by Pari Noskin Taichert
I don’t know about you, but I happen to like oxygen. Breathing has been pretty good to me.
I also adore books — reading and writing ’em. But there’s a problem. For each book printed, somewhere a tree was felled.
Raz Godelnik and his crew of inspired ecopreneurs have come up with a plan that, in a way, addresses this fundamental dilemma.
Can you give us a brief history of Eco-Libris?
It all started when I was thinking about paper and the environmental impacts of its production. I realized that it might take a while to get to the point where eco-friendly alternatives (from the use of recycled paper to e-books) will replace virgin paper. Then, I talked with some friends about the idea of giving people the opportunity to balance out their paper consumption by planting trees and received good feedback about it.
It took me a couple of months to gather a team of talented people with a great devotion to the idea. Later on, we put a lot of work into a screening process of our planting partners and eventually we started operating last July.
Why books and trees? Are you a reader?
Let’s start with the fact that about 20 million trees are being cut down every year to produce the books sold in the U.S. alone. Now, our decision to focus on books was made after learning that only 5 percent of the paper used for printing books is made of recycled paper and because most books don’t yet have an online eco-friendly alternative (e-book), like magazines and newspapers. So, if you want a book, you usually can’t avoid purchasing the paper-made version, unless you go to the library or get it from websites like BookCrossing or BookMooch, which are all excellent choices. [Readers & authors: What do you think of these kinds of sites? — Pari wants to know] You also can’t tell people to stop reading books, so it seemed to me only natural to give book lovers a new alternative to make their reading habit greener — planting trees for the books they read. I’m an avid reader. My mother is a librarian and since I was a little kid, I was always surrounded by books. I read almost everything, from thrillers to biographies. Right now, I’m reading THE SHOCK DOCTRINE by Naomi Klein.
What do you think of the Kindle and other e-book readers?
I think that the Kindle is good news for eco-conscious readers as it will save a lot of trees. If it is, as a device, so advanced technologically, it will also become advanced environmentally. That would be good news. It still has an environmental impact and it’s definitely far from being accessible to many people, but all in all it is a first step in the right direction. My wish is that the Kindle won’t only become cheaper, but also that it will be manufactured in an eco-friendly manner (right now I only know that it’s been manufactured by an undisclosed Chinese original equipment manufacturer), hopefully adopting cradle-to-cradle concepts.
I believe that the Kindle, and other e-books options that will be available, are one part of a greener future we’ll face in the book industry. We will also see books that are made of recycled paper and other non-tree materials, from hemp to plastic (like the book CRADLE TO CRADLE itself).
You call yourself an eco-entrepreneur. What does that mean?
I see myself as an entrepreneur dedicated to developing green business. My first venture was Hemper Jeans, as an eco-fashion company focusing on producing fashionable jeans made out of hemp. Eco-Libris is my second venture and I love every minute of it.
Have you tried to partner with paper producing companies, with publishers?
We are aiming to work not only with book readers, but also with publishers, writers, bookstores, book clubs and others involved in the book publishing industry. We’re now negotiating with a few publishers from the U.S., Canada and Europe on partnerships with regards to new titles they want to balance out. I hope that in the next month or so, we’ll be able to publish details on some of these collaborations. All in all, I can say that the general response to Eco-Libris is very enthusiastic. Publishers understand the need to go green and see us as a great option to take a step in that direction.
At this stage, we don’t work with printers. We might consider it in the future.
Will you branch out to magazines or catalog producers?
Right now, we’re focused on books for the reasons I detailed above. Nevertheless, we’re aware of the environmental impact of other publishing areas and might consider involvement there in the future.
What’s next for Eco-Libris?
We are having a busy holiday season with new offers for those who are looking for unique green gifts. Other than that, we intend to keep putting a lot of effort into establishing collaborations with publishers, bookstores and anyone in the book publishing industry who wants to go green. We also look forward to continuing to be a strong voice for all the eco-conscious readers out there and we are working now on plans on how to bring their environmental concerns to the knowledge of publishers and writers. Finally, we intend to keep spreading the word on sustainable reading, by working with libraries, participating in literary events and collaborating with other green organizations and companies.
What’s the one recent idea in environmental activism/entrepreneurism that you wish you’d thought of?
Two innovative green companies that I’m a big admirer of are:
1. RecycleBank — An innovative incentives system that managed to crack the one million dollar question: How to make people recycle more? Their answer: A combination of technology, partnerships and coupons.
2. TerraCycle — The ideal green product: Better and cheaper than its competitors, sold in recycled bottles and it’s made of worm’s poop!
Let’s give a big Murderati thanks to Raz and other eco-entrepreneurs who are looking for ways to make this a better world. For more information on Eco-Libris, check out the website.
What do you think of this idea of a tree for a book?
What do you think of trying to make the publishing industry more green?
Have you heard of other eco-friendly businesses that we need to know of?
I’m looking forward to this conversation.
A note about the photos: The second one is courtesy of Eco-Libris planting partner RIPPLE Africa and the third is courtesy of partner Sustainable Harvest International (SHI). Contributors to Eco-Libris receive stickers for each tree planted. The organization hopes that they’ll put these stickers on their books to spread the word.