Maybe you are a writer. Or perhaps a publisher. If you are here, you are probably also an environmentalist, constantly wondering what you can do to make your hobbies even more planet-friendly. One way you can achieve your goal is by reducing waste. For writers and publishers, paper waste can accumulate over the years and while it may be unavoidable, it can be reduced. In this blog, we are going to look at how to reduce paper waste in the writing, publishing, and selling of a book. But first, let’s understand why that is important.
Why it is Necessary to Reduce Paper Waste
As we have mentioned, reducing paper waste is important because writers and publishers can become significant contributors to paper going to landfills. But isn’t paper biodegradable, you say? Then, why is it a problem if it goes to landfills? It’ll eventually degrade.
However, that isn’t how it works.
Landfills are full of waste, both biodegradable and not. Thus when paper goes to landfills, it releases methane, which is a greenhouse gas and contributes to global warming. That isn’t the only reason to reduce paper waste though. Let’s take a look at some of the others.
Paper production contributes to deforestation. After all, paper is made from trees and trees need to be felled for paper to be made. While paper production can be done sustainably, look for books with the FSC logo. These are made on sustainably sourced paper. No one can deny that paper production is a significant contributor to deforestation. 42% of all global wood harvest is used to make paper.
The good news is, however, that many companies have started to make paper from waste wood, , which is a resourceful and sustainable thing to do.
In some areas, trees are grown for the production of paper alone. If paper production is economically viable then why would anyone bother to grow other crops on the same farm? While this does not happen everywhere, agro-farming is popular in India, paper production can lead to monoculture farming.
Now we know paper can be unsustainable. And we know, waste is always unsustainable. So what do we do? Try to reduce paper waste of course!
How to Reduce Paper Waste
There are several ways to reduce paper, which include unnecessary testing. However, those practices might be important to ensure the quality of a book. If done, these tests must be done sustainably, using eco-friendly paper and disposed of in an environmentally friendly and ethical manner. Here are some ways you can reduce paper waste in producing your book.
Take Online Submissions When Possible
While not everyone has access to computers and thus some submissions will be made offline, most publishers have now shifted to online submissions of synopsis and excerpts.
Proofread the Books Online When Possible
While some authors and editors are more comfortable editing on paper, if you can do it online, it would save a lot of paper. If you must use paper, then sustainably sourced paper and recycled paper are both eco-friendly options.
Do not waste paper when writing and editing
It is a common joke that writers ball up and throw away a lot of paper. While writing using pen and paper will result in paper that is discarded due to the material being discarded, it is better to give that paper for recycling instead of throwing it away. Furthermore, you can write online when possible. Editing too requires a change in the form you reading, at times. Thus, many editors and writers print on paper when editing. This can be made more sustainable by using recycled paper, printing on both sides or using FSC-certified paper.
Have a Pre-Order or a Digital First Option
Imagine this, you print hundreds of copies of a book, and only a few sell. Wouldn’t that be a waste of resources and money? And what will happen to the books next? Either the bookstores will tear and pulp them or worse, they will be sent to landfills to make space for newer books. One way to avoid this is to have a pre-order system. There, you can see whether there is demand for a particular book or not.
Another way to avoid this waste of resources, money, and books, is to have a digital-first option, where readers can buy a digital copy of a book. This too helps you ensure that when paperbacks and hardcovers are launched, there will be a demand for them.
Produce Books on Demand
Another thing you can do to reduce unnecessary books that are printed but never find a home is to print books on demand. In this system, a book is printed only when a buyer requests a copy. This reduces waste and saves resources. There is also a financial opportunity here if you can personalize each copy of the book.
Use Minimal Packaging or Reused Packaging
Packaging makes up around 10% of a product. Thus using eco-friendly packaging can be a significant contribution to reducing waste, both plastic and paper. While paper packaging is more eco-friendly than plastic packaging, paper production still contributes to deforestation, waste, and monoculture. Thus, reducing the amount of cardboard and paper used, or reusing packaging is a great waste to combat these issues.
Size the Book Right
Another thing you can do is size your book right. If you use standard sizes, then you eliminate unnecessary paper cutting which reduces the scraps of paper that are left to go to the landfill. If these scraps must happen, then it is best to reuse or recycle them.
Design to Eliminate Unnecessary White Space
Designing is an important part of the publishing process, especially typesetting. While we must not sacrifice readability, we can design our books in a manner where there is the least amount of unnecessary white space. This will conserve paper and reduce the amount of paper that needs to be cut to be put in the book. This will eventually eliminate paper scraps.
Do not print unnecessary emails or covers
Many publishing houses print several editions of a cover to see how it looks on a book. While necessary, we should reduce the number of cover copies we print when possible.
Unnecessary copies printed of books, not for testing purposes, but to occupy space, and unnecessary printing of emails can waste paper. If such testing or documentation is necessary, sustainable paper can be used to reduce its impact. It is also important to ensure that the waste paper generated in testing, and such are sent to a recycling facility or reused.
A Parting Note
Reducing paper waste is important for a myriad of reasons. Muses_Saga aims to do just that. We hope to help others do the same. From using recycled paper to ensuring the paper you use ends up in recycling there are several options. As writers and publishers, we can digitize the process as much as possible, but that comes with its own sustainability pitfalls, as the internet uses a huge amount of energy.
Thus, we at Muses_Saga follow the ideology of imperfect sustainable living, where we do the best we can for the planet. What it means for us is using recycled paper and sustainable servors. For someone else, it can mean using FSC-sourced paper. Yet another might be completely digital with renewable servors. The options are endless for the companies that mindfully aim to reduce as much of their impact as they possibly can. You won’t leave a mark on the planet but on the people with your efforts.
Let us know in the comments if we have missed any way to reduce paper waste and save our planet a little every day. If you want to publish an eco-friendly book, we have the resources for you just a click away.
Author- Anjali Roongta
Editor- Shubr Aakriti