Natalie Fee’s How to Save the World for Free (Laurence King, 21st October) arrives in unusual packaging—it’s paper. All of it. Shredded paper protects in place of bubble-wrap, and there’s a reusable coffee cup too (plus plastic-free teabags) to encourage readers to ditch single-use takeaway cups. (Added bonus: many chain cafés charge less for a cup of coffee if you use one.)
Author Fee is an environmental campaigner, speaker and founder of City to Sea, a non-profit company which seeks to stop plastic pollution at source. Hence the cup. At this summer’s Hay Festival, she shared three easily implementable tips to save the environment: ditch plastic bottles and use the Refill app, which lists places where you can freely refill a water bottle; cut back on meat, fish and dairy products; and cycle where possible.
Her book contains numerous other ideas for readers looking to boost their green credentials and do their bit to tackle the climate emergency, in all aspects of everyday life. Some (taking containers to supermarkets to cut down on plastics use) are wholly logical and may well be familiar; others (how you can have "green sex") may appear more leftfield.
The production and distribution of a book itself is not necessarily a particularly green initiative—something Laurence King sought to tackle. Head of production Felicity Awdry says it will "never be carbon-neutral" as a process, but that the publisher attempted to reduce the footprint by sourcing paper local to its printer C&C (in China), and ensuring it was FSC-sourced. It also collaborated with C&C to ensure its paper-sourcing policy was watertight, and used uncoated stock, a plus because there are fewer chemicals used (compared to a glossy finish on page) and it minimises the steps needed to create the book.
Many other publishers will do this—Laurence King is, alongside a number of other UK publishers, signed up to the Book Chain Project, which ensures its supply chain and suppliers adhere to ethical and environmental standards. But it’s a more unusual step for Laurence King being an illustrated list, one which is heavily reliant on immaculate picture reproduction. Such a process usually uses petroleum ink, which is generally accepted to have a better finish on images than vegetable-based or soy inks, many of which do not have the requisite brightness on page. Yet petroleum inks are—the clue’s in the name—not as environmentally sound.
For Fee’s book, vegetable inks were used in part because the internal pages are monochrome—its 50 illustrations are all black-and-white line drawings. It’s used on the cover, too, of thick card stock, and another bonus of using vegetable inks is that they are fully recyclable, and do not have the toxic emissions of petroleum inks.
Awdry says the publisher is doing as much as it can to test new, greener inks for use across its entire list, and Laurence King also has a number of in-house initiatives, spurred on by Fee’s tips. The #LKPGreen scheme in October will see all staff commit to an eco-pledge for a week; an annual carbon-offsetting activity will help team- building; and reusable coffee cups will be given to Frankfurt attendees, with their travel offset. The firm says it is "committed to changing our workspace and our carbon footprint", and hopes Fee’s book will prompt others to do so too.