5 Ways the Publishing Industry Can Have a Better Impact on the Environment

5 Ways the publishing industry can have a better impact on the environment

by Alicja Sowinska

In the past few decades, many of us have become aware of environmental issues such as pollution and deforestation. As a result, we might wonder “how can we be more considerate in our choices?” This applies to many aspects of life, such as recycling, diet, and fashion. But what about the books we love? Unfortunately, the publishing industry contributes to the destruction of the environment. So, how can publishing companies and book lovers be more eco-friendly?

#1: No returns, please

If you’re a publishing company or indie author and discover that one of your titles has typos in it, then rather than asking for the copies to be returned and pulping them, you could donate them, reduce their cost, or leave them as is and keep a list of errata online. Alternatively, you could operate on a “print-on-demand” basis rather than printing bulk copies, discouraging returns and wasteful printing.

#2: Set motivating goals

If you’re a publisher that wants to incorporate more sustainable practices, set clear business goals and keep track of your progress. Communicate with your production teams to understand the impacts at each stage. Ask staff to come up with ideas to be more environmentally friendly, then set collective goals and a detailed plan so that everyone is on the same page. If you’re a reader, you could set a goal to buy fewer brand-new books. 

#3: Switch to second-hand

As a reader, buying second-hand books or “thrift shopping” can prove doubly effective. Firstly, you’re purchasing a preowned book, and therefore reducing your individual carbon footprint, but you’re also supporting the reduction of wasteful printing in the first place by not buying into it. This can also be applied to getting rid of books: donate your unwanted books to charities, book swaps, or loved ones. If you run a bookshop, you could encourage customers to donate their unwanted books to a book swap shelf or consider switching to selling second-hand books only.

#4: Buy e-books and audio

There are many benefits of buying e-books rather than print, from the reduction in printing demand to accessibility and convenience. If you have an internet connection, you can purchase and read e-books from the comfort of your own home, a coffee shop, or on the go through an e-reader or even your smartphone. This also applies to audiobooks. As a publisher or indie author, you can make your books available in e-book and audio formats to reduce wasteful printing.

#5: Reduce your carbon footprint

It’s worth noting that any efforts to improve environmental outcomes aren’t standalone. Committing to second-hand books might be just one part of your overall plan to reduce your carbon footprint. You can do an online analysis to discover your carbon footprint, then brainstorm other potential ways to reduce it. If you go second-hand with your books, why not try it with your clothes too?

A brighter future

Within the world of publishing, there are some simple and some more involved ways that publishing houses and individual readers can reduce their role in the destruction of the environment. That might be buying digital books, switching to print-on-demand, donating unwanted books, thrift shopping, or a whole host of positive actions.

Either way, the future is brighter if we all commit to doing our bit for the planet, whether we’re the ones writing books, publishing them, or reading them.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and tips on environmentally conscious actions, so get in touch on Twitter or Instagram.