Making Books

Responsible Use of Natural Materials

Of making many books there is no end…               -Ecclesiastes 12:12

We know that the materials chosen for our books and supplemental products can either help or hinder our sustainability efforts, especially as regards our paper choices. We look at each component across our products because we understand that even minor changes have an environmental impact over the tens of millions of books that our printers manufacture. Through our analyses and inquiries we have learned how to reduce our carbon impact across our product lineup and are continuing to pursue reducing our impact further.

Printing

Through better control of our reprint quantities and better inventory analysis, we are working to reduce the number of excess books printed. Better estimating print quantities results in less paper, ink, transportation and, of course, fewer emissions.

Because of the unpredictability of reader demand, it can be challenging to correctly estimate the appropriate print quantity for a newly published book. Regrettably, more books are often printed than are ultimately needed.

However, over the last several years, we tackled the extent of overprinting of jackets, covers, and books due to manufacturing inefficiencies. In doing so, we reduced the number of allowable overprinted jackets and covers by two-thirds and significantly reduced our overprinting from our bookbinders. Thus, we print a more appropriate number of books, jackets, and covers while still maintaining our contractual commitments and inventory requirements.

Bill Barry (Director of Special Projects & Sustainability), Twisne Fan (VP of Production), Andrew Weber (COO) and Ariel Russ (Sustainability Manager), visit Mitchel Weiss at Coral Graphics inspected some of our CD cases and jackets “hot off the press!”

Returns

Owing to the vagaries of the distribution process and market demand, unfortunately, about 20% of our books– similar to our competitors– are returned and cannot be returned efficiently to our inventory. Consequently, these books subsequently are either recycled or donated to groups engaging new readers. 

Photo: Cardboard bailer for recycling at our Returns Center in Virginia. 

Non-Paper Materials

Jackets and covers attract readers to pick up our fantastic books! The jacket that normally wraps around the case of a hardcover book is often treated to provide a gloss or matte finish. On a selective basis, we are moving more of our jacket and cover finishes from film lamination to UV coating in order to reduce our carbon emissions.

With the advances in digital technology we provide alternative formats to conventional “ink on paper” books, which may include e-books and audio downloads.  While there is the positive impact of reduced materials use, digital transmission and replication are not without their own carbon impacts. 

Distribution

Trucks, trains and cargo ships all play a role in moving millions of pounds of paper from paper mills to printers and binderies, books to our warehouses, and then transporting those products to our customers. Most of our packages are shipped efficiently by matching the appropriate sized box to the products inside. 

Several years ago, Macmillan Learning’s iClicker, a classroom polling device, was sold in bulky clamshell plastic packaging that did not stack well when packed for shipment. To solve for a more environmentally responsible product we worked with our design team to change the display to LED, reduced the number of required batteries from 3 to 2,  and thereby, reduced the size of the iClicker, which consequently led to more efficient packaging- a simple cardstock box.

The original iClicker allowed only 21,000 iClickers to fit in one cargo shipping container whereas the newer more efficient profile and packaging now allows for five times more to fit in the same container.

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