(Environmental certification of wood and paper; July 2008)
In recent years, a number of religious organizations have taken an interest in environmental matters. This trend has been strongest among liberal Protestant churches. Several Jewish organizations that promote environmental education and activism have appeared, as well, among them The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (www.coejl.org), Canfei Nesharim (www.canfeinesharim.org), and Hazon (www.hazon.org). Now, several religious publishers are not only printing religious environmental literature, but are making their own publishing processes more environmentally sound. These developments climaxed in November 2007 with the publication of the first Bible printed on paper that was manufactured in a way that minimizes the environmental cost of paper production.
The story begins with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), an organization that has developed a set of criteria for environmental certification of paper and other wood products. The number of wood pulp producers, paper mills, paper distributors, and printers certified as meeting FSC standards is now in the hundreds. The area of forest land used for FSC-certified paper production is now approaching 100 million hectares (247 million acres). Much of the certification is carried out by the SmartWood program of the Rainforest Alliance (http://www.rainforest-alliance.org). In addition to environmental factors such as the percentage of recycled material included in the paper and the use of wood obtained from endangered forests or tree farms that have displaced biologically diverse indigenous forests, the certification process also considers multiple social and economic factors such as logging in areas disrupted by war or social conflict and the effect of logging and wood processing on forestland communities.
The Christian religious publisher Thomas Nelson, Inc. has collaborated with Domtar, a large Canadian paper company and the nonprofit Green Press Initiative (http://www.greenpressinitiative.org) to publish the Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Daily Bible on paper that the SmartWood program has certified as meeting FSC standards. Tensie Whelan, executive director of the Rainforest Alliance, described the publication of the first Bible on FSC-certified paper as “further evidence of the growing trend among publishers to improve their sourcing strategies and lessen their environmental impact by seeking out environmentally preferable papers.”
Michael S. Hyatt, president and CEO of Thomas Nelson expressed his company’s pride in this achievement, saying, “Our team is excited to be taking important steps forward in protecting the resources God has given us. Beyond offering eco-friendly products, we are striving to use environmentally friendly practices in our daily activities and have created an internal environmental task force to see this through.”
Green Press Initiative’s director, Tyson Miller, noted that a number of other religious publishers have also committed themselves to the use of paper that takes less of a toll on the environment. Miller also noted a statement in support of the use of recycled and environmentally sound paper in religious publications that over fifty American religious scholars and organizations have signed.
Religious titles are a small part of the publishing industry’s output. However, some major publishers of educational and trade books have also joined the environmental cause. A notable recent example is Simon and Schuster, Inc., which announced in November 2007 that it will buy at least ten percent of its paper from FSC-certified sources and increase the recycled fiber content of books it manufactures in the United States to 25 percent by 2012.
Perhaps Jewish publishers would also be interested in hearing from customers who are interested in the environmental costs of the books they purchase.
Readers who would like to research the environmental policies of some major publishers of Jewish books may find the following Web sites useful: