Our carbon

Around the start of the first lockdown, I was reading a book called There Is No Planet B by Mike Berners-Lee—a very readable book that addresses various aspects of sustainability. I liked that, while it presented a strong position and clear data about what is happening and why action is required, it provided pragmatic guidance for personal change. My personal belief is that no one is perfect, and there is a value judgement to be made when deciding what to do and whether the associated impact of your actions is worth it. The book was a call to action and balanced the need for individual change with wide-reaching statements about how industry and government must step up to the challenge as well. We held a Board meeting and the decision was unanimous; since then all of the Scottish Mountaineering Press’s publications have been printed on Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) accredited paper, and a number of books (including The Munros, one of our higher volume books) have had the carbon associated with printing offset.

As a producer of physical products, carbon emissions are one of the biggest environmental costs of the Press doing business, and our impact is not insignificant. The environment is something that all of us here care deeply about, and we want to do more. We are agreed that as a responsible business we should be reducing our carbon footprint as much as possible and offsetting the remainder.

We’ve now completed a carbon accounting exercise that covers all of our business operations and production activity in the current financial year, which runs from April 2021 to the end of March this year. This has involved looking at everything we’ve done; everything we’ve printed; the time the team has spent working on our projects; the travel that we’ve undertaken; and all of our systems. Using a specialist accounting organisation called OurCarbon, we took this information and worked out the associated emissions (CO2e). Our total for this 12-month period is calculated at 36 tonnes. While we can’t reduce carbon that is spent, we intend to offset the full amount with a combination of Verra-accredited afforestation and biochar production (locking carbon from dead trees into the soil which would otherwise be released into the atmosphere). The carbon account we produced had a number of estimates in it, so to be confident that we have achieved carbon neutrality, we added 20% to the total.

Having been through this exercise, we now have an idea of the data we need to collect and where we can reduce the amount of C02e we produce in the first place. In time, we will share more on our journey to Net Zero, but we already know that the biggest opportunity for carbon reduction is in the production process for our books, and we have opened discussions with our suppliers to find out what can be done.

Those of you who have subscribed to the newsletter for more than a few months will remember a questionnaire that we sent out to gather information about participation in the activities covered by our books. From this exercise we established that, to get out into the hills, you drive an average of 350 miles per month for 9 months of the year (or 3,150 miles per year). This generates roughly 0.5 tonnes of C02e per year (the average UK household produces 10-15 tonnes in total annually). A single tree will capture around 0.75 tonnes of C02e over 60-years of its life. The numbers here are generalised, but hopefully they help make a complex picture a little clearer.

One of the most encouraging things to discover from the survey was that many of you feel the same way as us, and either want to do things to help or do them already. We’re looking forward to developing this further over the coming months. We are at the start of the journey, and there is loads more to do. Wouldn’t it be great if, as a community of outdoor lovers, we sent a message to the wider publishing industry and brought other organisations on board?