Green journalism

A letter from the Boston editor, November 9, 2007
By LANCE GOULD  |  November 8, 2007

What the hell is the Phoenix thinking printing a Green Issue when that very enterprise would only use (some might charge “waste”) more paper?

Good question, cynical reader. The short answer, smart-ass, is that we’re a newspaper, and we traffic in useful information that helps our readers to be better citizens. We like to think of our content as a countervailing carbon offset that more than makes up for the Canadian firs we chop down.

The longer answer requires a little background. The Phoenix is committed to being an environmentally friendly publication. We recycle all paper waste that is the by-product of printing a given week’s issue, including all “returns” (those scarce copies not picked up by readers). We recycle the aluminum plates that are used in the laser-etching of each printed page that you read. For the past three years, we have been using soy-oil-based inks, rather than petroleum-oil-based inks. And we print the Phoenix on a newsprint that comprises 30 percent recycled fiber and 70 percent virgin fiber, a slightly higher ratio than the standard for the industry. (For the extra curious, we use a stock called AbiNews, produced by the Canadian paper conglomerate AbitibiBowater.) 

So we’re already pretty damn green to start with. Now, the Green Issue you are holding in your hands has been printed on paper made of 100 percent–recycled fiber (confusingly, it is also called AbiNews). From production, cost, and quality standpoints, there isn’t much difference between the 100 percent–recycled newsprint and the 30 percent–recycled newsprint we typically use.
The next logically cynical question you may then ask is, “If there is no noticeable difference in cost, performance, or process, why the hell don’t you use 100 percent–recycled paper for every edition, you tree-murdering bastards?”
Keep your hemp shirts on, everybody. It’s all about availability. The 100 percent–recycled newsprint we are utilizing for the Green Issue is being supplied to us by a particular AbitibiBowater mill called the Thorold Mill, in Thorold, Ontario. This mill specializes in the utilization of 100 percent–recycled newsprint, made from old newspapers purchased from recycling companies throughout the US and Canada. But there simply isn’t enough recycled paper to go around. Throw cost out the window: the paper just isn’t there.
We hope that will change. And change will come through raising awareness, which is the primary reason we’re going green this fall. We’re not glassy-eyed, pie-in-the-sky cheerleaders for green efforts, which is why some of our green content casts a suspicious eye on so-called environmentally friendly activities (see "Mirth day," by David S. Bernstein). Still, there are plenty of things you can do to pitch in, not the least of which is to take our “How Green Are You?” quiz. See where you fall on our green-o-meter, and see if there are enough carbon offsets out there to counter your wicked, wicked ways.
In the meantime, we will continue to provide you with laser-etched newsprint filled with the most informative and entertaining stories you need, and we will continue to make efforts to do so in a manner that is least harmful to the planet.

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  Topics: The Editorial Page , Media, Nature and the Environment, Environmental Protection,  More more >
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