Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Back from the Trenches: Eco-Libris in Book Expo America. Part 1 – ABA's Day of Education

Just back from Book Expo America in Los Angeles. Although the word on the street is that this year was a bit slower than previous ones, it was still the number one book industry event in the US. Therefore it was definitely a good place for Eco-Libris to network, learn and discuss green policies, practices, and the planting of trees to balance out the paper used by the various members of the industry.

One organization that is starting to take environmental concerns seriously, is the American Booksellers Association (ABA). Eco-Libris was invited to meet booksellers that may be interested in our program for booksellers, in its “Green Retailing” session, held as part of ABA's day of education on Thursday, May 29.

Keynote by Ed Begley Jr.

The day began with a green keynote speech by environmental activist, actor, and author of “Living like Ed – A guide to Eco-Friendly Life”,Ed Begley Jr. He was introduced by outgoing ABA President Russ Lawrence , who also listed ABA's environmentally friendly efforts for the event: The elimination of the canvas goody bag that was given to all members in the past upon sign-up. It was replaced by a table of freebies, which members can pick and choose from, and carry in the bags they already brought with them. Paper use was also minimized. Whereas in the past, at the end of each session, an evaluation sheet was distributed to be filled up, this time the evaluation will be done electronically. Similarly, there were no handouts during the educational sessions, and all the material was made available on-line before the show. Whenever possible, material for the show was sourced locally in LA, minimizing shipping from ABA's headquarters on the east coast. And my favorite effort was that metro passes were given to all members to encourage using public transportation when commuting in LA during the show.

Compared to the non-existent green practices of the main event at Book Expo America (don't get me started! This rant will come later) the ABA demonstrated awareness and pro-activeness that I can only wish will be emulated and built upon by others in the future.

As always, Begley's speech was interesting and inspiring. He started by calling the booksellers in the audience “proud survivors of independent retails... American communities need you”, and went on to detail the ways in which he managed to live a green life as a poor actor living on a budget during his early career, encouraging people to take action according to their current means, and embrace the money saving aspects of the green movement.

During the Q&A session Begley was asked about his current favorite books, which included Bill McKibben's The End of Nature, Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, and Collapse by Jared Diamond.

Green Retailing Education Session

This session included three presentations moderated by ABA's Chief of Operations Oren Teicher, whom together with ABA's Lisa Winn, seems to be heading the organization's green drive. Presenters included Ferris Kawar, of green retail guide Greenopia, Natalie Frieberg of Los Angeles based green retailer, All Shades of Green, and Suzy Staubach of UConn Co-op. All three are involved with greening of retail space, and related to the booksellers in the audience their tips and practices on taking action in their own stores. Most practices suggested are not unique to book selling. These included recycling, the use of recycled material (for example for flooring), and encouraging sustainable commute practices by the staff, such as using public transport, biking or carpooling. More specifically for book selling was the focus on the place of the bookstore as a purveyor of information to the community. Bookstores were encouraged to create a green books section that will include related books, and those that were sustainably produced. Staubach of Uconn Co-Op also described an annual conference on sustainability that she organizes at the campus, and Frieberg described a workshop which took place at the store, that ended in the transformation of the shop's parking lot into a more sustainable system of capturing rain water.

Teicher of ABA introduced Eco-Libris and your truly to the audience and encouraged the booksellers in attendance to check out our program for bookstores. Eco-Libris enables the bookstore to offer its customers the opportunity to plant a tree for every book they buy. This introduction was very exciting and will hopefully result in many more stores joining in the near future.

At a later date I'll discuss the very timely “building community” session, and Amy Goodman's moving lunch speech, which ended in a standing ovation. Needless to say, this was a great event and many thanks and congratulations to its organizers.

Eylon @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: plant a tree for every book you read!

(Images: Bookselling This Week)

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