J500 Media and the Environment


Plastic Presents In My Mailbox by kimwallace

NOTE: This is a makeup post from one of the weeks when I was gone. Please comment! —Kim

I am a magazine fanatic. I subscribe to seven (7!) lucky magazines that live in neat, organized stacks in my bedroom, bathroom, coffee table and other places around my apartment.

Each month, I squeal with delight when I find my mailbox stuffed with glossy pages of fashion, beauty and other photographic delights. It’s like getting a present each month, even though the present is basically re-gifted (does that count as green?) ideas from the previous month/season/year.

To make this monthly present really seem like a present (that you paid for in advance or keep getting $12 collection notices about, grrr), some publishing houses are taking it upon their marketing genius to encase their glossies in a fine cloud of….plastic packaging.

feb-mar-08-133.jpg

photo by kim wallace

Yay! So I get see-through wrapping paper, at no additional cost, to put all those annoying blow-in cards (you know, the millions of rectangular subscription cards that magazines pepper themselves with each month) inside.

Wrong. The additional cost is huge. Of the seven magazines I subscribe to, five of them are delivered to me in plastic each month. That’s 60 pieces of plastic packaging that ends up in the landfill from me, via these publishing companies, each year.

The publishing company’s only legitimate reason to send shrinkwrapped magazines, I think, is to save on postage. Most times, there’s always something extra in that packaging—a bill (ahem), a renewal notice (which leads to another bill), a solicitation from a sister magazine, or some other little “bonus” booklet from the magazine. (FYI, my “little bonuses” this month were renewal notices.)

In an effort to combat this waste that overtakes my bathroom trash can, I have devised a greening plan for the magazine industry that includes other areas of the publishing process.

Don’t use plastic packaging! If you really want me to feel like I’m getting a present each month, pay for a subscription for me (and offer me a job when I move to New York in a couple of years.)

Quit sending me renewal notices (and bills!). Switch to an all electronic system for notices, or if you must, offer switch incentives to people who receive paper notices.

Stop going crazy green only for your March/April issues just because Earth Day is April 22. Incorporate green, even if it’s just a column, every month, because face it: every day is Earth Day. Challenge your readers to try new green things, even if they are of the light green shade.

Consider soy or vegetable ink for your printing needs. Soy ink has low VOC (volatile organic compound) levels, which keep your book from smelling like death. And, soy ink produces just as rich and vibrant colors as conventional, toxic ink produces.

Promote the reuse and recycle aspect of the 3R’s with your publication. Encourage pass-along to your subscribers (this increases readership and will likely gain you Web traffic from curious newbies) and be more courageous with your recycling campaign than the “Please Recycle This Magazine” symbol on your masthead. Realize your power.

Incorporate that slogan at the end of each editor’s note (some readers idolize particular editors—if you can convince me to *buy $300 shoes, you can convince me to recycle a magazine!).

And, of course, do all the necessary office revisions (things us readers usually don’t see, unless of course, you’re in the magazine world): Use CFLs, stock your vending machines/kitchens with local/organic food, dim the lights (it makes for easier vision when your glamorous editors are hunched over their Macs) or try to use natural/New York City streetlights when possible.

Let us know what you’re doing to be green! We love hearing this positive stuff, and it encourages us, the readers, to be more like you—trend or no trend, light or dark green. Your power is ENORMOUS and what you do influences us all. Make sound, thoroughly researched choices.

—Kim

*I have never actually been swayed into buying $300 shoes, though I’m sure millions of women, with the power of Visa, have!

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6 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Good stuff. Going into the magazine biz always seemed so glorious to me until I enrolled in this class. It is a blessing to have a better understanding of your impact. But sometimes it feels like a curse when I sit back and think about how much waste this industry produces.

You and I work at an environmental magazine…. is that an oxymoron or what?

Comment by travisjbrown

Ohh Travis, interesting question. How green is your mag? I subscribe 🙂 so I am not judging. Kim, what an excellent list. My question is, mags were able to get us to subscribe for years without sheathing themselves in plastic, what gives now? I suspect it is to reduce damage in shipping but who knows. It bugs me to no end.
What you say about the power of the editors (and editorial) is key: “if you can convince me to *buy $300 shoes, you can convince me to recycle a magazine.”
I have participated in more “going green” issues than I care to imagine (this month it’s Shape, Glamour and Allure), and I know some of them are more genuine in their efforts than others.
One thing that is interesting to me is that last year a lot of the green efforts were on the cover, helping to sell the mag. Now, because there is so much more green to choose from, the info is tucked inside without much mention.
Any thoughts?
Simran

Comment by j500

Yes, I saw you in Glamour this month, Simran 🙂 Obviously, I still haven’t opened my Allure or Shape yet, but I’m working on it.

I think it’s kind of an “understood” thing in the industry now that each March/April issue is the “green” issue, so consumers have come to expect it, and the hype is kind of gone. I know that this month, NH used a one-time leaf that says “every issue is a green issue” to counter what may be on the stands. Some of my favorite magazines, such as Women’s Health, have incorporated monthly departments (theirs is “planet report”) that inform readers of earth news each month, but I can’t wait until every mag does the same. I hope the plastic goes away soon—I think you may be on to something about the damage issue—but it’s a magazine, not a book…we’re going to throw it out eventually.

Comment by kimwallace

And we are definitely NOT perfect, are we Travis? 🙂 It really does take a lot to practice what you preach…but, I did see that the Mother staff started growing little plants or something…now, if only we can get solar panels on our building…or convince Bryan to give all Lawrence carpools a group Prius to take to work every day 🙂 hehe.

Comment by kimwallace

Kim,
There are a lot of great ideas here. I agree that there are way too many inserts and that mags need to more heavily promote recycling and introduce safer inks. Check out this Blast Magazine article on the gloss in glossy magazine pages. I assumed there was always petroleum involved, but that is not necessarily the case. Still, there are a lot of green innovations yet to be discovered in the printing process.
Bobby

Comment by bobbygrace

Good stuff. Going into the magazine biz always seemed so glorious to me until I enrolled in this class. It is a blessing to have a better understanding of your impact. But sometimes it feels like a curse when I sit back and think about how much waste this industry produces.

You and I work at an environmental magazine…. is that an oxymoron or what?

-Travis Brown

Comment by travisjbrown




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