When I decided to research publishing and decarbonisation, I did so half-heartedly. I knew it was important to do, but I was scared of what I would find. Both my personal and professional lives revolve around the publishing industry – what if book publishing proved so environmentally damaging that I could no longer support it? However, as I investigated, I discovered a situation far from hopeless. There are manageable ways to reduce carbon emissions while reading; the impact of books upon the environment does not have to weigh upon our shoulders.
So, here are some ways that I’m going to implement what I’ve learnt. It’s my way of showing that I’m not merely spouting facts – I'm going to take action. These actions cover both my personal hobby of reading and my professional realm of writing and publishing. I hope this empowers you too.
My last two open letters – On Books & Forest Felling and On Libraries & Op-Shops – provided some manageable ways to decrease CO2 emissions as a reader. I adore borrowing from the library, and buying second-hand books, so those practices aren’t going to stop. However, before writing On Books & Forest Felling, I wasn’t aware of FSC-approved paper. Now that I am, I’m going to actively ensure that the books I purchase first-hand are printed on this paper.
Something else I’m pursuing is shopping locally. I’m fortunate to have three bookstores in Wollongong (one of which I work at), so I want to buy from these as much as possible. However, in the instances where I do have to order from Amazon or Booktopia, I want to be making purchases that are ethical. In my context, those purchases usually involve supporting an indie author or purchasing a writing craft book I can’t get anywhere else.*
*Writing is my way of helping people through the joy and anxiety of our world, and one of the ways I improve in that is reading books on writing. Perhaps that’s a roundabout way to reach the status of ethical, but I think it’s legitimate.
On writing (& publishing)
Here’s where things become a little curlier. My ultimate dream is to work for and be published by a traditional publishing house, but there’s less I can control in that situation. I would not be able to dictate distribution methods, nor would I have a say in the size of the print run. In that case, I’m currently considering which houses I want to align myself with. Do I apply for big corporations with environmental pledges, or do I seek out smaller houses with limited print runs?
Alternatively, should I reject traditional publishing? Should I pursue self-publishing where I have control over much more: print runs, cover design, promotional campaigns, book size? I won’t have control over distribution but, if I publish through IngramSpark Australia, at least I know that the printing press is actually in the country.
I’m still chewing through these decisions. Traditional publishing appeals to me more for many complex reasons, but I can’t deny the incredible burden it places upon the environment. I suppose that decision will come with time.
As human beings, we have a responsibility to care for our physical planet. I believe this as strongly as I believe that the morning sun will rise (or, to replace that cliché, that High School Musical is Disney Channel’s greatest masterpiece). I want my actions to reflect this, beyond recycling and composting. Climate change has a relationship with every, single industry; we can’t just ignore one because ‘greening it’ feels impossible.
Reader, my goal for this series was to inform and encourage myself. I’ve certainly achieved that. I hope it’s done the same for you.
- May 2023