It's unlikely that the printed word is going anywhere—even with the rise of Kindle-like devices, there's still nothing like reading an actual book made with (gasp) tree-killing paper. So it's still important for the publishing industry to do what it can to reduce paper waste and cut greenhouse gas emissions. The Book Industry Environmental Council, a group of publishers, librarians, booksellers, printers, and paper manufacturers is embarking on an ambitious plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions 20% by 2020 based on a 2006 baseline. By 2050, the Council wants to cut emissions by 80%.
The Book Industry Environmental Council, formed last year, has a number of tricks up its sleeve to achieve these goals. Among its ideas are increased use of recycled fiber in books, energy efficiency in office buildings, minimized destroyed books in landfills, and the use of market research and unspecified digital technology to reduce the number of unsold books sent back to publishers. Noble goals to be sure, but as someone who used to work at a publishing house, I can attest to the difficulty of achieving at least the last one—it's never easy to predict how well a book will sell.
The Council also refuses to take a stand on e-books, rightly claiming that the carbon emissions from e-waste may outweigh the benefits of reading on a screen.
Still, the Council, which represents over 60% of the book market, has the power to make a real difference. If the publishing industry can achieve its goal of cutting emissions by 20% in 11 years, it will be the same as if 450,000 cars were taken off the road. That's nothing to scoff at.