Carbon Emission Labels on Books

From Publishing Perspectives:

Speaking at the Global Sustainable Development Congress in Thuwal, Elsevier‘s global director of sustainability, Rachel Martin, has told an international audience that within five years, it’s likely that all mainstream printed books will display labels on their front and/or back covers, specifying their “environmental credentials.”

“This will not only give consumers more information,” Martin told her audience, according to the event’s organizers. “But it will help publishers, authors, and booksellers too.”

Martin, as Publishing Perspectives readers know (here is our pre-London Book Fair interview with her), has become a leading figure in the international book business’ bid to bring its operations and output into environmentally responsible ranges. Working closely with the International Publishers Association (IPA) and the programs it’s leading, some of them in cooperation with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals framework, Martin was a player in the development of London Book Fair‘s Sustainability Lounge earlier this year.

. . . .

In her comments made Thursday (June 1) at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, organizers say Martin pointed out that a single paperback book emits “on average the equivalent of between one and four kilograms (2.3 to 8.1 pounds) of carbon dioxide.” Indeed in international estimates, the average international carbon footprint for a human being each year is believed to be the equivalent of some 4.5 to 5 metric tonnes (4.9 to 5.5 tons) of carbon dioxide.

In the United Kingdom, Martin said, that range of emission may rise to as much as 9 or 10 metric tonnes—and to more than 15 metric tonnes in the United States—but might be as low as 2 or fewer tonnes in India.

Martin, the congress says, told the audience that she sees the value of product-labeling for books to be the logical consumer-demand response as world citizens become better versed in the details of the climate crisis and responses being made by many industries and businesses, including book publishing.

. . . .

“In the near future,” she said in the conference’s report to us, “consumers will think much more about the environmental cost of what they buy. How much carbon is stored in a book will be something they consider and something that influences what they choose to read.

“Books teach, entertain, inspire, and enrich our lives, but they also have an impact on the planet. By calculating the carbon footprint of our books, we can make more informed choices.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG says, “Read Ebooks and Save the Planet!”

17 thoughts on “Carbon Emission Labels on Books”

  1. Silliest thing I’ve heard in years.
    (Right there with the carbon trading schemes that achieved nothing except pad TESLA’S bottom line for years.)

    Of all the things corporate publishing should be worrying about, carbon emissions is the least.
    Worrying about things like carbon emissions is precisely why they have to worry about the other things.

  2. I won’t take any of these control-freak, self-absorbed nutcases seriously until I see them actually stopping factories from belching millions of tons of particulates into the air every year, specifically because, as the recaptcha says, “I’m not a robot.”

    • Same sentiment, but different criteria: I’m not going to take them seriously until they start practicing what they preach for the rest of us.

      Until then, I will regard prominent climate scolds as snobs who think their sort deserve nice things and no one else does.

    • Especially since they’re not serious.
      Just pandering by posturing: they have zero control over book production, since it’s all outsourced and contracted by low cost bidder.
      If that’s really their biggest concern they’ve been doing too many white lines.

  3. a single paperback book emits “on average the equivalent of between one and four kilograms (2.3 to 8.1 pounds) of carbon dioxide.”

    And the average human body emits 2.2 pounds per day. Every day!!!

  4. Or they could simply urge all readers to switch to ebooks except where there’s a strong reason to go with print (children’s picture books, some reference materials). Seriously, why isn’t this an environmental issue already?

    • Seriously, why should it be? Studies have demonstrated, repeatedly, that human brains do not process information as well via digital text vs. print. Why should we sacrifice understanding for stupidity? Because that’s what these articles are: stupid. Carbon dioxide isn’t nearly the problem environmentalists make it out to be, and the solution is almost always not to cut down on consumption, but to encourage (via market forces) the planting of trees.

      • Whose studies?
        For which market?
        Who paid paid for them? What rules and questions?
        Are they like the old doctor-sponsored cigarrette studies?

        Any time an old, fading tech is challenged they scrounge around looking for ways to deprecate the newcomer. (Mainframes vs Microcomputers being a textbook case.) Usually by conflating markets and conveniently ignoring real-world realities. (How many of those studies break out their results by market, genre, and audience?) You do understand that ebooks are markedly superior for dyslexics and in large text formats, in *every* category? And how do those studies account for the various varieties of audiobooks? Most are digital these days. No mention of digital fatigue or cognition idsues there.

