The Book Industry Environmental Council (BIEC) has set a goal to reduce the U.S. book industry’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 20 percent by 2020 (from a 2006 baseline) and 80 percent by 2050. Together with reducing its GHG emissions, the council is also tracking the industry’s environmental progress and is developing an eco-label for publishers. This industry-wide commitment is touted as a global first in publishing.
An industry-focused report conducted in 2008 found that the U.S. book industry has a climate impact equivalent to 12.4 million metric tons of carbon. This 20-percent reduction will represent a savings of up to 2.5 million metric tons per year, the equivalent annual emissions of approximately 450,000 cars, according to BIEC.
BIEC, comprised of more than 40 industry stakeholders representing more than 60 percent market share of publishers, printers, mills, and others, is coordinated by the Green Press Initiative and co-coordinated by the Book Industry Study Group, an industry trade association.
Paper has the biggest impact on the book industry’s carbon footprint at 65 percent, according to the council. As a result, several goals center around reducing its impact on the environment including increasing the use of recycled paper, using paper efficiently, reducing returns and preventing books from ending up in landfills. Publishers increased their use of recycled paper, from 2.5 percent in 2004 to 13 percent in 2007.
The industry’s move to reduce its GHG emissions may be a preemptive measure in light of the Environmental Protection Agency’s “endangerment” ruling on greenhouse gases. The agency proposes to regulate several greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide.
The council is also working on the development of a green publisher certification program modeled after the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification. This program will measure and certify leading publishers’ environmental performance and will require certified publishers to successfully eliminate virtually all fiber coming from Endangered Forests or areas of social conflict.
The book industry is one of many that are starting to look at how their products impact the environment. Industries as diverse as dairy farmers and advertising agencies are now taking a close look at their carbon footprint and sustainability.