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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

Green Press Initiative - Environmentally Responsible Publishing

Oct 02, 2009 03:07PM


By Lisa Moore

The next time you sit down to read a book, newspaper or magazine, consider the impact that is made on forests, the climate and people to make paper – a product we take for granted.

Forests must be cleared or altered, oftentimes leading to harmful effects on people and wildlife. Indigenous communities that rely on the forests for sustenance can be devastated by industrial logging practices that transform the landscape they’ve depended on for years. Animals instantly become homeless.

Producing paper requires large amounts of energy, making it the fourth largest industrial source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. The trees that were used to make paper for your favorite book actually pulled greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. When paper degrades in a landfill it releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

The decisions made by those in the publishing industry affect millions of people globally. Green Press Initiative (GPI) is a non-profit group committed to advancing sustainable patterns of production and consumption within the U.S. book and newspaper industries and the paper industry at large. GPI also advances policy innovations related to paper and climate change and recycling and incubates pioneering new strategies for market transformation.

More than 140 publishers, including some of the world’s largest, have established strong environmental policies, but there is a long way to go. Shannon Binns, of Charlotte, is the Program Manager for the newspaper sector of GPI. He says publisher receptivity to being more responsible varies widely from one publisher to the next, and reflects the diversity of the American people's willingness to take action on these issues to some extent.

“Some are very disinterested, however, forward-thinking publishers realize that socially responsible business is no longer simply a nicety but good business because more of the public is demanding it and it typically reduces costs,” says Binns, who holds a master’s degree in Environmental Science and Policy.

According to GPI, each pound of postconsumer recycled fiber that replaces a ton of virgin fiber prevents the release of 2,108 lbs. of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, over the course of its lifecycle, postconsumer recycled fiber requires 30-40% less energy than virgin fiber. Binns says GPI will advocate for government incentives to increase paper recycling and institutional recycled paper purchasing.

The group also hopes to develop a green publishing certification program for the U.S. book industry that can be used as a model for other publishing sectors and in other countries.

Concerned individuals can help to drive the shift to sustainable publishing. “The public can let their concerns about the impacts of publishing be known by asking their local newspaper or favorite publisher to print on higher recycled content and FSC certified paper,” states Binns. “They can also support nonprofits such as Green Press Initiative who are working directly with publishers to raise awareness of these issues and help find solutions.”

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