Ninety-five percent of all magazine paper contains no recycled content at all. Environmental issues arise often, and the industry is responding. Though long thought of as low-quality and expensive, recycled paper is evolving, offering high-quality, glossy finishes for image printing, while still remaining environmentally conscious.
The State of the Paper Environment: What to Look For
According to environmental non-profit Co-Op America’s Magazine Paper Project, magazines in the U.S. use about 35 million trees each year for printing magazines. That’s one tree every second. But reducing that number and still publishing a quality product is not as difficult or costly as some may think.
Quality hardly has to be sacrificed if you do choose to go green. Most recycled papers are available in both glossy and matte finishes in all weights for text pages and cover stock. The main thing to consider when choosing a paper is knowing how much of the paper is post consumer waste (paper that has reached its intended end-use consumer). This is the most environmentally friendly type of paper since it is paper that would normally end up in a landfill, and no trees are cut down to make it. "It’s important to specify post consumer because that is the collection system that has the greatest need of assistance," says Frank Locantore, director of the Magazine Paper Project for Co-Op America.
There is no standard for how much of the paper should be post consumer. However, most magazines going green, like American Media’s Shape and Natural Health, appear to be going with an average of 30 percent post consumer papers. Some paper manufacturers will include recycled pulp up to 10 percent and won’t notify anyone about it because it does not affect cost or quality.
The remainder of the paper can be comprised of three different materials: virgin fiber; recovered fiber, such as pre-consumer waste (paper scraps after the paper is trimmed to size, unsold magazines, and printer scraps, for example); and FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) certified, meaning the trees used are harvested in a sustainable manner, either replanted or selectively cut, coming from regions without social conflict.
How Much Green Will It Cost to Go Green?
In North America, about 100 magazines are currently printing on environmentally responsible papers. "There isn’t a huge demand just yet," says Locantore. "In the mid nineties there was an expanded interest to produce and use recycled paper but the technology wasn’t there so the quality wasn’t good at that time and people just got a bad taste that has persisted until today." According to Locantore, who assists magazine publishers to find environmentally responsible options for production, price and quality don’t have to be sacrificed in order to switch to recycled paper. Today’s technology allows for recycled paper to be very manageable.
Environmentally-conscious consumer title Plenty is printed on 30 percent post-consumer waste paper, which costs about 7.8 percent more than standard paper. "Because we buy 30 percent post consumer content we are paying approximately $4.00/cwt," says Mark Spellun, Plenty’s publisher and editor-in-chief. For the cover stock, Spellun says the magazine pays about 2.2 percent more for the 10 percent PCW paper ($1.00/cwt). The remaining 70 percent of the paper used in Plenty is FSC certified. "Sustainable business practices frequently cost more," says Spellun. "But there really is no alternative. We all have to take into account the consequences of our actions."
Primedia’s Surfer decided to go green in November, when guest editors, musician Jack Johnson and Patagonia’s Chris Malloy, suggested Surfer print the issue on recycled paper. Publisher Rick Irons footed the entire bill for the "green" November issue but says it was worth it. Reader response was very positive;they urged the magazine to print every issue on recycled paper. Since June 2006, Surfer prints on average 39,000 magazine pages on recycled paper each month.
Even with a sponsor partnership with Patagonia, the additional costs to print the over 200-page magazine on recycled paper costs an additional $100,000 a year. Surfer accounts for more than half the bill each month, but the magazine’s research shows that printing the 480 million pages over the next year will save about 4,500 trees.
The increase in costs forced Irons to raise the newsstand price of the magazine by $1.00, to $4.99. Subscribers, however, pay the same amount they did prior to the paper change. "So far we haven’t seen any declines in circulation or revenue," says Irons. "All we’ve seen is positive feedback from our readers. The surfing world is really environmentally conscious. Our readers, our advertisers and our industry back what we’re doing, plus it’s morally the right thing."
But going green does not necessarily mean you will be paying more. Depending on your relationship with your supplier, it may cost more, less, or about the same as standard paper. "You don’t have to leap all at once from using virgin paper to using 50 percent post-consumer recycled paper to make a difference," says Locantore. "Even just 1⁄4" or 1⁄2" changes in trim sizes can translate into four to eight percent paper savings, saving both money and natural resources."