Green Penguin

John Makinson“Penguin Group (USA) is proud to be partnered with The Nature Conservancy to Plant a Billion Trees. This will deepen our commitment to the environment by putting back some of the trees we use to create our books as well as creating a place for future generations to enjoy.”—Penguin Group Chairman and CEO John Makinson

Why Green Penguin

We at Penguin Group (USA) are aware of the importance of maintaining an attitude of stewardship toward the earth. We have a long history of publishing groundbreaking environmental works such as Rachel Carson’s Under the Sea-Wind and John Muir’s The Mountains of California. In 2008 we will continue this tradition of publishing books by writers who feel strongly about environmental issues and seek to show readers the way toward a better future.

Only 2% of the world’s paper is turned into books. Even still, we make every effort to integrate our business practices into a framework that is respectful to the environment. We’d like to tell you what we at Penguin are doing to reduce our effects on the environment. As a well-known frog once said, it’s not easy being green. But at Penguin we are doing our very best to make orange the new green.

Our Big Goal

We are working with our sister companies and our corporate parent, Pearson Inc., to becoming climate neutral by 2009.

We will achieve this goal by measuring and significantly reducing our energy use, seeking sustainable forms of energy, and off-setting our remaining carbon usage.

The Big Issue: Climate Change

Is the planet really warming up?
Yes. The average surface air temperature on planet Earth has risen by almost one Centigrade in the last century and the evidence suggests that human activities are the dominant cause. Each year, the world’s power stations, vehicles, homes and workplaces add around 26 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This greenhouse gas, along with other such as methane, absorbs heat that would otherwise pass into space, hence warming the planet.

So, it will get a little hotter. So what?
Unfortunately, just a minor increase in global temperatures is likely to lead to catastrophic effects—not necessarily for all of us immediately—but everyone around the world will be in some way affected in the end.

Rising sea level, floods, droughts, heatwaves, powerful hurricanes… the symptoms of climate change threaten to displace millions of people from their homes, commit thousands of species to extinction and damage agriculture in the poorest countries. According to the World Health Organization, around 150,000 people already die each year from causes linked to climate change.

I’ve heard that trees reduce climate change. Do they?
The link between trees and climate change is actually quite complicated, but one fact is unavoidable: cutting down existing forests without replanting them massively aggravates the problem. Around a quarter of global carbon emissions are accounted for by deforestation.

The information and figures come from The Rough Guide to Climate Change

What we can do to help

The process of making a book, like all manufacturing, leads to a carbon footprint—a measure of the amount of greenhouse emissions from any given activity.

So what creates a book’s carbon footprint?
In 2007 Penguin published, through its imprint The Penguin Press, Al Gore’s The Assault on Reason. Let’s follow the book through the publishing process.

  1. Publishing begins with the receipt and editing of manuscripts and thus involves heating, lighting, paper, computers, telephones, air conditioning etc.—the kind of energy intensive equipment and processes that every modern office should be trying to tackle.
  2. Trees are chopped down, debarked and pulped (these days many are grown explicitly for this purpose), then transported by road, rail or boat to the printer.
  3. The printer creates the final book and transports copies to the publisher’s warehouse, where the books are then distributed by road to bookshops across the US.

Each book’s footprint is different, depending on factors such as whether the paper came from sustainably managed forests, whether the paper is glossy or matt, and whether any copies are flown or shipped to foreign countries.

But to give a rough idea, a 450-page paperback (such as Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner) will typically account for around 5.5 lb of carbon dioxide emissions per copy.

Over the course of a year there are nearly 300,000 titles published in the US. The sums speak for themselves.

So what can we at Penguin do to reduce our impact on the environment?

Over the last ten years, we have taken many steps in our offices to reduce our energy use and therefore our corporate carbon footprint.

Here are a few examples of measures we’ve taken:



  • Videoconferencing: We upgraded facilities to encourage employees to use videoconferencing instead of traveling across state lines or even across the ocean for meetings.
  • Webex: One of our three annual sales conferences is now Webex-based so that our national field sales force members can each participate from their home instead of all of them flying and staying in hotels.
  • Fleet: We have reduced the number of cars in our corporate fleet, upped the MPG requirements, and we are pursuing affordable leases on hybrid vehicles.


  • We invested in flat-screen monitors in 2007 and were able to reduce electricity usage by 30%.


  • Ten years ago, we changed the majority of light fixtures to Energy Saver Fluorescents.
  • Wherever possible, we have installed motion sensors to dim or turn off the lights when people are not using a given area.


  • Penguin Group uses a 30% post consumer waste paper (recycled) for all copy and printing with the exception of color work.
  • The bulk of printing and xeroxing work is diverted to high-efficiency machines rather than desktop printers to reduce electricity usage and to encourage double-sided printing.


  • Sprinkler system: during an energy survey, we learned that hundreds of thousands of gallons of water were wasted at our facilities because of mandatory weekly sprinkler system testing. We have purchased a new system which allows sprinklers to be tested without discharging water. This will eliminate nearly 90% of water used in these facilities.


Office Waste: All waste (except very wet food trash) is sorted at a specialized industrial plant that separates paper from plastic, etc so a very high percentage of office waste is recycled.

Packing and Shipping Materials:

  • Recycling corrugated and paper is baled and recycled.
  • Recycled plastic products are baled, and sold to recyclers.
  • Broken wooden pallets are collected, repaired by a vendor, and returned to us for reuse.
  • For more than twenty years, we have used biodegradable packing material—it’s made out of corn starch that totally dissolves when wet.

