to Tyson Miller, founder of GPI, reducing use of virgin fiber paper is crucial to minimizing the effect that the industry has on the environment.