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Eco-conscious book choices

With Earth Day coming up on Monday, I asked Ashland Creek Press co-founder and Editor Midge Raymond how readers and authors can make more eco-conscious choices about books. Raymond helped create Ashland Creek Press after noticing there weren't that many books out there — especially in the fiction category — with an environmental message.

The local publishing company is holding a give-away of eco-friendly books in honor of Earth Day. Two winners will each receive a paperback book made with ecologically sourced paper plus a digital book.

Visit www.ashlandcreekpress.com/blog/ for details on entering.

Ashland Creek Press not only releases environmentally themed books such as JoeAnn Hart's novel "Float" and Blair Richmond's young adult series "The Lithia Trilogy," it looks for ways to embrace green publishing.

Raymond said traditional publishers typically do print runs of 1,000 or 5,000 or 100,000 books, never knowing exactly how many will sell and how many will be left over.

"The publisher will pulp the extras. It's so wasteful in publishing," Raymond said.

Ashland Creek Press uses Lightning Source, an American print-on-demand company headquartered in Tennessee, to print books only as needed.

"A book can be printed and sent to the person who bought it. It's a little more expensive, but it's much more environmentally friendly," Raymond said.

She encouraged book buyers to check where a book is printed and buy those that were made in America.

"With China and India, we don't know where the wood comes from. There's also a carbon cost to ship the books here," she said.

Information about where a book was printed is usually listed on the copyright page, she said. Ashland Creek Press uses Sustainable Forestry Initiative certified paper for its books.

With so many around me using e-readers these days, I asked Raymond whether people should feel guilty about buying traditional books. It seems like digital books are the obvious choice for eco-conscious consumers, but Raymond said there are several things to consider.

"It's a balancing act," said Raymond, whose company publishes both traditional and digital books. "E-books are generally greener, but devices need to be plugged in and batteries need to be recycled. It's great to buy digital books, but people shouldn't feel guilty about buying traditional books if that's what they like."

She said checking out books from the library is an eco-conscious choice, as are sharing books and reselling books once you're finished with them.

"The library is a great place to go if you want to be green," she said. "When you use the library, you also support authors, libraries and publishers."

For readers interested in environmental issues, Raymond recommended a number of classic to contemporary books and authors. From the 1800s, John Muir was an early proponent of conservation while Henry David Thoreau embraced nature and simple living.

In novel form, Upton Sinclair's classic "The Jungle" from the early 1900s explored environmental and animal- and worker-rights issues surrounding the meat-packing industry.

Rachel Carson's classic "Silent Spring" raised awareness about pesticide dangers in the 1960s.

In the 1990s, author Timothy Egan explored the history of the Northwest and delved into conservation issues in "The Good Rain," while in the 2000s, Alan Weisman's "The World Without Us" detailed how the planet would respond without humans.

Poetry lovers can find environmental themes in Walt Whitman's classic 19th century "The Leaves of Grass" and in "The Ecopoetry Anthology," a 2013 collection of classic to contemporary poems.

Blog fans can read about and discuss environmental themes in literature via the new blog www.ecolitbooks.com.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.