Those struggling to keep up with the issues and terminology of sustainable printing will find much of the information they’re seeking in Handbook on Book Paper and the Environment, a recent report from the Paper Issues Working Group of the Association of American Publishers (AAP). The 61-page document is the product of a 30-month study of governmental and environmental issues as they relate to book paper production. Paper manufacturers, the Environmental Protection Agency, and trade groups including Printing Industries of America took part in discussions that led to the development of the report, which was released in February.

Intended as a resource for book publishing professionals, the handbook supplies straightforward definitions and succinct summary descriptions in every major area of interest for environmentally-minded book producers. Covered are recycling, including pre- and post-consumer recycled fiber distinctions; carbon footprints; forestry; certification standards; paper recycling methods and economics; chain of custody; worldwide practices and economic impacts; green production efforts; and reducing consumption and waste. The report also contains a helpful FAQ section, a thorough glossary, and an extensive list of links to reference organizations.

An eight-page Executive Summary also is available, but taking in what the longer version offers will be well worth the time spent perusing it. It’s a balanced, factual report that doesn’t understate either the desirability or the difficulty of transitioning to environmentally favorable book papers.

We learn, for example, that using 30% recycled uncoated paper in place of 100% virgin-fiber paper reduces the ecological footprint of a ton of paper by five trees, 324 pounds of solid waste, 3,059 gallons of water, 2.1 pounds of suspended particles in the water, 904 pounds of air emissions, and 2,472 cubic feet of natural gas (page 8). Later, though, we’re advised that recovered paper consumption in North America has been flat since 2000 and that paper collection rates in the U.S. are too small to harvest enough of the high-quality recovered paper that’s needed to drive production of better-quality recycled grades (pages 32-33).

Providing access to many tools such as the impact-measuring Paper Calculator from the Environmental Defense Fund, the handbook should be a great help to anyone devising a business strategy for sustainability—or just striving to be better informed personally about a movement that is reaching out to touch every aspect of printing and publishing. Here’s a vote of thanks to AAP for doing the hard work of making the essentials easy for the rest of us to learn in this valuable digest.