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)

Green Options - Victory for Greenies in Australia as $2.2 Billion Plant is Pulped

s part of Eco-Libris' ongoing content partnership with Green Options Media, we feature a post that was originally published by Ross Kendall on May 28 on EcoWordly. Today's post is about a battle over a pulp mill between a timber company and environmental groups in Australia due to a threat to some of oldest native forest ecosystems in Tasmania, Australia.

A planned rally against ANZ in Melbourne, Australia has been pulpedEnvironmentalists have claimed a victory in Australia where a major investment bank is said to be canceling its funding of a controversial pulp mill planned by the country's biggest harvester of old-growth forest timber.

Both the financial sector and the environmental movement were abuzz around Australia last week with the same piece of information. It looked very much like the Australia New Zealand bank (ANZ), one of the country's top four, had pulled out of its pledge to fund a controversial $2.2 billion pulp mill planned for the southern state of Tasmania.

But of course while the finance sector saw doom and gloom and proceeded to wipe 10 per cent of the share market value of the pulp mill's developer Gunns Ltd, the environmentalist were giddy with delight. If the rumor is true, and they certainly think it is, it could well be the final shot in a battle that has raged for years between Gunns and environmentalists.

Protest called off
Last week the environmental non-government organisation, the Wilderness Society, cancelled its plans for a major rally against the ANZ Bank over its involvement with funding for the pulp mill.

Wilderness Society spokesmen Mr Paul Oosting, congratulated the ANZ Bank for a socially and environmentally responsible decision to abandon the mill.

“Gunns’ pulp mill would see the destruction of high conservation value forests in Tasmania and the project does not have a social license. ANZ’s decision is in line with its new forest policy and with principles that set a high standard for corporate social responsibility.”

Is it too good to be true
After some initial certainty however, things do not seem so clear cut.

Australia's national broadcaster reported late last week that both the timber company, and the ANZ Bank were denying the speculation. The bank left the door opened when it claimed it was waiting for Gunns to clear more regulatory hurdles, before finalising its decision on funding.

So is all this just another story in a world were economic growth clashes with environmental concerns every day, not at all.

A historic battle
The issues of forest logging in Australia's smallest and southernmost state, Tasmania, has been the center of many political debates that have raged across the country, and arguably helped determine the outcome of recent federal elections.

In a nutshell Gunns is the monopoly timber operator in Tasmania were it affords good protection from the state government. Proponents saw it provides jobs and is the power house of the Tasmanian economy. The links between the state government and the company are strong and the 'revolving door' is in operation, state government politicians and employees frequently end up working for the company

Old growth for paper products
The problem for environmentalists is that Gunns chops down some of the oldest native forest ecosystems in the world to supply the paper pulp markets.

To add insult to this injury the company planned a huge "world class" pulp mill to help it add-value to its timber products and of course, provide more jobs and economic growth for the state.

But what a process pushing the mill has been. There have been endless committees, reports, consultations and regulatory hearings all they way to the country's highest government levels. All trying to determine just how much pollution the new plant would be allowed to create in pristine Tasmania.

But the arguments either way haven't changed anybody's mind, you were either for it or against it.

Determined despite the odds
Indeed all seemed lost for the environmentalist when even the prospect of a new federal government, which would include the former rock star with Midnight Oil, and one-time fervent environmentalist, Peter Garrett said they would support the new mill.

The last hope for the environmentalists was to target Gunn's financial backers. And in a testament to conviction it looks like they may well have pulled it off.

Not that environmentalists will be given the credit of course, they rarely are. One of Australia's leading financial commentators Alan Kohler, has said that considering all the turmoil in world markets it is very unlikely the financing will go through.

Everyone wins, but Gunns
This also means that the ANZ can save face and duck accusations that it was running scared of the reputational damage of being involved with the pulp mill. But somehow I don't think the environmentalist will mind this one little bit.