By Ali Shaw, Founder & Executive Editor

Image courtesy of Unsplash

“The sun’s shining, the birds are singing, it’s a beautiful day!” That’s something my stepdad says every spring, and I love it. It’s starting to look like spring around Portland, although we tend to call these sunny late February and early March days “fake spring”—winter always comes back around for a little while.

Fake or not, every time the spring weather starts up again, I take it as a reminder to check in on Indigo’s carbon footprint and what effect we’re having on the environment. We’re a pretty small business, but I do still commute, and of course we work on electronics and rely heavily on paper usage in our industry.

So every spring I use the handy carbon footprint calculator at Trees for the Future (spring is most convenient for me because I’ve also just tallied some of these stats for taxes) and add on how many trees’ worth of paper we’ve used. Then on Earth Day, I make a donation to offset Indigo’s carbon footprint.

I’ve got to do a shout-out to our client Amber Lotus Publishing for this idea—they’ve been tracking their paper usage and carbon footprint for decades now, and they are officially a carbon negative business. What an inspiration!

Why is this such a big deal? I grew up in the Rocky Mountains and now live in the Cascade Range, and my heart dips every time I see the bald patches in forests due to clear cuts for paper mills. And it’s an obvious truth that books are printed on paper. And that trees take decades to grow big enough to be harvested for paper. So no matter where we fall on the political spectrum, it’s clear that we as publishing businesses need to be sustaining forests in order to sustain our industry.

I love Trees for the Future for several reasons. Their carbon footprint calculator is very easy to use. It does focus mostly on commuting and shipping stats, but it’s easy enough to calculate your paper usage and add on: 1 tree = 17 reams of paper (500 printer sheets each).

For our work in the office, we use the equivalent of only 1 or 2 trees per year. But when you start to think about book printing, especially books that have several hundred pages, well, that tree usage starts to add up. If a 5 ½ x 8 ½ book is 250 pages, that’s 125 sheets of paper, so every 4 books equals 1 ream of paper, and every 68 books equals 1 tree. If you print 1,000 books, that’s 15 trees. (Props to you if you’re printing on post-consumer waste recycled paper and using fewer trees!)

Each tree through Trees for the Future costs only $0.10, so for those 1,000 5 ½ x 8 ½ books, add $1.50 to your carbon footprint offset calculation, and you’ve just replenished your book’s effect on forests.

Want to make a real impact? Donate enough to plant ten times—or even one hundred or one thousand times—the trees you use.

Earth Day is coming up April 22. We invite all Indigo clients and colleagues (that’s you!) to join us in doing something to offset your tree usage and carbon footprint.

All through the month of April, we’ll be spotlighting Indigo community members who contribute to sustainability—whether that’s through Trees for the Future or other methods and organizations—on our social media and in our newsletter. To be featured, email your company’s contribution to by March 30.

We love working with you! Now go enjoy that sunshine and birdsong. These beautiful days won’t be around forever.

Ali McCartAli Shaw has been fascinated with making books since she was a small child playing in her mom’s print shop. Although book-making technology has changed drastically since then, the main steps—editing, design, and production—have remained the same, and Ali proudly displays hundreds of hardbacks, paperbacks, chapbooks, calendars, and magazines she has helped produce over her career so far.