The planet friendly creative. 

This post began life as the A-Z of book publishing: going green.

I fess up, I struggled with a G because I thought of galley proofs but these environmentally unfriendly, tree eating ways of proofing are mostly confined to the past as designers and printers look at online proofing for speed and to be green.

And that thought made me think of going green! Not like Kermit or changing your book cover to Pantone 381 (a personal favourite) but by adopting planet friendly publishing and design. This year I have set myself the challenge of never buying a new book to reduce my carbon footprint and here are my thoughts on being a planet-friendly creative because this applies to everyone.

It's true that publishing hasn't been the most environmentally friendly business. Book publishing has been named in the past as the third largest industrial greenhouse emitter when it comes to pulp and paper. When I worked for a publisher famed for their bird logo... we had quarterly book sales of unsold stock destined for pulping and it was astonishing to see how much unnecessary printing went on. Did you know that the USA uses 32m trees each year to make books? The idea of a paperless office is also a goal to work towards in most firms rather than the norm. So how can we make small changes with big impacts? Here's a few ideas to inspire you...

  • Look at your tools. If you scribble on paper, write on the back and buy recycled paper products.
  • If you must print your proofs, do so double-sided but think about marking online proofs. Adobe Acrobat has plenty of tools and there are some great online tools such as Futureproofs, developed by a former editor at Cambridge University Press. 
  • You can learn about online editing and marking PDF proofs at the wonderful SFEP, a comprehensive school of learning for authors and editors.  
  • You can use social media to spread the word. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can all be used to share details of your book which saves you having to go on the road.
  • A book launch is a wonderful event but you may want to use local businesses. I've organised launches in local pubs and landlords often have agreeable rates as they appreciate new clientele and a mention on your social media. 
  • The book tour can be very unfriendly to the planet. Travelling by train is a wonderful way to reduce your carbon footprint. I've handed out books on the Cambridge to Liverpool Street line for World Book Day, so you make your journey very productive if you're feeling brave! Think about original transport options, Skpe and Zoom.
  • Think carefully about the copies you need to avoid waste. In commercial terms a publisher will sell remaindered copies (the ones held in the warehouse unsold) to discount shops but if the shipping cost is high then books are pulped by being ground up, mixed with chemicals and processed into recycled paper. That end result isn't so bad but the energy of printing and paper could have been avoided in the first place. So estimate wisely on what you think you will sell and be honest about the margin of error.
  • Digital reading has a carbon footprint due to the devices but the book production process isn't as bad to the planet as printed. However the Eco Guide reminds us that 'A single e-reader’s total carbon footprint is approximately 168kg, and for a book, this figure is somewhere in the range of 7.5kg; the book’s length and type can lead this figure to vary. Using an average of 7.5kg, we can conclude it would take reading about 22-23 books on an e-reader to reach a level in which the environmental impact is the same as if those books had been read in print.'
  • Look at print on demand (POD). This means that you only order what you sell and many POD suppliers are adopting green methods.
  • Look for Sustainable Forestry Initiative or Forest Stewardship Council statements or logos on paper stock when choosing a printer. This will tell you that the paper is sustainable.
  • You can also use plant based inks for printing. I love using SoloPress who are huge supporters of eco inks. Book printers using veggie inks include Ashley House and The Langham Press
  • Printing close to your sales point is a great way to save on shipping costs and air or boat miles. Many publishers, disappointingly, still print off-shore but as the demand from customers to be green increases, so they are looking at ways to print in the countries they sell to. 

Finally, use your local library. I can't begin to put into words how important libraries are to our reading. Donate your book, ask to host a reading, use them for a book launch and use them to borrow your book. If you run a business group, hire their meeting rooms. Get inside those doors and get borrowing. 

So over to you, do you have any green tips to share? I'd love to hear from you.