Eric: How did you push your publisher to go as green as possible?
Ed: From the beginning we had requested that as much be done as possible to lower to carbon footprint of the book production process. And the publisher, Metropolis Books, really thought this was important too, but just had a limited scope of what was possible because of economics and because lack of experience printing domestically and sustainably. This is certainly no fault of the publisher, which is among the most progressive and big-hearted publishers in the business, but like any company has certain margins that if not meant spell bankruptcy.
So, a couple months into the process we are still shipping the book to China and trying to wrangle concessions about FSC-certified and partially post-consumer waste paper as the sole step towards sustainable printing. Literally on the eve of our deadline with the Chinese printer, I simply drew the line and said "we can’t do it this way. We have to find a domestic printer and do more to cut the emissions cost of this book way down." My co-editor and the publisher agreed.
A really big part of what inspired us to take this stand, and to know that it was possible, was the Re-Nourish site. I kid you not. This allowed us to see what was out there in terms of printers, and also to see that there were a myriad of steps we could take that had not occurred to us. The catch was that we had to find a printer that would get an estimate as close to China as possible and then to cover any remaining difference with donations. Luckily we found Monroe Litho, who were fantastic and really accommodating on their quote. Luckily we also found, on very short notice, some willing donors to cover the remaining difference with the Chinese quote. The donors really deserve acknowledgement: Environmental Defense Fund, Hiscock & Barclay, Neva Goodwin, Richard Goodwin, Judith Bell, Gabe Nugent, and one anonymous source.
We recognize, however, that getting donors for every book is not feasible. That is why Metropolis, Monroe Litho, and the paper company Mohawk are working hard to find away to print all books in the Metropolis catalog sustainably and to get other publishers to do the same — both within the network of Metropolis partner Distributed Artist Publishers and outside. This ongoing negotiation, which requires concessions on both sides, is by far the most significant achievement of the book. We are starting a wave within the publishing community. This is the real legacy of the book, and a huge commitment by Metropolis.