Macmillan Sustainability


If a Tree Falls in the Forest Does Anyone Read It?


There are some measurements that are always the same. Sixteen ounces in a pound, 12 inches in a foot, 5,280 feet in a mile, 20 trees in a ton of paper; or is 14 trees or 10 trees? For paper, the answer is always—it depends. The number of trees per ton depends upon the type of paper. Ground wood, because it uses more of a tree’s mass, is the most efficient; approximately 10 trees per ton.  Free sheet, because it is ‘free’ of the extra lignin that is bleached out, is the least efficient from a yield perspective and uses approximately 20 trees per ton.


As we make decisions every day about the books we produce, we consider many factors. In 2009, approximately 60 percent of the paper which we purchased directly and used for our books was printed on ground wood and 40 percent on free sheet. We originally set a goal based on our current publishing platform of 95 percent ground wood (coated and uncoated) and 5 percent free sheet by 2020 and now plan to achieve that goal by June 2015.


As of late 2011, we are qualifying paper mills based on a rigorous analysis of their CO2 emissions, along with other environmentally relevant factors, such as fiber basket disclosure, waste water treatment, chemical processes, harvesting techniques, transportation modalities, commitments to sustainable forestry, and certification standards.


We now purchase nearly 60 percent of our paper (by weight) from mills that run largely on hydropower and/or other renewable sources and that use a minimal amount of fossil fuel-generated electricity. With this initiative, Macmillan will narrow its carbon footprint associated with uncoated paper by over 45 percent, and recently concluded negotiations with suppliers of coated paper will lead to reductions of 35 percent in that grade. In all, we estimate saving around 20,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions over the next year from this approach alone beyond the savings from the transition to digital publishing and reduced paper usage at work.


An example of the impact of Macmillan’s new paper sourcing stands out: best-selling author Thomas Friedman agreed to have his most recent book, That Used to Be Us (co-written with Michael Mandelbaum), printed on a type of paper with significantly reduced emissions intensity than has been used for his previous bestsellers. The low emissions profile of the paper for the initial printing and anticipated reprints, as compared to the previous grade, reduced enough carbon emissions to offset the power usage of Macmillan’s offices in Manhattan’s historic Flatiron Building (all 21 floors) for an entire year.  Now that’s efficient!