THE BLOG

Is Green Lit So Green After All?

05/23/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

If you harbored shame reading that Tori Spelling tome before, imagine how guilty you'd feel if you knew about the egregious expenditure of natural resources used to produce it.

With Earth Day upon us, booksellers are putting front and center not-so-subtle reminders to give back to Planet Earth. Although nowadays it seems like every day is Earth Day -- with an almost daily mandate to green the world or pay the price -- the sheer volume of self-styled "green books" has to make you wonder: how green is "Green Lit"?

The explosion (and some say over-saturation) of the category -- with green solutions to every non-problem in your life (how to green your grandma, how to green your next dental visit, and of course, how to green your sex life) -- suggests that "Green Lit" authors may not be practicing what they publish. So what are they really offering, and more to the point, is it almost becoming a self-parody of that which the authors are trying to fix?

To keep pace with the American book publishing industry alone, 30 million trees per year are used on book production, according to data from the Green Book Initiative. Now we know what reading a "guilty pleasure" really means.

So the question raised is whether the production of these books in such high volume negates the spirit of their message. If the authors and publishers were serious about sending their message, wouldn't exclusively sold e-books work just as well?

Even if it does feed a rapt market, might green authors serve the environment better to use an alternative means to publish? Sure, authors may stand on top of their soapbox of moral superiority and point fingers at everyone else, but there's a certain underlying hypocrisy with such striking figures on books' environmental impact.

The Green Book Initiative reports that the production of one new book -- through the various stages of the publishing process -- expends 8.85 pounds of carbon dioxide, while scooping up used books online emits a mere fraction of that figure.

While most publishers are mindful of their environmental impact and pledge to do their part, few real inroads have been made in the quest for a greener industry.

It turns out, though, that some of those eco-friendly messages stuffed into those green books are getting through: a 2006 Opinion Research Corporation poll reveals that 80% of book buyers would spend more to buy books on recycled paper.

As it stands now, less than 10% of US books use recycled fiber for paper.

Now there should be no shame in holding a real-life book (unless, of course, Tori Spelling is on the cover of it), but not without exhausting every measure to make that process as environmentally-friendly as possible.

I can see the next wave of Green Lit now: how to green the book industry. Now even the Kindle-averse may start to relent.