By Sharon Glassman
Back in the Seal and Crofts 70s, my Sunday School class tucked quarters into cardboard trees to pay for real trees in the deserts of Israel. The simple, seemingly magical idea of Me = Tree captured my Ecology-T-shirt covered heart.
So, when I got a request to become a fan of Eco-Libris on Facebook and learned that they would plant a tree if I Fanned them, I felt a familiar zing! of Eco-girl happiness. A few weeks later, Eco-Libris asked 100 book bloggers to review 100 “green books” on November 10 at 1 pm EST.
By green books, they meant this: books printed on recycled paper, or paper certified by the foundation-funded Forest Steward Council (http://www.fscus.org/paper/).
I signed up. And I wasn’t alone. 113 bloggers are expected to post book reviews today. You can see all the reviews here.
I called Eco-Libris CEO Raz (pronounced Rahz) Godelnik to find out what his company is doing and why.
Godelnik was born in Israel and lives in Delaware, where he teaches, writes about and creates Green Businesses.
“I love books,” Godelnik says. “My mother is a librarian. I grew up in a house full of books. I think both books and trees are wonderful assets. It’s not fair that one should happen at the expense of the other.”
Godelnik noted that while newspapers had for some time been using some percentage of recycled stock, books were a kind of virgin sacrifice—they relied on new paper. If books could be “grown” the way organic food was grown, he thought, a new business model could be born.
Enter Eco-Libris, a for-profit enterprise, asks consumers to “balance out” their books’ environmental costs by paying $1 per book bought to plant a tree in Africa or Central America where trees can offer economic as well as environmental benefit.
Eco-Libris wants to increase the sales of green books, as well. But there’s a gap between supply and demand—at least for now. He knows that a reader looking to buy A Tree Grows in Brooklyn isn’t likely to opt instead for Discernment, a modern Buddhist tome from Lantern Books (my Eco-Libris pick for today’s blog-a-thon) just because Tree isn’t “green.”
But Godelnik hopes that people purchasing gift books this holiday season will consider more eco-friendly options.
Eco-Libris has planted 120,000 trees since 2007, Godelnik told me. This does not mean they’ve earned $120,000 from reader balances, or publisher payments. Godelnik would not disclose the cost of tree-planting, or the percentage of the $1 per book balance that Eco-Libris retains, citing the company’s for-profit structure.
But Eco-Libris tries to be an affordable resource for its partners, he says.
“We’re not only about being successful…true gains for the environment and society are part the equation.”
The greening of publishing is a multi-player sport.
“Readers are the consumers—they have the power and responsibility to make change,” Godelnik notes.
“The publishing industry is looking for ways to recreate itself in a digital world. If you integrate the green factor, it will not only make things better; it will make things more profitable.”
SEE: All 100 Eco book reviews posted today here.
EMAIL: Raz Godelnik