Magazine IndustryOn certain days, hunkering down in your favorite comfy chair with a refreshing beverage at arm’s distance, a cozy cat or dog on your lap and a stack of take-me-away-from-my-real-life magazines is nothing short of pure bliss. Unfortunately, someone had to go and ruin the experience by pointing out that the seemingly innocuous pleasure is actually rife with eco-pitfalls. Just one year ago, Audubon magazine transformed a stress-relieving pastime into a head-scratching conundrum by revealing that 30 million trees are felled annually to produce America’s 17,000 newsstand titles. Talk about being a buzzkill. These cold, hard facts may be a bummer to digest, but they are made even more sobering by the fact that 2.2 million tons of paper is used each year to manufacture American magazines, and of that eye-opening figure, consumers recycle just 20% of the titles that pass through their hands. Any way you look at it, a comprehensive industry overhaul is in order, as is a refresher course in consumer recycling 101.

There really is no good reason why any publication should still be utilizing virgin paper sources when we have the technology available to manufacture perfectly desirable, recycled, post-consumer pages. Ditto for fair-weather recyclers who confuse their garbage cans for their recycling bins. The magazine industry is collectively responsible for cutting down one tree every second, and with the production of a single title, it generates 78 cars worth of greenhouse gases, but we’re just as guilty of fueling their practices when we give old issues the heave-ho. If your eco-remorse is getting to you and you’re sincerely interested in greening up your act (along with your magazine habit), then you might appreciate reviewing the following list of magazine industry eco-stars and offenders:

Shining eco-stars

  • Audubon magazine: Uses 90% post-consumer recycled paper made by Leipa, reducing its total yearly greenhouse gas emissions by 608 metric tons (at a savings of $18,000).
  • Boho magazine: Using a biogas-fueled Canadian paper mill that processes FSC-certified, 100% recycled and chlorine-free pulp, this eco-esque fashion publication (winner of the 2009 SustainPrint Award) proves that creating a great-looking publication can definitely be easy on the planet.
  • Every Day With Rachel Ray: Three years ago, the company switched over to 85% recycled paper produced by FutureMark, a move that helped it save “125,000 trees, 7,800 pounds of hazardous air pollutants, 380 garbage trucks of solid waste, and over 25 million pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent worth of greenhouse gases.”
  • Inc. and Fast Company: Owned by Mansueto Ventures, both business-themed titles are currently printed on 100% recycled paper stock containing an impressive 85% post-consumer waste.
  • Rolling Stone: Utilizes Catalyst Paper Corporation’s much thinner carbon-neutral paper, which, while far from being recycled, is still a step in the right direction, helping the publication reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the past five years by a whopping 82%.

Shameful eco-offenders

  • National Geographic: Proudly announcing their mission to inspire people to care about the planet, the enduring environmentally focused title uses virgin tree fiber throughout the body of its issues. While it does use a smidge of recycled content in its cover, the actual “percentage figures” are missing in action, forcing consumers to use their imaginations.
  • Various Hearst magazine titles: From O, The Oprah Magazine and Esquire to Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping, the only thing remotely green about each title is the “please recycle this magazine” symbol displayed on the bottom right corner of the masthead page. Nowhere in the actual magazines (or on their corresponding websites, for that matter) is any information about recycled paper content revealed.
  • Various Condé Nast magazine titles: Count Vogue, Self, GQ, Vanity Fair and Wired among the publications that continue to source their pulp from old-growth trees. To heap further insult upon industry, a green-themed issue of Vanity Fair touted the environmental movement while failing to offer its readers any recycled paper content.