Before the recession hit in 2007, publishers were going green in droves. This movement equated to paper changes, strengthened digital operations, green certifications, environmentally focused in-house practices and more. Unfortunately, as the economy tumbled, many publishers struggled to keep their doors open; those who survived were often forced to shelve their costly green conversions.

Aside from the environmental detriments of publishers abandoning green efforts, Steve Silver, CEO of recycled paper supplier FutureMark, points out the drawback for audiences: “If you’re a publisher, and the demographic of your subscribers are people who care about the environment, some of them feel guilty if they buy a paper magazine.”

Fortunately, several publishers are finding ways to operate green-friendly print businesses despite tighter budgets. Here, FOLIO: speaks to companies committed to creating lasting green practices.

The Better Paper Project: Moving Forward

Launched in January 2008, Green America’s Better Paper Project (BPP) exists as a two-prong program: the first is helping publishers clean up their paper practices, and the second is to reward those who choose to go green. Frank Locantore, director of BPP, says, “There’s not a difference in interest between 2007 and 2011, but there’s a difference in action. Budgets have constricted, and staff sizes have decreased. There is more responsibility as remaining staff assume roles of colleagues who were laid off, and they don’t have the bandwidth or the budget.”

Despite these hardships, BPP works with several retailers to celebrate those publishers who integrate recycled material into their print product. Bookstore promotions include Barnes & Noble, where end-cap gondolas feature signs reading, “These magazine were printed on recycled paper.” Similar promotions can be found at Hastings Books and Music, Books-a-Million, independent bookstores and participating airports. According to Locantore, participating magazines have seen sales increase from 29 to 114 percent.

BPP is also looking to dispel misconceptions about green conversion. As Locantore points out, “To say that recycled paper is more expensive than virgin fiber paper is not always true. The paper market is extremely volatile, and the prices between recycled and virgin fiber paper can be comparable.”

To that end, BPP is creating the Better Paper Buying Club, a paper buying co-op for publishers. “We haven’t pulled the trigger yet, as we’re in the exploratory phase: talking to publishers, adding up volumes, understanding grades and weights of paper and working to create one lump purchase,” says Locantore. Already, there has been enough interest from magazines using a similar base and grade of paper that the co-op would be dealing with more than 1 million pounds of green paper. BPP is in collaboration with printer New Leaf Paper and hopes to make a purchase from partner FutureMark Paper Company within the next month.

According to the Better Paper Buying Club’s website, FutureMark Connection (76 & 80 Bright in Satin or Gloss LWC, #5) and FutureMark Choice (82 Bright Gloss, LWC, #4) are the two available options for co-op participants. Both grades contain 30 percent post-consumer recycled content (with 90 percent reclaimed fiber), processed without chlorine and are FSC-certified.

Sustainable Efforts

The Better Paper Project also recognizes outstanding green publishing efforts through its annual Aveda Environmental Awards. Established in 2005, BPP and Aveda acknowledge the best efforts in paper/printing, commitment and distribution. In April 2011, Mother Jones was awarded in the paper/printing and best overall environmental commitment categories. Madeleine Buckingham, president and CEO of Mother Jones, discusses how the bi-monthly magazine keeps it green.

“We believe that a publishers’ largest footprint is usually paper they use,” says Buckingham. Mother Jones used a variety of paper brands containing recycled fiber and post consumer waste over the years, and currently works with paper supplier Catalyst.

The magazine’s body paper stock is a -38 lb. grade 5 North American paper called Electracote, a lightweight ground wood. The fiber used in the Catalyst brand is certified from sustainably managed forests. The majority of the fiber is from British Columbia and manufactured at the Alberni Mill, which employs 88 percent of its energy sources from sustainable energy. According to Buckingham, 63 percent of this rate is supplied by hydroelectric power and biomass.

Mother Jones does not simply review a company’s products before entering a partnership with a new brand. “We also consider overall environmental commitment of the suppliers we choose,” says Buckingham. “My manufacturing director (and we as an organization) support their yield and other factors, so the fiber basket mix reflects the regional strength. In effect, we’re examining the entire carbon footprint of our supplier, not just the product we’re buying at the time.”

Mother Jones, which has a 200,000 rate base, also offers auto renewal options to reduce direct mail waste, and publishes a digital edition in order to cut down on publishing and distribution materials.

Dwell Media also finds its green solution with a sustainably sourced paper supplier, Sappi Fine Paper North America. Sappi, a global paper and pulp company, gathers its North American supplies from Maine forests. According to Dwell president Michela O’Conner Abrams, tacks and varnishes are not used in production with the matte paper used in-book. “We do not use recycled paper due to the expense of the supply,” she adds. “We continue to price it every quarter hoping to get back to it.”

Recycled Sources and Digital Options

At 70,000-circ. vegan mag VegNews, using recycled materials is part of the publication’s DNA. VegNews originally launched as a newspaper in 2000, and was printed on 100 percent recycled newsprint. When the publication repositioned itself as a magazine in 2004, recycled materials were again integrated into paper stock. Publisher Josh Connelly says, “It’s important to note that this is our policy and not something we’re implementing now. We’ve been doing it since long before it was [fashionable] to be green and recycled.”

VegNews works with Lane Press, a printer based in Burlington, Vermont. Current paper stock is 100 percent FSC certified, with 75 percent post-consumer recycled paper content. All inks used for printing are soy-based. The cover stock uses 100# Sterling Matte (a #2 grade sheet); in-book text prints on 50# Somerset Matte (a #3 grade sheet).

Three years ago, VegNews released a “tree-free” edition for users who wished to read the magazine without using an additional paper product. Digital subscriptions cost the same as print subs (about $20 per year).