Conservation is humanity caring for the future.
–Nancy Newhall, US photography critic
According to some estimates, 20 to 30 million trees are harvested each year for paper and paper products, and the US publishing industry is one of the biggest culprits. On average, only about 5% of the paper used by US book publishers comes from recycled paper or paper managed in an environmentally friendly way. What's wrong with this picture?
Fortunately, some publishers are trying to do better than the average.
For example, Simon & Schuster recently announced a new environmental initiative and paper policy with a 2012 goal of deriving 10% of the company's purchased paper from forests certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)–an international organization headquartered in Bonn, Germany that sets standards worldwide for responsible forest management. If paper is FSC certified, it came from forests that are managed in a socially and environmentally responsible way.
Random House set the bar even higher with its goal of raising the proportion of recycled paper it uses to 30% by 2010. It used 3% recycled paper in 2006. And according to paperrecycles.org, the US paper industry has set an industry goal of recovering 55% of all the paper consumed in the United States by 2012.
But it's not enough, especially when you compare those numbers to the new figures showing that the European Union (EU) paper recycling rate reached 63.4 percent in 2006 (according to statistics released by the European Recovered Paper Council, or ERCP).
There's much more that can be done in the United States. Don't believe those tired old arguments about higher costs and customer indifference. A 2005 survey conducted by Book Business magazine showed that "17% of publishers using at least 30% post-consumer recycled fiber were able to achieve cost parity." And a 2005 study co-sponsored by BookTech magazine, Co-Op America, and Green Press Initiative found that "80% of consumers who had purchased a book or magazine in the past six months would be willing to pay more for a book or magazine printed on recycled paper." More than 42% of respondents were also willing to pay an additional $1 to purchase a book printed on recycled paper. And what about the future costs of not doing much of anything?
And it's not just readers who are concerned about the environment---authors such as J.K. Rowling, Alice Walker, and Margaret Atwood are joining their voices in the call for conservation. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which boasted a record-breaking print run, was produced with great environmental care. Six new types of paper were developed specifically for the book, and Markets Initiative, a Canadian environmental group, presented the Order of the Forest award to Rowling for saving trees and encouraging other publishers to do the same.
This holiday season, why not give the gift of trees to your readers?