GPI's Tyson Miller Offers Insights on Report Detailing Book Industry Environmental Efforts

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Thirteen printers, six paper mills, and 75 publishers (representing more than 45 percent of market share by revenue) responded to an invitation from the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) and Green Press Initiative (GPI) to participate in a 2007 Environmental Benchmarking Survey. Their responses form the basis for the recently released report Environmental Trends and Climate Impacts: Findings From the U.S. Book Industry, which provides insight on everything from energy use and environmental policy development, to resource consumption and the certification and conservation of forests, and more.

And although the study estimates that the overall climate impact of the book industry is currently about 12.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year, "the report shows trends moving in the right direction and also presents the data and the motivation for continued improvement," said Tyson Miller, founder and director of Green Press Initiative.

In its ongoing coverage of green issues in the book industry, this week BTW talks with Miller about some of the findings of the Environmental Trends and Climate Impacts and what booksellers can do about reducing the industry's ecological impact.

BTW: Environmental Trends and Climate Impacts report showed a number of important trends under way in the industry towards the sustainable use and procurement of paper for books. Can you highlight some of these trends?

Tyson Miller: There were a number of key and compelling trends. Here are a few:

  • 59 percent of respondents have completed or intended environmental policies
  • 46 percent have signed the book industry treatise
  • 94 percent of responding publishers and printers prefer FSC [Forest Stewardship Council] certified paper
  • 96 percent of publisher respondents with policies have goals for increasing recycled paper purchases (54 percent are quantitative)
  • 59 percent of respondents have policies on reducing electricity consumption and 41 percent have policies on sourcing renewable energy
  • Post-consumer recycled content fiber in book paper at the mill level has increased six fold -- from 2.5 percent in 2004 to 13.3 percent in 2007
  • Post-consumer recycled fiber use by printers has increased tenfold from 2,100 tons in 2004 to more than 19,000 tons in 2006
  • The average .89 lb. book emits 8.85 lbs. of C02 and the industry emits 12.4 million metric tons of CO2/yr.

I was most surprised by the support for FSC certified paper and the number of companies that have integrated goals for reducing electricity consumption and sourcing renewable energy.

BTW: What are some concrete steps booksellers can take to reduce the overall carbon footprint of the book industry?

TM: Booksellers can support publishers as they work to integrate new distribution models (like no-returns) that will limit over-consumption. Booksellers can also work to reduce the impacts at the retail site -- conducting energy efficient improvement and technology upgrades, source renewable energy, and make sure that books don't end up in the landfill -- perhaps by even providing a collection mechanism for books that have met their end-of-life.

We've got a toolkit on reducing the climate impact that is industry specific and can be found at: -- the report points to the fact that in an office setting, lighting and heating and cooling account for 30 percent and 34 percent of energy use, so there are some real opportunities. Booksellers can also encourage publishers to do more. At present, about 45 percent of publisher marketshare is engaged in some form on the spectrum of action ... but there are more that need prodding and encouragement to develop an environmental policy and get their books on environmentally responsible paper -- the easiest way to reduce the industry's carbon footprint.

BTW: Several of the publishers and printers that participated have annual reviews that determine how effectively they're meeting their own environmental targets or goals. Do you recommend anything similar for booksellers?

TM: Indeed. Any company that establishes goals and metrics for environmental improvement should track and measure progress towards reaching those goals. It's an internal organizing process that is key to making measurable progress.

BTW: According to the report, a poll commissioned by Book Business magazine and Green Press Initiative, showed that readers are willing to pay more for books with a "higher environmental profile." Is this a likely development in the industry, charging for a "Greener" product?

TM: Potentially ... if 80 percent of customers are willing to pay a quarter or even a dollar more for a book that they are already forking out $12 to $40 for, then everyone wins -- the publisher doesn't have to absorb the cost and neither does the mill or printer. In our industry, there's pricing flexibility, customers are used to paying varying prices for the product and given the current desire for environmental responsibility in society, the Opinion Research Poll findings are right on the mark. The only trouble is that most publishers haven't embraced its findings. They are concerned with pre-established pricing thresholds and also think consumers will say one thing but do another. Maybe that's the case when it comes to buying a car -- but for a book ... where consumers are being asked to spend one percent more, it's a no-brainer.

BTW: What do you think of the overall trend towards reducing the carbon footprint of the industry? Were you surprised by the findings of the report?

TM: The most dramatic way for the industry to reduce its carbon footprint is to increase its use of recycled fiber in books so as to reduce carbon loss in the forest. The trends on that front are encouraging with a six-fold increase in recycled fiber use at the mill level. Other measures of progress around reducing carbon impacts related to energy consumption and transportation and reducing waste are being seen across the industry --booksellers like Powell's Books and others establishing conservation objectives, companies upgrading lighting systems and installing solar panels -- there are really encouraging signs underway. The Book Industry Environmental Council is in its formative stages and will likely be establishing goals for reducing the industry's carbon impact. So long story short, the momentum is building and will likely only increase.

BTW: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

TM: There are amazing signs of progress taking place and the critical mass is on the side of environmental innovation and stewardship. We still need a lot more companies at all levels to do more, but it's a matter of physics ... in a molecular world where the existence of water is determined by the weight of its molecules, the existence of book sector stewardship is determined by the weight of the many business leaders adding their weight to advance the cause. --Interviewed by Karen Schechner

For more information on the Environmental Trends and Climate Impacts: Findings From the U.S. Book Industry, visit or