This is not yet another Earth Day post telling you how environmentally conscious our company is.
I assume you’d not be surprised to learn that we, like you, have grown more-and-more committed to thinking green. I assume you’d not be surprised to learn that we are working with our clients to increase their use of recycled paper products. I assume you would not be surprised that we are committed to working with printers who practice green manufacturing approaches like our largest vendor for the past 16 years, Quad/Graphics, that is seeking certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for all of its major manufacturing sites. I assume you’d not be surprised that we are enthusiastic supporters of all the efforts in the printing and graphics industry to encourage environmentally-friendly industry practices.
What I don’t applaud are the efforts by some to turn any discussion of the environment, printing and paper into an opportunity for shouted accusations and knee-jerk rebuttals.
For example, a few months ago, Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson made a good-faith effort to measure the impact on “climate” of the content delivered in the paper version of the magazine vs. the content delivered via the Wired brand’s digital properties. “Are dead-tree magazines good or bad for the climate?” he asked. As expected from Anderson, the author of the best-selling business book, The Long Tail, his blog post was a detailed comparison of the carbon footprint of a magazine like Wired (the impact related to paper, printing and distribution) with the carbon footprint related to the energy necessary to power each of the computers used to read the same content online. What he discovered was a surprise to some: the carbon footprint of the paper version of the magazine is not that different from the footprint of the same content delivered digitally.
As you can imagine, the debate over Anderson’s post (see the post’s comments) raged on for months — and is still raging, with back and forth arguments about Anderson’s motivation and methodology. Last week, on the Huffington Post, activist Todd Paglia even used a post criticizing Vanity Fair’s annual green issue to divert into yet another blast at Anderson: “Chris Anderson’s (post) about the magazine industry’s carbon impact came off less like the work of a cutting edge tech mag and more like a rehashing of the moribund timber industry’s lamest propaganda.”
Rather than point out the obvious fact that Paglia’s post came off less like a work of cutting edge environmental advocacy and more like a rehashing of lame anti-paper and anti-printing propaganda, I’d like to call on those who want to out-green one-another to recycle some of this energy into something productive.
As both a magazine-industry observer and participant, it’s rather obvious to me: Throughout the magazine industry, there is a recognition that adopting practices with less environmental impact is not only good for the environment, it’s good for business. And while we may want to believe that “going online” is a more environmentally friendly form of publishing, we often don’t take into consideration the unintended consequences on the environment of digital media. As we become media companies that are “multi-platform,” and not merely “print,” we must realize that “thinking green” is not limited to properties we create using paper and ink.
Rather than debate about who or what is more green today, I think a better approach is to stop arguing and start acting for tomorrow.
Here are a couple of suggestions about where to start:
Read Cherly Dangel Cullen’s, “18 Tips for Environmentally Conscious Publishing.” At Hammock, we’ve taken several of these steps and are working on more.
Check out the KinderHarvest program from our friends at MagazineLiteracy.org. The program rescues and recycles children’s and other consumer magazines that would otherwise be discarded and destroyed, and distributes them to children’s literacy programs.
Let’s celebrate Earth Day. Not argue over it.