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Eco-publishing: much more than choosing the right paper

To minimize the environmental impact of a book or a publication and to communicate the improvement to its readers; that is the central idea of the eco-publishing movement that started in 2008 in Barcelona, which has led to the European project Greening Books (2010-2013). The Greening Books initiative has lead to a set of useful conclusions for designers, printing houses and publishers.

Our communication company, El TinterPol·len Edicions, is one of the three partners of this project, together with the company Simpple, and the Technological Centre Leitat. From the beginning, El Tinter — an eco-management and audit scheme company — has played an important role as a green laboratory, as all the environment-friendly improvements have been analyzed and tested at different stages of the company’s activity. El Tinter Pol·len Edicions has a team of eco-designers who developed a set of eco-criteria for designing with the least impact on the environment. The company is a printing house  with 32 years of experience, and is also a publisher (Pol·len Edicions).

eco-agenda 2011 el Tinter

Eco-agenda 2011

Does paper matter?

During the European project, the Technological Centre Leitat, with the contribution of Simpple and El Tinter, developed a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). The LCA is a methodology that allows for an exhaustive study of the environmental effects of a book and a magazine. The application of LCA is based on the collection and study of the systems entrances and exits, leading to results that show the potential environmental impacts. It covers all stages of the publication, from the intial design to the last stage of that publication (end of life).

The Life Cycle Assessment concluded that raw materials constitute the most significant aspect in terms of environmental footprint (49.4%) especially in the case of paper, followed by the printing plates manufacturing (17.6%). The design is also important for eco-publishing, constituting  9.6% of the environmental footprint of paper. At the design stage, selecting the paper type or the formats is very important for the future publication. In El Tinter – Pol·len Edicions, we have the ISO 14006, regulating eco-design, a certificiation that allows for a thorough study of the product, and from there also offers the solution most suited to the consumers’ needs.

As we said before, paper matters, as recycled paper has radically different impacts. The fact that the material which makes up 95% of the weight of any publication is recycled is an important factor. Besides that, it is important for paper to follow a chain of custody. From the different custody chains, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is best known and has the most serios criteria. It allows for control over the origins of the paper through the chain of production.The FSC guarantees that the paper comes from sustainably managed forests, that the factories working on the paper pulp take into account sustainable criteria and that the distributors care about the paper until it arrives to the printers, and so on.

Eco-design examples

ecological design el Tinter

Ecological design

The ecological backpack on books

Communicating the environmental impact of books is of key importance. For this, all our books have what we call the “ecological backpack”, or a summary of the different impacts of the production of the publication (e.g. raw materials, electricity, water consumption and waste).

Environmental friendly designed books

To show an example of Pol·len Edicions, with the design company La Page, we published Errata, a tale for children and adults based on the story of a printing house owner. This book includes the ecological backpack, designed to raise awareness amongst readers. The author, Pruden Panadès, is an activist for environment-friendly practices. The size of the book is 15 x 21 cm, which is the best format to optimize the use of the printing plates. Following the eco-publishing and eco-design criteria, the selected paper corresponds to FSC standards. It is also the most clear example and proof that green is not incompatible with innovative in terms of design. In fact, this book is very original in terms of design: all the illustrations are made from paper (and then captured in photographs). Additionally the book has a Japanese binding, which gives it a special finishing.

Errata book by El Tinter

Errata book by El Tinter

This article was written by El Tinter ECO Publishing. More information about the practices of eco-publishing and eco-design is available in the handbook for good eco-publishing.

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