University Press helps the planet with Green Press Initiative

Author: Rachel Novick

By Carol C. Bradley

As recently as nine years ago, the University of Notre Dame Press used no recycled paper in the average 60 to 70 new titles published annually.

That changed when production manager Wendy McMillen in 2002 proposed bringing the press into the nationwide Green Press Initiative (GPI), a non-profit program that raises awareness of sustainability issues and solutions for the book and newspaper publishing industries.

The press signed a letter of intent to join the GPI six years ago, McMillen notes, joining 200 other presses, large and small in the sustainability initiative. The initial commitment was that the press increase the use of recycled paper from zero to at least 30 percent over a 5-year period.

Today the press uses 70 to 80 percent recycled paper, produced with an average of 40 percent post-consumer waste. “We use soy, not petroleum-based inks, and all our printers are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council,” and meet stringent environmental standards, McMillen adds.

The goal of GPI is to help the industries understand their impact on endangered forests, indigenous communities and the climate—and the impact is substantial.

The United States is the largest market for paper products in the world. Annually, according to GPI estimates, approximately 30 million trees are used for books sold in the U.S. market. Over 40 percent of the world’s industrial wood harvest is used each year to make paper, and paper comprises nearly half the waste stream.

When McMillen joined the press nine years ago, she says, “We were printing nothing on recycled paper. Recycled paper wasn’t available at the printer. Today, all the printers stock recycled paper or use it as house stock. From nothing to everyone—there’s that much demand, and interest in sustainability.”

Press director Barbara Hanrahan adds, “We were all delighted to have the opportunity to be part of this initiative. We believe firmly that we should use recycled materials whenever feasible. And we’re able to do so without compromising in any way our professional standards, or the quality of our books.”

Joining the GPI would not have been possible without the support of all the staff of the press, McMillen says. “Especially early on, it was a lot more expensive. It really took a commitment by all parties involved to be willing to absorb the cost, for the principle. You shouldn’t have to raise a forest to make a book.”