Friday, June 25, 2010

A new toolkit of Moon Willow Press helps publishers and authors who want to green!

Our mission at Eco-Libris is to green up the book industry and make reading more sustainable. Fortunately, we're not alone in this quest.

One of the new forces that is joined us is Moon Willow Press, a Canadian publisher that not only publish books sustainably, but also works to help other publishers to do the same. Last month we updated you that they started a campaign where 33% of the first 100 sales of their first e-book, The Little Big Town, go toward planting trees with Eco-Libris. Already as a result of their campaign, 200 trees are planted with our planting partners.

But that's not all. On April Moon Willow Press published a comprehensive toolkit that "provides backgrounder information for Moon Willow Press’s publishing philosophy, and offers tools for authors, publishers, printers, and others who want to follow responsible practices when using materials from the planet’s remaining forest resources."

This toolkit is a great tool for any publisher or author who wants to learn more about the environmental impacts of books and how they can reduce it. We wanted to learn more about it and conducted an interview with Mary Woodbury, the owner and publisher of Moon Willow Press.
Hello Mary. Can you please tell us about Moon Willow Press?
Hello Mary. Can you please tell us about Moon Willow Press?
Moon Willow Press is just an idea I have had lingering in my head for a long time. I wrote this in the toolkit, but will repeat it here: When I was little, my favorite past-time was sitting beneath a big tree, reading a book. I loved to soak up the big world around me, both imaginatively and intellectually. This picture leaves juxtaposition behind, however, in that nearly four billion trees worldwide are cut down each year for paper -- the same paper used for those lovely books we read.

I love to read, and love books, and wanted to begin publishing, but was faced with the reality that I didn't want to contrib
ute to non-sustainable forestry practices when publishing. I figured I'd follow some models, such as the Green Press Initiative's model of using only either post-consumer paper or FSC-certified paper that I know is coming from responsibly managed and renewable forests. I also wanted to make good books to read. I'm primarily interested in non-fiction that deals with environmental issues. I think it's important to educate the public about what's going on in our world. I also love fiction and poetry, so that will also be a part of my publishing plan.

What brought you to publish the Moon Willow Press Toolkit?
I started working on it as a resource for myself, and then it turned into a big project that I thought would be helpful for other publishers, authors, and presses. I had a lot of information from organizations such as Eco-Libris and many others, and just wanted to combine it all into one place.

The toolkit includes detailed information on the state of forests, especially in Canada - Were surprised of some of the information you found out?
To be honest, as brutal as some environmental facts and figures are, I wasn't too surprised. I was especially moved by how indigenous people who are so dependent on the forest ecosystems in which they live are treated so badly and have their resources and livelihoods turned upside-down. I've always had a soft spot for nature and preserving it, but social injustice tears at my heart too.

What advice you can give to a publisher who wants to go green but don't know where to start?
Well, a lot of it's common sense. Don't be wasteful, and look for alternatives when publishing or even just making decisions for your office. Remember that cost and quality of paper isn't everything. The real costs of using high-grade, non-sustainable fiber reach far beyond your pocket book.

I'm just starting out myself, and will learn a lot along the way, and hopefully can share more later. But there are so many resources on the web about responsible publishing, and a good start is the toolkit and many of the places I reference in there, such as Green Press Initiative, Eco-Libris, Canopy, and Rainforest Alliance.

Why do you think we don't see more publishers that go green? What are the main obstacles?
I think a lot of publishers don't realize that they can go green, that there are options when making paper choices. There are so many green printers out there. I think smaller-run, digitally produced books, e-books, FSC-certified fiber printing, and printing on demand are the wave of the future. At least I hope they are.

I don't think there are any huge obstacles in going green. The only one I can think of is that for large book production, offset printing may be choice and non-post-consumer or non-FSC paper might be cheaper. But again, I think it's helpful to look at the overall savings in our environment rather than a few cents in our pocketbooks. Profit isn't always wallet-based!

How real is the option to use non-tree resources for paper?
I would like to see more studies on non-tree resources such as wheat, hemp, sisal, flax, kenaf, or other vegetable fibers. As with any natural resource, we always need to think ahead for the sustainability of large production with those fibers too. I think for now using these alternatives is great at least for office solutions, like business cards and calendars. As for the production of books, more studies and trials need to take place.

Do you think bookstores can also play a role in making books more sustainable?
Yes, book stores can take initiative, along with publishing houses and authors, in extolling the virtues of books printed on recycled/FSC papers and in printing processes that are environmentally cleaner, safer, and use less resources - such as nontoxic toners or vegetable/biodegradable inks, recycled aluminum plates, totally chlorine-free processes, and so on.

I think we just stepped into the age where people will start to "get it" about our environment, with the worst environmental disaster in history having seeped to our Gulf as I write this. Everyone is going to be more conscious about our resources and dependencies. Everything from renewable energy and less dependency on oil to conservation and preservation of our endangered and declining natural resources is going to be a high priority. Once consumers realize this, I think bookstores and other industries will gain respect in the eye of the consumer by having good environmental practices, whether in manufacturing or retail.

What about e-books? When do you think we'll be able to consider e-readers as a greener alternative?
I think we should start to consider e-readers as a greener alternative, though I've only read a few studies (mentioned in the toolkit) that found e-readers less of an impact over books. The Cleantech Group, for instance, predicted that e-readers purchased from 2009 to 2012 could prevent 5.3 billion kg of carbon dioxide in 2012, or 9.9 billion kg during the four-year time period. I think more study is needed, but the e-ink technology is a wonderful one, and at least the e-book I have (Kindle DS) feels very much like a book and I consider it a replacement and buy only e-books at this point.

What's your advice for readers who want to green up their reading? What can they do?
There is so much to do! People can seek out green publishers when making book-buying choices, write to publishers with opinions on paper choices, buy e-books instead of paper books, check books out at the library instead of buying new books (many libraries now offer e-book downloads too), and also join planting programs like yours. There are book recyclers, regular paper recyclers, book donations, and so on. I would say it's important to never buy what you are going to throw away, but also never throw away a book. Donate it to charity or your local library.

After writing this toolkit, are you more optimistic or pessimistic?
I'm more optimistic. I get invigorated when I start talking or thinking about my press. In an odd way, my press is really still in the baby stage, because my first paper book won't be published until later this year, and then in 2011 I have accepted three more books for publication so far too. So I haven't done much with the press as of yet, but am very excited about it. Thanks for giving me this opportunity to talk about it. And thanks for your wonderful tree-planting program!

Thank you, Mary. Moon Willow Press's Publishing Toolkit can be downloaded at no charge at

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: promoting sustainable reading!