Damaged or Hurt Books:

  • We shred our own hurt and damaged books and send the fibers back to paper manufacturers in Canada.

Seek Alternative Business Practices

Wind power: Penguin Group was one of the first companies in New York State to utilize wind-generated electrical power, more than a decade ago. In both PGI warehouses, 5% of our current power usage comes from wind power.

In-Store Displays: All PGI in-store displays will be 100% percent green by 2008. They will be made of 100% green corrugated cardboard and vegetable based inks.

Eco-Standards for Book Paper:

Penguin Group (USA) demands that the forests from which fiber is harvested for paper are sustained by the replanting of trees. We believe in environmental sustainability and we are fully committed to working with companies that conduct business in an ecologically responsible fashion and that share our respect for the environment.

Therefore it is important for us to know that the fiber that goes into the paper we use comes from certified, known sources. To that end, we support and encourage our suppliers to operate in accordance with globally recognized forest sustainability programs. Over 64.7% of our papers are derived from fiber that is certified under Canadian Standards Association (CSA), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI) and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).

In 2007, PGI purchased approximately 160 million pounds of paper. 61% of those pounds, or 97.6 million pounds, contained recycled fibers, ranging from a low of 2% to a high of 100%. Our aggregate number of recycled pounds is 6.8 million pounds or 4.25% of our total purchases.

Our Big Goal

We are working with our sister companies and our corporate parent, Pearson Inc, to becoming climate neutral by 2009.

We will achieve this goal by measuring and significantly reducing our energy use, seeking sustainable forms of energy, and off-setting our remaining carbon usage.

Educate Readers & Encourage Them to be Green

When possible, we are experimenting with new materials in producing our books.

DK’s Made With Care line of books launches Spring 2008 with select titles by authors who have a long-standing interest/commitment to green issues

  • Grow Organic (June 2008) a gardening book
  • Green Baby by Susannah Marriott (June 2008) a parenting book
  • Make It by Jane Bull(June 2008) a craft book
  • Earth Matters by David de Rothschild (June 2008) a celebration of the natural world

To produce these books, DK will use FSC paper from ISO14001 suppliers. The inks will be vegetable based. The binding glues are bio-degradable. (This is the first time we are using biodegradable glues! It’s not easy!)

Young Readers’ launched Peter Rabbit Naturally Better

All of the 23 of Beatrix Potter’s classic tales (e.g. The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Tale of Jemima Puddle Duck, The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, etc.) will be printed according to FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) guidelines this year (2008). Frederick Warne & Co. started using inks, papers, and printers approved by the FSC in Fall 2007 on these titles.

As you may know, Beatrix Potter was an early environmentalist, raising funds for conservation and preserving land in perpetuity by donating it to Britain’s National Trust.

The future: How Green can we get?

There is much more to do—for all of us.

Penguin, as the publishers of recent books like Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, Al Gore’s The Assault on Reason, Paul Hawken’s Blessed Unrest, Clive Ponting’s A Green History of the World and The Rough Guide to Climate Change, appreciates more than most that we are only just starting to make a difference in terms of providing a sustainable future for ourselves and our business.

We will continue to seek new ways to reduce our carbon footprint while operating a sustainable and ethical business.

If you’d like to know more, dip into the following books:

Penguin Group (USA) Green Titles

Listed by imprint…


Assault on Reason by Al Gore (May 2008)

Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken (April 2008)

Alice Waters and Chez Panisse by Thomas McNamee (March 2008)

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan (September 2007)

A Green History of the World by Clive Ponting (December 2007)

Collapse by Jared Diamond (September 2007)

Penguin Classics

The Mountains of California by John Muir (April 2008)

The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiesen (Fall 2008)

Under the Sea Wind by Rachel Carson with an introduction by Linda Lear (April 2007)


Green, Greener, Greenest: A Practical Guide to Making Eco-Smart Choices a Part of Your Life by Lori Bongiorno (March 25, 2008)

Live an Eco-Friendly Life (52 Brilliant Ideas): Smart Ways to Get Green and Stay That Way by Natalia Marshall (March 4, 2008)


Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World by Diane MacEachern (Feb 2008)


Green Babies, Sage Moms by Lynda Fassa (January 2008)

The Penguin Press

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan (January 2008)


Lost Mountain: A Year in the Vanishing Wilderness: Radical Strip Mining and the Devastation of Appalachia by Erik Reece (February 2007)


Censoring Science by Mark Bowen (January 2008)

Green Living by the editors of E / The Environmental Magazine (June 2005)


The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Green Living (September 2007)

Viking (Penguin Young Readers Group)

Forest Adventure

Meet the Mudsters

Welcome Spring

An Inconvenient Truth: The Crisis Of Global Warming by Al Gore (April 2007)

DK’s Made With Care

Grow Organic (June 2008)

Green Baby by Susannah Marriott (June 2008)

Make It by Jane Bull(June 2008)

Earth Matters by David de Rothschild (June 2008)

Compost by Ken Thompson (March 2007)

A Slice of Organic Life edited by Sheherazade Goldsmith (June 2007)

Rainforest by Thomas Marent (September 2006)

Rough Guides

The Rough Guide to Shopping with a Conscience by Duncan Clark & Richie Unterberger (February 2007)

The Rough Guide to Climate Change by Robert Henson (November 2006)

Further information and Green FAQ

For an easily digestible introduction to climate change, read The Rough Guide to Climate Change.

The following websites will also tell you more about climate change and what you can do to help.

The Nature Conservancy

An Inconvenient Truth

The Big Green Purse
Paul Hawken
Union of Concerned Scientists