The Australian | 2 February 2009
Magazines producing 'green issues' should use recycled paper or offset their carbon emissions for that issue, and not bask in a green aura without earning it, says COSMOS editor.
By Sally Jackson
TODAY, AS WOMEN’S LIFESTYLE magazine Madison reminds us, is World Environment Day.
To mark the occasion, Madison has declared its June edition the green issue and its cover exhorts readers to “Make a Difference!” over a picture of model Miranda Kerr in an emerald dress.
Inside, editor Paula Joye tramps Tasmania’s Styx forest with Australian Greens leader Bob Brown and a gallery of celebrities reveal how they heed “Earth’s SOS call”.
The fashion section celebrates “eco-chic” designers, the beauty pages push biodynamic hand cream and vegan eyeliner, and the food editor advises on storing organic fruit. All very worthy. But all, unfortunately, printed on Madison‘s usual glossy, white, 100 per cent virgin fibre.
Not that Madison is alone. US titles including Vanity Fair and The New York Times Magazine have also recently released so-called green issues without so much as a shred of recycled pulp, and suffered a publicity backlash for preaching green without practising it.
“It’s hypocritical of magazines to produce green issues, when not even for that one issue do they use recycled paper. Can they at least make sure that one issue is carbon neutral? What about going that extra step?”
“It’s hypocritical of magazines to produce green issues, when not even for that one issue do they use recycled paper,” says Wilson da Silva, editor-in-chief of Luna Media’s G: The Green Lifestyle Magazine [and editor of COSMOS]. “Can they at least make sure that one issue is carbon neutral? Make a donation to a green cause? It isn’t that hard to do. It’s great they attract attention to a cause, but what about going that extra step?”
“You have to put your money where your mouth is,” agrees Tamsin O’Neill, editor and founder of Green Press’s Green. “It’s very hypocritical to be promoting a green issue and not use green paper. It’s not hard to do and there’s no reason why they can’t.”
Green Press has been using 55 per cent recycled paper and from Green‘s next issue is switching to 100 per cent recycled stock made from post-consumer waste, O’Neill says.
Not only does G Magazine already use 100 per cent post-consumer-waste stock but, since undergoing a carbon audit in 2006, Luna Media has been carbon neutral, da Silva says. “We take responsibility for the environment from the point where we commission a story from a writer to the point we sell it to a reader,” he says. “When people buy a copy of G … they know no carbon has been generated in getting that copy to them. Whether they walk home or drive home, we can’t tell. They take responsibility for carbon use thereafter.”
According to publishers, the biggest barrier to going green is that no Australian mill produces 100 per cent recycled paper capable of being used in the web offset presses used by magazine publishers. (Luna Media gets its paper stock from Germany.)
If ACP Magazines, with its 80-plus titles, were to switch to fully recycled paper, that alone would create enough demand to make it worthwhile for a local manufacturer to produce recycled paper of the required standard.
However, da Silva says that if Madison‘s publisher ACP Magazines, with its 80-plus titles, were to switch to fully recycled paper, that alone would create enough demand to make it worthwhile for a local manufacturer to produce recycled paper of the required standard.
While acknowledging Madison‘s green issue uses no recycled paper, ACP defends its environmental credentials.
“Madison is printed on FSC SSC paper,” a spokeswoman says. “This paper source is farmed timber, meaning Madison’s paper stock isn’t damaging rainforests or endangered animals habitats. Carbon-neutral efforts at ACP include turning lights off at the end of each day, recycling bins being provided for each staff member and water-saving devices installed in office areas.”
ACP is also a member of the Publishers National Environment Bureau, which it says has helped lift the newspaper and magazine recycling rate from 28 per cent in 1990 to 75.4 per cent in 2005.
Joye, who was unavailable for interview, writes in her editor’s letter that she foresaw the pitfalls of putting out a green issue. “It’s a bit tricky for a magazine to do a green issue without bracing itself for criticism,” she says. “We could almost see the picket line outside our offices as we debated the pros and cons of weathering a green-washing storm. But, ultimately, responsibility won out … As a media outlet, it’s our job to inform. We’re not trying to preach, we just hope to inspire you to live a greener life.”
Although the greenest thing about Madison‘s green issue may be Kerr’s dress, even its critics give it credit for at least helping raise awareness of the environmental cause. Then again, as Joye also writes: “If we’re going to arrest climate change, then none of us can be scared of being judged in the process.”