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Life Arts    H2'ed 6/9/11

Todd Pollak on The Green Press Initiative

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My guest today is Todd Pollak, Program Manager for the Green Press Initiative. Welcome to OpEdNews, Todd. What is it and how does it work? 

Green Press Initiative is a nonprofit program that takes a collaborative approach to working with publishers and their suppliers to reduce the environmental impacts of the book and newspaper industries.  We do this by educating key stakeholders about the impacts of publishing and then help them develop and implement meaningful environmental policies by providing a variety of tools and resources such as listings of environmentally responsible papers and printers, sample policy language and reports with up to date and scientifically based research.  Since paper accounts for the largest part of most publishers' environmental footprint, a lot of our focus is on sourcing environmentally responsible paper and fiber that is either recycled or certified by the Forest Stewardship Council to ensure that the best practices in forest management have been followed.  
Green Press Initiative also founded and now coordinates the Book Industry Environmental Council which brings together more than 40 industry stakeholders to work on three priorities: Tracking the environmental progress of the book industry; Helping the book industry reach a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emission to 20% below 2006 levels by 2020; and reducing the number of books that are overproduced and the quantity of books that are landfilled when they are discarded. Green Press Initiative will also soon launch a certification that will identify environmentally responsible book publishers.

I had never heard of [or even thought] about this before and suddenly, in the last month or two, I read several books that were products of the Green Press Initiative. One of them was Colin Beavan's No Impact Man, which raised my environmental awareness on many levels. Are there lots of publishers now open to and using these green approaches? 

Yes, a lot of publishers are working really hard to reduce their environmental impacts. Green Press Initiative has been around for 10 years and there has certainly been a lot of progress in the last few years. We have worked with over 200 publishers to develop meaningful environmental policies.  This really spans the range from the smallest independent publishers who have only printed one or two titles to some of the largest publishers including Random House, Scholastic, Hachette Book Group and Simon and Schuster. Many publishers have also signed on to the Book Industry Treatise for Environmentally Responsible Publishing which sets industry wide goals for using recycled fiber, FSC certified paper, and now includes a goal to reduce the industry's carbon emissions. In total, we estimate that about 50% of publishers (by market share) have environmental policies in place. 
That's heartening.   I'm assuming you're also getting the word out to authors and agents. What about the other 50% of publishers? And what can readers/consumers do to agitate for greener policies? 
We have reached out to authors and agents in the past and some authors including Fritjof Capra, Alice Walker, and Julia Butterfly Hill have been supportive of our efforts.  As for the 50% of publisher market share that has not yet developed an environmental policy, we are certainly doing what we can to encourage them to get on board. The good news is that the efforts of publishers who are leaders on environmental issues have made it easier for other publishers to make environmental commitments. Because of the demand created by the publishers that already have policies in place, there are more recycled and FSC certified book papers available than ever before and a growing number of printers stock a variety of environmental grades that can suit many publishers' needs.

The biggest thing that individual readers can do to advocate for greener policies among publishers is to make it clear that there is a demand for environmentally responsible books.  Right now, it is difficult for readers to know if a book is from an environmentally responsible publisher, however that will soon change. Green Press Initiative is in the process of developing a certification that will identify publishers that are leading the way in reducing environmental impacts. Readers can definitely write letters to their favorite authors and publishers asking them to avoid sourcing paper from endangered forests and to use more recycled and FSC certified papers.   Making a donation to Green Press Initiative will also help ensure that we have the resources to continue working with publishers and providing them with the resources they need to develop and implement strong environmental policies. For more steps individual readers can take please visit 

Tell us a little about yourself, please. How did you get involved in environmental issues in the first place and how did you come to be doing what you're doing now?

Ever since I was very young, I enjoyed spending time in nature doing things like hiking and camping so I think that definitely helped steer me towards a career that focuses on environmental conservation. Then during my senior year in high school, through an internship program I had the opportunity to spend several weeks teaching environmental education programs to elementary school children on board a boat that sails along the Hudson River. In college, I realized that I was really interested in the interaction between business and the environment and I took a lot of courses that looked business solutions to environmental problems and focused on natural resource economics. I actually switched from a major in economics to the environmental program.  
Through my studies, and internships with a variety of environmental organizations, I became convinced that wasted resources equals wasted money and despite the conventional wisdom, in many cases doing what is best for the environment is often the best thing for a company's bottom line. I also became convinced that while there is sometimes a place for hard hitting campaigns that publicly target businesses that are lagging in terms of environmental performance, a lot of progress can also be made when environmental organizations work collaboratively with the companies they are hoping to change. 
Tyson Miller had founded Green Press Initiative a few years before I graduated from college, and I initially started with GPI as an intern soon after I graduated and I really liked what I was doing. That focus on a collaborative approach to working with publishers and their suppliers seemed to be a really good fit with what I believe is the best way to bring about positive change.

How nice for you. It does sound like a good fit. Anything you'd like to add before we wrap this up?

I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to talk about Green Press Initiative, and end by letting anyone who may be involved in publishing that we are here to help. Our website provides a variety of tools and resources for finding environmentally responsible papers and printers, as well a sample environmental policies, research and reports and a variety of other tools to help book industry stakeholders reduce environmental impacts.

Thanks for talking with me, Todd. I'm so glad you're out there doing what you're doing.

Green Press Initiative website   

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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