Saturday, March 20, 2010

Saving Trees?

Mom bought this magazine the other day for Dad to take on his trip. Dad usually likes to watch movies on the plane but he had already seen the movie and wanted something to read. Dad loves to cook and loves anything Food Network. I love to eat and love anything Dad makes so I was happy Mom bought this magazine.

Mom had to flip through the magazine before giving it to Dad because she is a magazine freak. She loves them; loves all printed media for crying out love. Mom cooks but since she doesn't eat most food that other people and pugs eat, she was only looking through the magazine for cool gadgets. I couldn't believe my ears when I heard her scream out in terror as she got to the end of the magazine. I thought that maybe there was a recipe for turtle soup or pug chili but it wasn't either of those it was this:

Can you guys read it?

OMP! Mom was all over this! How could a magazine that is not even printed on recycled paper have an advertisement for recycling magazines? Of course everyone should recycle magazines - duh! Common sense, right? Think again. After I got Mom to calm down, I did some research into this ad to see what it was all about.

A couple of years ago the Magazine Publishers of America (MPA) ran a campaign to get people to recycle their magazines once they were through reading them. Great idea! Most curbside recycling programs accept magazines yet according MPA, but most people are not awareness of this so they launched the campaign to raise awareness. According to the MPA website, only about 20 percent of magazines are recycled from the home, even though at least two-thirds of the population has access to magazine recycling in their community. Increasing the number of magazines for recycling means reducing the amount of virgin fiber that must be obtain to create printed materials. Sounds great, right? Yes and no.

This logo was suppose to appear in all publications whose publishers are members of MPA. Guess what? This logo was nowhere to be found in the Food Network magazine. The logo can usually be found on the magazine information page near the front of the magazine but it was curiously absent. Mom flipped through page after page of recipes, food ads, product ads, and of course the obligatory medicine ads but never saw the logo. How hypocritical of Hearst Magazines, publisher of Food Network magazine, to not have this logo in their magazine after selling a full page ad about recycling magazines. Shame on them! But there's more to the story.

MPA claims that recycled magazines are not generally suitable for making new magazine paper. WHAT?! Instead, old magazines are commonly used in production of newsprint and tissue products, and also may be used, along with other types of fiber, to manufacture boxboard, and even writing and printing paper. Mom was furious when she read this. It's the old do as I say and not as I do. Who do the magazine publishers think they are?

Since there are two sides to every story, I decided to investigate Hearst Corporation first to see if they have green initiatives. They have a 'being green' section of their website dedicated to informing consumers about their commitment to a greener world. I had high hopes that what I would find on their website would help me see they are committed to doing the right thing, but I was wary that I would find the outcome I desired.

According to the Hearst Corporation website, in July 2007, all Hearst magazines began carrying the recycling logo. Really? Was it only for 2007? When and why did they stop? I didn't find the answers to these questions but I did find out a lot about their position on the issue of recycled content.

"Hearst is currently using 15% post-consumer recycled paper (PCR) across it's portfolio of publications, primarily in the newsprint we buy. After extensive review, we currently believe newspapers and other end uses (packaging, wallboard, etc.) are the most efficient use for recycled fiber, which continues to be in short supply.

Clearly, the industry can and will recover more paper for reuse. But critics who call for magazine companies to use higher levels of recycled content in magazines should consider that:

Demand outstrips supply, limiting the availability of recycled fiber. Virtually all recovered fiber is being used.

Asia has significantly increased its paper manufacturing capacity, leading to increased demand for recovered fiber from North America.

It is important to use recycled fiber, but we most do so efficiently to avoid creating a negative carbon footprint.

Thus, the insufficient supply of recovered fiber makes recycling and and supporting sustainable forestry key goals for the magazine industry and for Hearst."

Now we're getting somewhere! If I'm hearing what Mom is reading to me correctly, the bottom line, according to Hearst, is that there isn't enough recycled fiber for their portfolio. Hmmm. What about printing just a few magazines, like Food Network, on 100% PCR? Or maybe printing all April magazines on 100% PCR in honor of Earth Day? There must be a viable solution to the recycled content problem.

Hearst does support sustainable forestry and 100% of the paper they purchase is tracked for sustainability. Purchasing virgin fiber from non-sustainable sources is a definite no-no and Hearst has worked to increase its certified purchased fiber from 38% in 2004 to 70% in 2008 (these were the latest figures available). They work with a third party auditor to ensure their forestry practices are up to snuff and they also require the paper mills they use to be use a third party certification "Chain of Custody". This makes me feel a whole lot better.

Hearst Magazines launched in 2007 to provide consumers with a website dedicated to green living. Those of you who follow Mom on Twitter know that she frequently retweets a lot of their tweets. The site has lots of great content for seasoned as well as newbie greenies.

Whew! I was so tired after researching Hearst but Mom pushed me to research what others had to say about the magazine industry. What better place to look then Green America? They did a study a few years ago that concluded:

"The magazine industry is a significant contributor to deforestation, dioxin contamination, air pollution (including greenhouse gases) and water pollution. Environmental damage caused by this industry will escalate unless publishers increase their use of recycled-content paper. In its study of the industry, the PAPER Project found:

Magazine production contributes extensively to deforestation.

