Guest Column: Looking to Make Your Magazines ‘Greener’?
Q: Is it easy to compare the carbon footprints of two competing paper mills?
A: Not at all. For example, if you include the carbon footprint of electricity used by mills, you will penalize those that are located in areas where the utilities happen to rely on coal. But if you don't, you will fail to recognize those that generate green power on-site through hydroelectric dams or other means.
Rather than looking for a single number from a paper supplier, you should discuss what comprises that footprint, what the mill is doing to reduce its environmental impact and what you, as a customer, can do to help.
Q: When you buy paper that has virgin content, you should favor suppliers who promise to plant one tree for every one they harvest, right?
A: Wrong. When you hear that claim, ask this question: Why do you need to plant trees in a forest? After all, it didn't take human intervention to start the forest or to replant trees that have died there over the millennia. The answer is that timber operations often plant trees when they want to control what species grow rather than taking the pot luck of mixed species that occurs in a natural forest after selective harvesting. That often means clear cutting, then spraying herbicides to keep down the vines for a few years until the seedlings are big enough.
Q: Does all sustainably harvested fiber have a certification from an organization like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI)?
A: No. There is plenty of sustainable forestry that is not certified. That's especially true in places like Maine and Finland, where much of the forest is in the hands of small land- owners because the FSC and SFI guidelines are more suited to large corporate and government landowners. There also has been criticism of the forestry practices of some certified logging operations, though it's hard to separate fact from fiction because the certification organizations seem to put more resources into fighting each other than in promoting sustainable forestry. Still, using paper with certified fiber is the best way to ensure it comes from sustainable forestry.