After several years of discussions and a soft launch late last year, we have a sustainability statement for And Other Stories which we wanted to share here, in the hope it could be useful to you as you think about your place in the environment. And Other Stories’ action for the climate focuses on four strands:
- Carbon-cutting (incl. No-Fly Policy)
- Advocacy and Collaboration
- Eco-friendly Production and Business
- Donating to an Environmental Organisation
Please do read more about our strategy and thoughts in our Sustainability Statement here. Let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you!
And if you’re curious about how our no-fly policy is working out in practice, the following opinion piece first appeared in the 23 September 2022 Climate issue of the UK and Ireland’s publishing and bookselling sector trade magazine The Bookseller:
Why no-fly is a no-brainer – if we build it together
And Other Stories publish international writers across English-language territories. Can that work without a ton-load of carbon?
Let me preface what comes by saying we at And Other Stories love travel and are obviously very committed to the international exchange of ideas and people. We’re not suggesting a trip-less future! However, I’d like to invite you to imagine how a no-fly approach for one decade could help transform our publishing business and our future lives. We know we have to change our MO if we want to slow climate change and keep the world inhabitable for our species. We’ve been slow to do much because we are creatures of habit. Change is not all easy, but it’s a good challenge. In life as in literature, constraints can make us more creative.
One area we can act now is to create a publishing system that doesn’t rely on air travel. Currently, long-distance travel (by jet airliners) is of the significant contributors to carbon emissions, and increasing, since the developing world naturally wants to fly as much as we do. There are pilot (hahah!) projects around sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), but for now planes are part of the problem. The airline industry is currently forecasting – in their best-case scenario, according to the 20 August article in The Economist – that 65% of flights will be powered by SAF by 2050. So, almost no green fuel now and just two-thirds by 2050 if we’re lucky?! Meanwhile, the PA’s Publishing Declares signatories have pledged net zero emissions “as soon as possible, and by 2050 at the latest”.
The more we cut current air travel, the more usable alternative options will be created, including better online/hybrid events and better green travel options. And Other Stories is one of the publishers who now has a no-fly policy. So how does it work for us? We no longer fly staff anywhere for work. (Not even in the US, where our publicist goes by train or by car, which is an ask, and sometimes means we skip attending conferences, when they are too far away.). We don’t plan, encourage, or fund (or find funding for) author or translator tours involving flights. In dealing with lots of different authors, we found that a relatively straightforward no-fly policy seemed to be the most workable and fair solution. We should add that the discussion about it was started well before the no-fly decision. In 2019, before making any firm commitment, we surveyed our authors and among them only one suggested we “let authors decide how they want to travel in all cases, without any rule of thumb”. About half chose the no-fly option.
Though, as our sustainability statement says, we do have some flexibility: “Once every few years, we may still use air travel for an author from the Global South, for reasons of equity, or for an author who is on the shortlist for a major prize.” And we’re definitely still feeling our way, listening to people, and reflecting on our experiences so far. For example, we have foreign authors tell us they are coming to the UK (where many of our foreign authors have family or strong friends – Robin McLean has family here; Paulo Scott lived here in the past), and would like to do events, which we do organise for them.
This summer we went to Julie’s Bicycle arts organisation’s Green Tools and filled in travel data. (The whole process took just an hour.) Our travel last year had created only 10% of the carbon emissions in the last pre-pandemic year. We still made 300 kg CO2e in the year ending March 2022, but that’s down from 3 tonnes CO2e in 2018-2019, when flights were five-sixths of our emissions.
Would you think about how your work can help the industry cut flights? Publicist: please pitch all your authors to festivals, the ones who can appear remotely as much as the ones who can appear in-person. Events organiser: please consider hybrid events so international authors and translators can appear remotely on a big screen. Move meetings online if you can’t make it by train or road. Going to Frankfurt? A lovely train ride. Whatever your business, join Climate Perks, whereby staff receive extra days’ leave to incentivise them to have no-fly personal travel, though please let’s not get into flight-shaming! Talk about issues relating to your business in team meetings. And, most of all, do start to measure and reduce emissions. It’s not hard, and there’s help out there: the IPG has a Zero Carbon Toolkit. Julie’s Bicycle’s Green Tools site makes calculations in areas like buildings and travel emissions. We’re looking forward to the PA’s carbon calculator, which is being piloted now and will help with the detail of publishing-specific choices such as the emissions of different printers and paper types.
And please let’s #keepfestivalshybrid? (And bookshop events!). This year we’re seeing some festivals pushing for in-person-only events, and many bookshops have pressed pause on online events (with some great exceptions). There are many people whose life circumstances (such as location, disability, health issues, caring responsibilities) mean their access depends on virtual or hybrid events. They are not always the events managers or book publicists organising the events. The technology for hybrid events is really not that complex. For example, back in 2019, our author Hanne Ørstavik spoke from her study in Milan to her interviewer and a live audience in Sheffield’s Central Library. We just needed a laptop, big screen and projector. There was true intimacy – she was at home and could pull down books that she wanted to share.
And one day, I’m sure, if we vote with our actions today, we’ll be airborne with zero-emissions flights, though no doubt still with not enough legroom . . .
No-Fly Planning Tips
Sites to Help you Plan No-fly Travel
There are lots of resources online for planning a journey by land or sea within Europe and beyond. Here are a few ideas. If you have other favourites, let us know and we’ll add them!
- Seat61.com – comprehensive rail travel guide, primarily focused on Europe but with advice on destinations further afield as well.
- Rail Europe – easy pan-European rail ticketing website.
- Rome2Rio.com enables comparison and booking of different travel options for worldwide travel.
- snowcarbon.co.uk specialises in train travel to ski resorts.
Eco Posts series
To be part of wider change, we share some thoughts and actions on climate and sustainability in our eco posts series on our Ampersand blog. (For lack of staff time, the series was paused during the pandemic, but from September 2022 we have started to post again regularly – and very much welcome guest posts on publishing, literature and the environment.)