Today’s Solutions: September 30, 2023

The weighty feel of a book in your hands; a window into the minds and hearts of people. Whether you’re taking it to the park for some quiet time or reading it before bed, a good book is there as a companion, an advisor, and a guide. An age-old custom that reminds us of life before smartphones and tablets. There is even a certain aroma associated with books, which is awe-inspiring.

However, books leave a carbon footprint just like any other manmade product.

The Tree to Me project

The Society of Authors (SoA) has started a new initiative to help authors prepare for and have productive conversations with their publishers regarding the sustainability of their published work. The project, called Tree to Me, aims to involve authors in the publishing industry’s push toward a carbon-neutral future.

“I’m hugely proud to have published a sustainable book; it is possible,” declared Piers Torday, author and chair of the SoA’s Sustainability Steering Committee, in a press release. “But for that to be the norm rather than the exception, authors need to be able to have clear and transparent conversations with publishers about their impact on the planet. Tree to Me equips them with the starting kit to do just that.”

10 questions to tackle the climate crisis

Tree to Me presents 10 questions for authors to ask their publishers about the resources used in the production and distribution of their books, such as the types of paper, dust jackets, hardcovers, ink, packaging, and energy sources. The purpose of the questions is to promote dialogue about sustainability and the climate problem with the ultimate goal of creating more environmentally friendly supply chains.

In the same press release mentioned above, Sophie Galleymore Bird, author and SoA Sustainability Steering Committee member, shared her experience as an independent author who felt she had no power over the paper finishes of her book.

She said: “As an independent author using print on demand, I had no control over the paper or finishes of my book. Once I became aware of the impact of virgin paper pulp on the climate and biodiversity crises I felt I had no choice but to withdraw the paperback from sale.” 

Now, Bird is an enthusiastic member of the SoA’s Sustainability Steering Committee as well as part of the Tree to Me campaign. She hopes that “the changes authors ask for [will] ensure a thriving publishing industry for generations to come.”

Working together for a sustainable future

Every industry, including publishing, has a role to play in the worldwide effort to mitigate the effects of climate change.

According to the announcement, the publishers’ answers would provide insight into their operations and their plans for the future.

The Association of Authors’ Agents (AAA) is proud to back the Tree to Me initiative, which seeks to improve communication on this crucial topic. Its clients and those working with the AAA’s member organizations are dedicated to the noble cause of responsible environmental stewardship. Claire Wilson, vice president of the AAA, said in a news release, “We are delighted that the ten questions at the heart of this campaign will allow authors and agents to better work in partnership with their publishers towards a more sustainable future.”

Authors are in a unique position to encourage publishers to address the negative effects of book production on the environment. Authors can inform their readers about the steps their publishers are taking to improve the long-term viability of their books after those steps have begun to be taken. 

The Sustainability Industry Forum was established through a collaboration between the SoA, the Booksellers Association, the Publishers Association, the Independent Publishers Guild, Book Industry Communications, and the AAA. This is the first time all of the book industry’s groups have worked together toward a common goal; they hope that by working together, they can enhance climate-related outcomes by increasing openness and accountability and sharing best practices with all.

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