From the Archives: “Self Publishing for the Eco-Conscious”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.


[ Originally posted: December 6th, 2011 ]

As our society becomes more concerned with environmental issues such as climate changes, pollution and land use, many authors want to know how they can publish a book that fits their environmental values. These authors want to know about the practices of the companies they publish with as well information about the materials used to print their books. If sustainability and conservation are important to you, here are a few things to consider before publishing your book.

1) Ask About the Ink – Some self-publishing companies use non-toxic ink. This is important for many reasons. For instance, it means…

  • Your book can later be recycled or composted without the fear of toxic ink seeping into the soil.
  • Once recycled, the finished product will not have a grayish-yellow appearance like the recycled papers of the ’90s.
  • The ink in your book will pose no threats to those who come in contact with it. (If your two-year-old child decides to nibble on the pages, he or she is perfectly safe.)

2) Ask About the Paper – Some self-publishing companies will print your book on recycled paper. There are also companies that use certified paper products. For instance, Outskirts Press uses bookblock paper that is Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) Certified and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Mixed Credit. These practices are important to prevent deforestation, which causes global warming and species endangerment.

3) Ask About Certifications – It is important to find out about the practices and products used by your self-publishing company. One way businesses prove that they use environmentally conscious practices and products is certifications such as SFI Certified and FSC Mixed Credit. Most companies will be more than willing to share this information with you, so ask your publishing company what certifications they have.

4) Ask About Best Practices – There are plenty of ways individuals and businesses can help the environment. Just a few ideas include energy-efficient appliances, telecommuting and recycling. Ask yourself-publishing company what they do to reduce their carbon footprint. Do they value sustainability and conservation? Do they encourage their staff to share their values by taking small, eco-conscious actions?

When choosing a self-publishing company, it is important to find a company that shares your goals and values. Before committing to aself-publishing company, do your research. Find out about their practices and products. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. An honest company will be more than happy to answer them.

– by Cheri Breeding

eco friendly

If we’ve learned anything in the half decade since Cheri first wrote on our blog about the environmentally friendly potential of self-publishing, it’s that the imperative to do what we can to mitigate the damaging effects of our art has only increased. The world is feeling the effects of what we do, and if we have the opportunity to reduce those effects, we have a moral and ethical responsibility to seize upon that opportunity.

Cheri was right, too, to point self-publishing authors towards the questions of paper, certifications, and best practices. Many companies, traditional and indie alike, preach a message of going green–but few enough actually follow through when the chips are down and it’s time for the serious work of publishing your book. Or worse, they offer their promise of being eco-friendly as a lure to get you to commit, and then only offer green options for a pretty price above and beyond the usual.

These days, most “green” schemes in self-publishing focus on choosing better, more environmentally-conscious materials. They preach the values of recycled papers and nontoxic inks. But the materials your books are made up form just one small slice of the larger publishing picture, and the choices you make are surrounded by a looming bulk of practices that can pose significant environmental threats. It’s a balancing act; wise choices on your end often lead to offenses committed during resource acquisition, printing, manufacturing, transport, assembly, packaging, storage, distribution, warehousing, retailing, and disposal–not by you, of course, but by the company you hire to print and distribute your book.

Think about it: we’re talking about companies that, ultimately, have to look after their shareholders and the bottom line. It is every company’s operational imperative to maximize benefits to shareholders and customers alike in order to maintain a steady flow of business, and to minimize expenses so as to reap the greatest possible profit. This isn’t a bad thing–necessarily. But not every company builds in to its framework the understanding that what’s good for the environment is also good for its financial stakeholders, and what’s bad for the environment is also bad (very, very bad) for its (past, present, and future) customers. Recycled materials costs a lot, relatively speaking. It takes energy to collect and process them into their new form, and sometimes there are chemical hazards created as well. It stands to reason that companies would look to make up for the energy-hungry recycling process by scraping a few extra pennies from their customers … assuming those customers have the money to spend and are none the wiser. But this system sets up a world in which self-publishing authors are actually more likely to choose eco-unfriendly options because those are the ones they can afford.

Not good.

Ultimately, the best thing you can do as a self-publishing author interested in pursuing eco-friendly printing and distribution practices is to talk about it.  Talk about it with your Publishing Consultant and with your friends, family, fans, and fellow authors. See what eco-friendly options are available, and whether or not your chosen self-publishing company is interested in rising to a higher standard. Don’t settle for pat lines and shrugs. Hold your industry accountable! The only way forward is to make these practices accessible and sustainable for everyone. You can be a green champion today!

eco friendly

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠


ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog,

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