Greystone Books: A company of environmentalists for the environment

Read Local BC is hosting three reading events this month—in Vancouver, Nanaimo, and Sidney. Our Vancouver event on Thursday, November 9, focuses on a pressing concern that affects everyone in the province: our environment.

To celebrate this important topic, we asked local publisher Greystone Books to discuss their work as one of the most notable in publishing books about the environment. We wanted to find out from Greystone what defines them as a company, the story behind their growth and dedication to the environment, their work with David Suzuki, and their personal and company-based efforts to be as environmentally friendly as possible. Here is a piece from the Greystone team, in their own words.

Greystone Books is a leading publisher of books about nature and the environment, travel and adventure, sports, social issues, science, and health, as well as books that are exceptional literary expressions of personal passions.

Rob Sanders, Greystone’s publisher, headed Saskatoon-based book publisher Western Producer Prairie Books before he came to Douglas & McIntyre in the late 80s. The company had published a number of nature writers and illustrated nature books. In the early 90s, Sanders started Greystone Books as an imprint of Douglas & McIntyre, in Vancouver, and nature writing was a central part of Greystone’s mandate from the beginning. At about the same time Greystone started, an opportunity came along to acquire the publishing program of Western Producer Prairie Books. The acquisition brought Greystone a strong list of nature books and authors, including Candace Savage, whom the company has been publishing ever since.

Sanders knew nature publishing well, was passionate about the outdoors, and always felt that readers who loved great nature writing would become passionate about protecting and preserving the natural world themselves. As environmentalism became more mainstream in the 1990s and bookstores started recognizing it as a category, Greystone authors who were already writing about nature started to address issues of conservation and sustainability more directly. Books like Greenhouse: The 200-Year Story of Global Warming by Gale Christianson and Dead Reckoning: Confronting the Crisis in Pacific Fisheries by Terry Glavin made this an especially exciting time for Greystone.

Greystone established a publishing partnership with the David Suzuki Foundation in 1994 and began publishing more books about the changing state of the environment. Then, in 1997, Greystone started publishing David Suzuki’s books, starting with The Sacred Balance, his now classic treatise on the web of life that unites all living things. With the aim of publishing other writers on nature and environmental issues, the partnerships with the David Suzuki Foundation and with David Suzuki himself helped attract talented writers such as Andrew Nikiforuk, Wayne Grady, Wade Davis, and Peter Wohlleben. Today, Greystone continues its partnership with the David Suzuki Institute, a non-profit sibling organization with a mandate to promote and accelerate public awareness, engagement, and political action in Canada on critical issues of nature, social justice, and democracy.

Greystone aims to publish books that both entertain and inspire readers to think about our impact on the world. Rowing the Northwest Passage by Kevin Vallely is a classic example of this – a gripping narrative of adventure travel, interwoven with stories about how climate change has drastically altered the North and the impact it will have on all of us.

But Greystone’s commitment to the environment goes beyond the authors and words that we publish. All of our books and catalogues, regardless of the topic, are printed using materials that have been acquired through sustainable harvesting on paper that is ancient-forest-friendly. Our staff are also committed to reducing their personal impact on the environment, choosing to ride, walk, or take transit to work; eat local, vegan, or waste-free; or even carve their own spoons out of wood (seriously!). From refillable office growlers to reusable post-it notes, Greystone hopes to protect, conserve, and celebrate our incredible natural environment—one home-grown tomato at a time.

See Kevin Vallely alongside Robert Falls, Robert Griffin, and Pauline Le Bel at Climate, Conservation & Controversy on November 9, as they read from their latest books and discuss pressing environmental topics such as the strange world of international negotiations relating to the carbon industry, the management of our forest industry and its impact on our freshwater ecosystems, and the re-industrialization of the Howe Sound. RSVP on Facebook here.

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