AAUP Participates in Book Industry Environmental Council

On June 11 I represented the AAUP at the first meeting of the the Book Industry Environmental Council (BIEC) held at the corporate headquarters of Random House in New York City.

Brenna McLaughlin from AAUP also attended. This group was formed at the urging of Tyson Miller of Green Press Initiative, though it is not under his direction. In attendance were a complimentary mix of publishers, paper manufacturers, book printers, and booksellers. Half of the group met around a large conference table, while half attended via phone hook up.

Prior to arriving in New York I queried my fellow AAUP book designers and production managers about what kind of eco-book, forest-friendly logo would work for them when designing and producing university press books. I reproduced this on-line discussion in pdf form and handed it out to my fellow BIEC members. Almost all AAUP designers wanted a line-art logo that did not interfere in the design of the dust jacket but still graphically conveyed a message of environmental certification.

At the BIEC meeting a lively discussion about the book industry's ecological footprint dominated a large part of the session, with some paper manufacturers maintaining that the books themselves qualified as "carbon sequestration" and should be calculated as offsets to the burning of fossil fuels during paper manufacture. Also discussed were the requirements of a universal BIEC logo and what such a logo's function and appearance should be. Concerns were raised about "logo bloat" and "greenwashing" where logos cease to advance meaning or educate consumers. The largest number of attendees signed up to be on the Logo Subcommittee, myself included.

The first phone meeting of the logo subcommittee was on July 31st. I was regretfully out of the office and could not attend, but here are the highpoints gleaned from the minutes.

Publisher vs Product Certification:

Through consensus it was decided to certify publishers rather than books, making it much easier to verify compliance. A publisher could be audited once a year, rather than verifying thousands of titles. This would allow a publisher to make last minute changes without having to change certification on the title page and jacket.

Scorecard Approach to Certification:

The scorecard approach provides publishers with a ladder of environmental goals to achieve while getting credit for what they are already doing for the environment, giving them credit for the small steps they may have taken. A scorecard approach would involve people from all levels of a company and it could increase and formalize communication between publishers and suppliers.

Proposed changes to Scorecard:

Awarding points for calculating carbon footprint may alienate small publishers that do not have resources to conduct the necessary analysis. Instead, points should be awarded for accomplishments that would have the effect of reducing a company's carbon footprint such as installing efficient lighting, reducing travel, etc. Relative weighting of transportation should be increased.

Inks would be difficult for publishers to track, as printers may change brand of inks frequently. This info would be especially difficult to track for those printing offshore.

If anyone from the AAUP has a query regarding the Book Industry Environmental Council, please contact Julia Fauci, Design/Production Manager, Northern Illinois University Press, 2280 Bethany Road, DeKalb, IL 60115

Julia Fauci
Design/Production Manager, Northern Illinois University Press