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Reading Green Style

 Love to read books?  Try to get your fix through the library or a second hand shop.  If you finish a bought book, don’t let it sit collecting dust- donate it to a worthy cause, or pass it on to a friend with similar literary taste.  And when you buy, try to look for recycled paper content and natural inks.


Here’s the deal with the publishing industry-


  • One of every four books produced is returned unsold from the bookstore to the publisher, who then pays to have it burned or recycled.  In 2006, 3.09 billion books were sold in the US, out of 4.15 billion books produced.
  • There are more than 80,000 publishers in the US, but only about 150 have signed the Book Industry Treatise on Responsible Paper Use.
  • One major Treatise goal- to increase the percentage of recycled paper in books to an average of 30% by 2012, from the current level of about 5%.
  • More than 20 million trees are cut down annually to produce the books sold in the US.  If the publishing industry switches to 30% post-consumer waste, 4.9 million fewer trees will be used.
  • Books have an average carbon footprint of 8.85 lbs of carbon dioxide. 
  • 62.7% of the publishing industry’s carbon emissions are due to virgin paper usage.  Replacing one ton of virgin fiber with post-consumer recycled fiber would prevent 2,108 lbs of greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • Using recycled paper is generally cleaner and more efficient because most of the extracting and bleaching of fibers has already been done.  This reduces air and water pollution and lessens water and energy consumption (20%-30% less energy).
  • The pulp and paper industry ranks 3rd on the list of largest industrial greenhouse gas emitters.
  • 40% of landfill solid waste is paper.


Random House, which has not signed the Book Industry Treatise, has it’s own four year plan to increase recycled paper use to 30% by 2011. This would reduce about 524 million pounds of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere annually — equivalent to removing 45,800 cars from the road — and save 4.9 million trees, 2.1 billion gallons of water, and 264 million pounds of solid waste each year (according to the Green Press Initiative).


Although a study showed more than 80 percent of customers are willing to pay a higher price for books printed on recycled paper, publishers can be hesitant to initially pay the extra cost, which is generally a difference of 4 to 6 percent.


Sustainable Children’s Books


Only one of the 55 publishers globally printed the recent Harry Potter books on chlorine-free, 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper.  In addition to electricity and greenhouse gas savings, Raincoast Books saved an estimated 39,320 trees, 17 million gallons of water and 1,885 pounds of solid waste.


Here’s a list of children's book publishers that have formally committed to the goals of the Green Press Initiative by maximizing their use of recycled and/or FSC certified paper:


Ezra's Earth (
Beyond Words Publishing (
Chronicle Books (
Free Spirit Publishing (
Gibbs Smith (
Jewish Lights (
Sierra Club Books (
Ten Speed / Celestial Arts (


Future Trends:


You have probably heard of electronic books or electronic reading devices…but plastic books?

"Cradle to Cradle" authors William McDonough and William McDonough suggest that recycling paper just delays it from going to the landfill, because paper can only be recycled about three times before it becomes too low in quality for book use, or seven times for other use.  Their book is published on plastic, is waterproof, durable, and recyclable. 






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