Less than 5% of magazine paper has any recycled content, and even these recycled content papers generally contain only 10-30% recycled fiber.

The vast majority of magazines are discarded within one year, and few of these are recycled.

Overproduction compounds the industry's impact. The magazine industry's impact on the environment is compounded by systems that reward the industry for overproduction of publications.

Almost 3 billion magazines on newsstands are never read.

I've spared you from the details for each point because this post is already too long. If you are interested in the nitty-gritty, you can check it out here.

So what does all of this mean? Should everyone stop purchasing magazines? This is not a good solution for everyone. Though Mom loves magazines, she has greatly lessened her magazine buying addiction in favor of reading them at the library. Our library subscribes to lots of magazines and those that our library doesn't have, another library close to us does. We are lucky to live in a community that supports its library system. If you haven't been to the library lately, you should check it out because most have lots to offer besides books.

Should you only purchase magazines made from recycled content? Bingo! Why should magazine publishing be different from any other industry? I understand what Hearst says about recycled content not being available but there are magazines that are printed using 100% PCR. You just have to look for them. And read them. And even purchase them because doing so shows you are supporting their commitment to recycled content.

Both Mom and I understand Hearst's commitment to sustainable forestry and while this is commendable, is there really such a thing as sustainable forestry? This is just like sustainable fisheries and you know where we stand on that issue. We are in the same camp as Green America and believe that magazine publishers must increased their use of recycled content. Not doing so shows less of a commitment to the environmental than sustainable forestry.

At the end of the day, the advertisement is just that - an advertisement. A paid page in a magazine. Why would this ad be in this particular magazine? Apparently it's all about marketing and demographics. Readers of this magazine are probably users of ebay. And I have to say that the cause they are marketing is a great one. Recycling has been and will continue to be one of three main issues Mom and I are committed to (garbage and clean water are the others). I never did a post on RecycleBank even though I started one over a year ago. It's a great program that pays you to recycle. I'm all about getting more people to recycle even if it takes giving them money to do so.


Stella, Gunther and Betty said...

Hey Stubby, great post!

Where we live, we have special cans just for recycling. All our paper products go in a can under the sink then it gets thrown away in a recycling trash can. Mom also gives some of her magazines to her friends to read to they don't go out and buy them.

Stella, Gunther and Betty

Tweedles -- that's me said...

We all trade magazines.
That way they get many eyes to see them.
And then they are recycled.

agent99 said...

Mom is a little bit of a recycle FREAK at home. ALL magazines go in the recycle bin, and she has been known to fish cans and jars from the trash and put them where they belong (in the recycle bin!) We also donate some mags to others, or doctor's offices, etc. She swaps book instead of buying them new through Every little bit helps.

衝動 said...
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Apollo said...

Stubby, your Mommy needs an Amazon Kindle. My Mommy has it and LOVES it. Did you know that it isn't just books that you can download? You can receive magazine subscriptions and even newspaper delivery. It uses the Sprint wireless network to deliver it to you (without any cost or fees). And because you're receiving all the media in electronic format, you don't have to deal with using up any paper or ink and the price is significantly cheaper. Your Daddy could even take it with him when he travels to read at his leisure. Check it out! It's way cool!

Stubby said...

Hi Stella, Gunther & Betty! You guys are really with the program out there in Morro Bay. We only have one recycling can for all recyclables (mixed stream) so humans at the recycling place have to separate everything.

It's great that your mom gives magazines away to friends; this is probably the best way to recycle them. They truly have a long life and can used for much more then reading!

Stubby xoxo

Stubby said...

Hi Tweedles! You are such a smart little pug! Of course you trade your magazines because you are good at sharing. Many eyes get to read what Tweedles reads and that's a great thing.

Stubby xoxo

Stubby said...

Hi Gen & the Foo! Your mom is just like mine! They sound like two recycling freaks in a pod!

My mom has also been known to fish stuff out of the garbage can because she can't stand to see stuff in there that can be recycled.

Donating magazines to doctors offices and friends is a great practice. And swapping books is something that mom does too. You are so right that every little bit helps and I'm so glad you are doing your part!

Stubby xoxo

Stubby said...

Hi Apollo! Everyone loves their Kindle! Dad has offered to buy Mom one since they first came out and she has always said no. She is very old school and likes the touch and feel of books, magazines and newspapers between her fingers. I've told her so many times that it's better for the planet but she just doesn't listen to me. Maybe she will listen to you and get one after reading your comment.

Stubby xoxo

Melissa and Emmitt said...

hi stubby!
oh i had no idea the magazine were not using recycled paper.
i always recylce mine and all of my catalogs too.
i bet this will change especially with the awareness you are bringing to the situation.

thank you for everything you do!


Happy Happy Spring!
m & e

Stubby said...

Hi Melissa & Emmitt! Isn't it funny how we don't know all these things? We just assume that everybody is doing what they can to do the right thing but that's not always the case.

I'm so glad to hear that you recycle your magazines and catalogs. You guys rock!

Stubby xoxo