        How much difference does digital vs print make for trade books, say romance or thrillers?
        In whose favor?
        Market data points to ebooks which is why TORSTAR ditched Harlequin and other publishers are minimizing their exposure in SF&F, some bowing out altogether.

        Text has its place but on a pure economic basis, the trade book market is steadily evolving to digital.

        Wait a few years to see what 5-10 years of 7-9% inflation does to retail pbooks and B&M stores.

        • add in the question of what type of device are they reading the ebook on. Is it a 4″ phone screen, or a 10″ e-ink screen? there will be a huge difference between the two.

          • Indeed.
            I recently got my mother a Kindle Scribe and the extra size allows twice the text as the older 6″ Paperwhite. And where she needed to run the paperwhite at max text size, the Scribe only needs to run at 60% to display the same size.

            In the PDA era I used to read single column on a 4in screen, when I moved to 6″ eink I switched to double column landscape to maintain the same text size. Personal ergonomic preference.

            Different strokes and all that.
            But both our preferences and *needs* can be met by the same digital book. And those of others, whatever they be: page layout, font size, font family. Print can’t match any of those.

            Whatever the dead tree pulp lovers might pretend, for a lot of people the choice is digital or nothing. And the way pbook economics are trending, pbook prices are going to drive even more people to digital.

            The future is not going to be the past with a new calendar.

            • I was ignoring the added flexibility of the digital format and just replying to the ‘people absorb information better from paper than from a screen). I think the type/size makes a big difference.

      • Studies have demonstrated, repeatedly, that human brains do not process information as well via digital text vs. print.

        Replicated studies?

  5. C-14 dating shows that only 12% of atmospheric carbon added since 1750 is manmade. This seemingly decisive refutation of claims of anthropogenic climate change will have the same effect on Western public policy that attempting to dissuade Xhosa tribesmen in the 1850s from sacrificing all their cattle so the gods would make the white man leave or Chinese peasants caught up in the frenzy of the Great Leap Forward from smelting their farm implements into useless pig iron would have had. A gigadeath scenario looms.

    But at least the survivors will no longer need to feign interest in Power Point presentations cobbled together by 115-IQ global directors of sustainability. That should make the possum stew go down better.

    • Your point stands, but you are giving too much credit to the Idiotpoliticians and luddite activists and far too little to the STEMers.

      Lost in all the carbon angst are two tech races to obsolete the whole carbon debate by 2030, if not sooner.
      (Also, there is a good chance that the single biggest carbon emmiter will crash beford then.)

      SMNR’s are an existing carbon free energy tech that is being finalized for dep!oyment by 2030 by France, the UK, and half a dozen US companies on their own dime. The luddites are going to scream bloody murder but they won’t be able to stop it. The US regulators have already approved the first deployment.

      Also on schedule for 2030, believe it or not, is Fusion. At least two outfits–US and UK–have demonstrated it is within reach. Microsoft is betting on HELION ENERGY.

      A lot of faces are going to be as egg covered as the idiot Malthusians as the demographic decline spreads.

      • For quite some time, those intelligent enough to listen to the STEMers have been systematically excluded from positions where they might make a difference in such matters.

        • If anything, the PTB actively act to squash the most promising of tech developments.

          No need to go further than the war against SpaceX or the silly “AI” angst. The gerontocracy was actually stupid enough to put MS. Cackle in charge of figuring out how to regulate the unregulatable. That should buy the industry at least three years to spread and hide the tech all over.

          Fusion is another example where the government wastes billions supporting the french jobs program masquerading as science while private money pursues more reasonable approaches; instead of trying to build an imitation star, most of the advanced concepts are working off particle accelerator tech which is why I expect Helion to lap the field. Instead of fighting high temperature plasma instability, they literally go with the flow, creating a pulsating fusion engine.

          The thing actually works a lot like a diesel engine.

          Instead of struggling to contain the plasma for more than a second, they simply let it “cool” and start another cycle. Once they hit 100 cycles a minute they should be net energy positive and be in business.

          (Or looking to clear the debris from the explosion.) 😉

        • This is how stupid the carbon warriors have gotten:

          In the Netherlands a similar plan drove farmers to form a new party that got 20% of the seats and is set to be the largest party in their Upper house of Parliament.

          “Stupid is as stupid does.”

          Reminds me of Mao’s great swallows kill-off that set off the great famine that killed 60m people. Idiotpoliticians gotta idiot.

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