Greening the magazine business

Dear EarthTalk: I heard a reference to "The Magazine Paper Project." What are they trying to accomplish?

"" Phil Z., Stamford, CT

A project of the nonprofit consumer group Co-Op America, the Printing Alternatives Promoting Environmental Responsibility (PAPER) Project educates magazine publishers about the benefits of recycled papers and helps them make the switch from less green paper choices. By participating in the project, publications can both reduce their industry's impact on the environment and, by promoting their involvement in the organization, look good in the eyes of readers.

Thus far the project has helped more than 100 magazines find sources for recycled paper or increase the environmental friendliness of the paper stocks they choose. This includes papers that avoid the use of chlorine-based brighteners, which are now widely acknowledged to be introducing highly toxic and cancer-causing dioxins into the environment.

The PAPER project was launched in 2001 by Co-Op America in conjunction with two other nonprofits, the Independent Press Association, a consortium of primarily small, independent magazine publishers, and Conservatree, a former paper distributor that turned to advocacy and consulting in order to help stem the tide of deforestation by the paper industry.

According to the Worldwatch Institute, 42 percent of the global industrial wood harvest goes to making paper. Nearly half of all trees harvested in North America go to making some kind of paper product, and the pulp and paper industry is also the largest consumer of water used in industrial activities in developed countries, and the third largest contributor of industrial greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

Some 12 billion magazines are printed each year, and only five percent contain recycled paper content. Further exacerbating the magazine industry's impact on the environment is the fact that roughly half of all magazines placed for sale on newsstands and in bookstores do not get sold and are either discarded or recycled. (And, of course, even magazines that do sell are ultimately discarded or recycled.)

In 2004, the PAPER project conducted a workshop and produced a guide for publishers as part of an annual magazine industry conference hosted by Folio: magazine. Several magazines reportedly switched to recycled paper stock as a result. The following year, project coordinators worked in conjunction with Folio: and natural cosmetics company Aveda in pioneering the first environmental award recognizing magazine publishers for their environmental commitments. Nine different publications, including large circulation titles like Natural Health, Mother Jones, Shape and Mother Earth News have been recognized by the award since its inception two years ago.

Magazine consumers can do their part by asking the publishers of their favorite titles to consider switching over to recycled and/or chlorine-free paper stock and taking a look at the resources offered by the PAPER project to ease the transition if they haven't already done so.

CONTACTS: Magazine PAPER Project, /programs/woodwise/publishers; Conservatree, ; Independent Press Association, .

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