Print is dead.
So said the media folks at a recent writers' conference I attended in New York City. Today it's all about digital magazines, electronic reading devices and 140-character Twitter updates. I concede I've lost count of the number of print publications that have folded since starting my writing career in 2005.
But I love print. And my wallet, which is full of book receipts from Barnes & Noble, tells me print is not dead ... yet. There's nothing like snuggling up at night and losing myself among black and white letters crafted into prose, listening to the authentic flip of crisp pages and running my hands along the smooth cover of a tactile book. Author Ariel Gore says, "Folks have been saying print is dead for decades with the advent of radio, movies, TV and the Internet, but you don't sit on the toilet with an e-zine."
My sentiments exactly.
Yet as a consumer striving to be green, it's disheartening to know most of the books in my collection are printed on 100 percent virgin paper. According to Raz Godelnik of Eco-Libris, a company striving to make the book industry greener, there are 4.15 billion books produced in the United States each year, yet only 5 percent to 10 percent of the paper in those books comes from recycled materials. Even books that cover green topics, such as eco-friendly gift wrapping or green home-improvement projects, aren't necessarily being printed in sustainable ways.
"Books need paper, paper needs trees, and cutting down trees to make paper is tough to sell as conservation, even if it's for a book about conservation," says Clint Greenleaf of Greenleaf Book Group, an independent book publisher.
But take heart, bookworm. There are some positive changes happening in the industry:
Book publishers are pledging to go green
Chronicle Books has raised the bar with its corporate sustainable practices. It's free indoor bike parking encourages green commuting. You won't find any plastic or foam cups in its kitchen -- only real plates and cups, containers for recycling and even composting bins. In addition to the many book printed on recycled paper, Chronicle recycles its press sheets into file folders.
Penguin is experimenting with different paper choices, claiming that more than 64.7 percent of its papers are derived from fiber certified under various organizations, such as the Forest Stewardship Council or Sustainable Forest Initiative. Random House and Simon & Schuster have announced goals of increasing the proportion of recycled paper it uses to manufacture books.
The Green Book Festival
The Green Book Festival is an annual event in California that honors books that "contribute to greater understanding, respect and positive action on the changing worldwide environment." Visit greenbookfestival.com to view the winners of its 2010 competitions, which covered 22 categories of books, ranging from how-to guides to poetry to graphic novels.
Eco-Libris is on a mission
In addition to retaining bloggers who review green books and dedicating its time convincing publishers to adopt greener practices, Eco-Libris has partnered with three nonprofit organizations working in developing countries, Central America and Africa, where deforestation is a crucial problem. To offset your book purchases, you can donate money and its partners will plant a tree. Visit ecolibris.net.
Rent a book through BookSwim.com
A Netflixlike service for book lovers, BookSwim believes that renting books, rather than buying them, will help reduce the number of trees cut down for virgin paper. Unlike typical book shipments (think boxes with air packets and foam peanuts), BookSwim uses recycled and recyclable polymailers for shipping. Plus, it plants a tree for every new membership.
Keep an eye out for these green books to add to your bookshelf:
CRAVE DC by the CRAVE Company Forthcoming in mid-July, this guidebook features Washingtonian women who own their own local business, such as spas, boutiques and yoga studios. Certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, CRAVE DC is printed locally with soy ink on elemental chlorine-free paper with 10% recycled content.
GrassRoutes Travel Guides. These unique eco-travel guides direct readers to local shops and restaurants in each of the cities profiled, as well as adventures that are specifically targeted to sustainable choices. Printed by Sasquatch Books on sustainable forestry initiative paper (a forest stewardship program), the guidebooks are mostly geared toward vacationers traveling along the west coast, but you can find east coast recommendations on its website at www.grassroutestravel.com.
“Hot, Rich, and Green” by Rebecca Harrell Tickell Green business expert Rebecca Hall Tickell advises women how to start the eco-friendly business of their dreams in this book, available now. It’s distributed through Living Well Publishing, a new green publishing company that prints on 100% recycled paper and ships using recycled materials. www.hotrichandgreen.com.