My recent article about discussions between National Geographic and an environmental group has stirred up a debate about recycled paper between two industry leaders.
Publishing pundit BoSacks (AKA Robert Sacks) distributed the article to his 12,000-plus email list on Tuesday with one of his famous "BoSacks Speaks Out" rants, charging that, "Forcing recycled paper into the virgin fiber process of paper making is in most cases counter-productive to a successful green footprint." (He left a similar but briefer comment Sunday on Dead Tree Edition.)
Frank Locantore, director of Green America's Better Paper Project, responded today on Dead Tree Edition with a plea for "a constructive dialogue that has a goal of reaching agreement on metrics to determine what constitutes environmentally preferable paper." Locantore has been perhaps the leading advocate and promoter of using paper with recycled content in North American magazines.
I have corresponded with both men over the past few years and believe them to be people of good will who are worth heeding. (In fact, both submitted insightful comments on one of my first environmentally themed articles, I'm an environmental idiot!.) Therefore, in the interest of encouraging meaningful debate and dialog, I'm publishing both statements in their entirety:
BoSacks Speaks Out
Here's what Bo told his newsletter readers:
There is a debate that is going on in our industry about sustainability that seems like it is mostly for the undereducated and terribly misinformed. If you really understand "green", which most of us don't, it is terribly wrong for the green wanna be's to insist that recycled paper be forced into all virgin pulp for a proper carbon footprint. It is actually in most cases counter-productive for sensible sustainability. The true resolution of this problem, which is admittedly hard to sell, is because of the misinformation and noble knee jerk reactions of the " I wanna do some good, so I want recycled paper in everything crowd."
WRONG! Forcing recycled paper into the virgin fiber process of paper making is in most cases counter-productive to a successful green footprint. It takes more carbon energy to introduce into the substrate what is not necessary or efficient to be there. I am very much for recycling and real sustainability, but I am not an advocate of idiotic programs for the sake of the uneducated who insist the something must be done regardless of the true science. There are great and wonderful uses of recycled paper, some of which is in printed products and each day science is creating more creative uses for the renewable product. If we are worried about a carbon footprint, we shouldn't be using more energy instead of less just so we can put a label on something, which gives the false impression of helping the planet.
The amount of paper in the landfills or out of the landfills is a completely different question. The biggest reason landfills have paper isn't because mills won't use it. The real reason is because people and some businesses are lazy and don't intend to be part of the solution; they are actually part of the problem.
The answer to all this is education, legislation and common sense. We all know that common sense isn't that common, so that leaves us with education and legislation. I have little faith that either is going to happen any time soon, so we will be left with completely wrong headed groups demanding that we need recycled paper in every magazine, when it just isn't true. That logic is a public relations move that confuses or misleads the public about the realities and truth of what a green business and a green publishing house is all about.
Here is today's comment from Locantore on the article Green Groups Turn the Heat Down on National Geographic But Up on KFC:
After re-reading Bob Sacks response above, I think that there are at least two points on which we agree. We are both:
a) Frustrated with the current dialogue about what constitutes environmentally preferable paper, and
b) Concerned by the dominance of PR and greenwashing rather than science in environmental paper decisions.
Really, this is not a bad starting point for a potentially meaningful discussion (once I look past the name-calling).
The past is full of confrontational approaches to force one another's hand on issues. Who among those of you reading this will step forward to help steer a constructive dialogue that has a goal of reaching agreement on metrics to determine what constitutes environmentally preferable paper? Anyone? Buehler?
The Environmental Paper Network (EPN) worked with some of its members to create a fact sheet that articulates why many of us believe – a belief based upon science – that recycled content in all grades of paper reduces energy, water, chemical use, pollution, and solid waste. Contact me if you’d like a copy of the fact sheet and I’ll email it to you (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I really hope that we can get beyond the stereotypical industry-environmental relationship. Don’t you?
Other Dead Tree Edition articles about sustainable paper and publishing choices include: