Welcome to the digital age, where we get our news updates from blogs and chatrooms, children learn to read from Kindles instead of books and the only magazines that actually print anymore do it for that cutesy, down-home effect.
In the digital age, we may be. But paperless -- turns out -- it is not. In fact, there are over 17,000 magazines published in the United States. And only approximately 200 are printed on recycled paper.
According to the Magazine Publishers of America, only 20% of magazines are recycled in the U.S. after use, despite the fact that they are easy to recycle and are accepted in most communities.
Organizations have surfaced to green the magazine industry, like the Institute for Sustainable Communication, which focuses on developing socially and environmentally healthy forms of communication, and Green America Better Paper Project, which offers a resource for publishers, retailers, printers, advertisers and consumers to help them reduce the environmental impact of paper.
The Better Paper Project Website connects magazine stakeholders who are interested in sustainable printing. Members are able to access information about recycled paper, join buying clubs to purchase recycled paper in bulk, participate in bookstore promotions and get recognition for achievements they make in the area of sustainable publishing. The project also offers assistance to members trying to increase their environmental paper use.
Director of Green America Better Paper Project Frank Locantore has highlighted some magazines with the best and worst printing habits.
Boho Magazine is a small green fashion title that is printed on FSC-certified, chlorine-free 100% recycled paper from a mill in Canada that is run on biogas energy. It's a gorgeous publication that Locantore says is breaking the traditional mold. Boho paper isn't glossy, which gives it a subdued, arty look. But that isn't the only way recycled paper has to be.
A major mainstream (and glossy) magazine that uses recycled paper is Shape, which prints on 35% post-consumer paper. According to Locantore, this has much to do with the commitment of the magazine's editor-in-chief, Valerie Latona. When Shape announced that it printed on recycled paper, it was flooded with positive comments.
"There is great reader response from it," Locantore said.
Locantore also pointed out some titles that disappoint him. National Geographic uses minimal recycled paper in the cover, but has resisted pressure from the Better Paper Project to increase the amount. The magazine insists that it is focused on overall carbon emissions, and that recycled paper doesn't necessarily fit into the business plan. Locantore counters that trees absorb carbon and the more you leave standing, the more they will absorb.
Vanity Fair and other Conde Nast publications are also on Locantore's offender list. Vanity Fair has published multiple "green issues" that feature stories about pollution, green celebrities and politicians, coal mining and other eco articles. Unfortunately, these stories weren't printed on recycled fiber.
In general, Locantore argues that publications don't have to sacrifice much in order to switch to recycled paper. Paper manufacturers like FutureMark Paper -- which exclusively produces paper with recycled content -- sell high-quality products at the same prices as traditional ones. The company produces glossy magazine and catalogue paper, as well as premium #4 food labels.
FutureMark uses paper collected from the Chicago area to recycle, and it has unique equipment (pictured below) that gets rid of extra materials, like tape and staples, instead of grinding them up into the pulp. "We don't want that," FutureMark's director of marketing, Ann Jansen, told The Daily Green. "We want to make the best paper possible, so we take that stuff that shouldn't be there out. We can make better quality paper that way."
It's a popular belief that recycled paper is of lower quality than fresh paper, but by sorting the extra material out of the pulp and adding some fresh fibers, FutureMark is able to produce high-quality, 90% recycled magazine-grade paper, with 30% post-consumer material. Consumers, Jansen said, aren't able to tell the difference between virgin-fiber paper and FutureMark recycled paper. Considering the similar price and quality, Jansen thinks the only thing that keeps people from choosing recycled paper is awareness about the product and its availability.
FutureMark has the capacity to produce 150,000 tons of recycled paper every year, and mostly supplies paper to big companies and publications, like Rachael Ray magazine, which has an annual circulation of 15 million copies. Campbell's, General Mills, Outside magazine and Taste of Home magazine are some other FutureMark customers. Jansen believes that more big companies use recycled paper because they have the ability to research printing options.
Since it came under new ownership in 2009, FutureMark has made more changes to its production cycle to make the process more environmentally friendly, like moving from oil-based binding products to corn-based ones and producing a soil nutrient from short paper fibers, inks and coating materials extracted from recycled paper. "We're trying in everything we do to look for the best business choice and best green choice," Jansen said.
And making those green choices may turn out well for FutureMark's business. There's a movement in the print and paper world that will transcend individual publishers or consumers and reach up into a bigger realm -- the federal government. Print Buyers Online is bringing legislation to Congress proposing a reimbursement of sales taxes paid on sustainable print projects. PBO defines sustainable print projects as any meeting 15 criteria, including legal tree harvesting, inks with low levels of VOC and a recyclable product.
"It's kind of broad-reaching across different things that make up the manufacturing of a print project," PBO President Suzanne Morgan told The Daily Green. "What we hope is that it not only helps speed up environmental sustainability, but it also protects the use of print in a way that is environmentally healthy."
Morgan is confident that the legislation will pass because the Obama Administration is concerned with the environment and the bill would protect and create jobs in the print industry.
Locantore argues that the benefits of recycled paper go beyond the environment. When faced with a choice between a women's fitness magazine printed on virgin forest paper and one printed on recycled paper, Locantore says readers tend to go for the greener option. "There is great reader response to it," he explains.
And though he hasn't seen much change in the percentage of recycled paper used in the last 10 years, Locantore has found that many more magazines have been considering using recycled and FSC-certified paper. Jansen has also seen that FutureMark customers are very receptive to the green initiative, and she expects the interest will continue to grow.
"People see the value in taking truckloads of wastepaper and turning it into new paper versus clearcutting virgin forestland," Jansen said.
Image above: Courtesy of FutureMark Paper
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