The making of Greta and the Giants: going green in the children’s book industry
When the incredible text of Greta and the Giants landed on our desks, we knew that it wasn’t just an opportunity to publish a great book. It was an opportunity to look at how we publish books in general. Was there a way that we could do business (and still, let’s be honest, make money) but also be kinder to the environment?
Our first step was to investigate printing locally. We worked with our charity partner, Greenpeace, to get recommendations. In the UK, the books are printed by Severn, who operate using 100% renewable energy. They are one of only 10 printers who have the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) accreditation, which aims to ‘recognise and reward those organisations that go beyond minimum legal compliance and continuously improve their environmental performance’. In the US, the books are printed at Jostens Tennessee, which is only 5 hours away from our warehouse. They use solar power to generate their air chillers and receive 70% of their materials via a train, which runs through their plant, to save on fuels and air purity.
The climate crisis, and the changes we need to make to avert it, can feel like an insurmountable challenge for business. There is almost too much to change, too much to do. However, what we’ve learnt from doing Greta and the Giants is that there are companies out there who are already doing it. And they are very willing to work with you. We learnt a lot while working with these companies and they have inspired us to make changes in other areas. All of the POS materials are being printed to demand on recycled paper. Our Marketing Team came up with the idea to plant a tree for every copy pre-ordered, via onetreeplanted.org. We also now have a cross-imprint Green Working Group at Quarto who are investigating how we can change our practices for the better.
We are printing Greta and the Giants in four locations: the UK for the UK market, US for the US, Slovenia for European co-editions and the Far East for Asia and Australia. Every book will be printed on 100% FSC recycled paper. We are also offering D&R deals to countries who can print locally on recycled paper, to reduce our carbon count further. Are we making as much margin as we do on ‘normal’ books? No, of course not. However, we’ve already seen significant commercial benefits to printing locally. We have sold out of both initial print runs in the UK and US ahead of publication. If we were reprinting in the Far East, we would have to wait three months to get stock, which would mean books hitting the shelves in January, after Christmas. Printing locally has allowed us to be far more nimble and enabled us to replenish within a month.
We have also found that printing sustainably has been a major selling point for the book. Publishers want to act in a way that is better for the environment, and buying this book helps them do that. We’ve confirmed deals in 15 territories within a month, with more to come in the next few weeks. The incredible response we’ve seen to the book is because it gives hope, not only in its message but in the way it’s been made.
Of course, we still have a huge way to go in terms of operating sustainably. We are not switching to printing all our titles locally just yet. There will inevitably be some kind of a ‘transition period’, in which the needs of the business will be balanced with our responsibilities to the environment. But for us, this feels like a watershed moment. Greta and the Giants has shown us is that change is possible.
Katie Cotton is the Publisher for Picture Books at Frances Lincoln Children’s Books and Wide Eyed Editions, an imprint of The Quarto Group.