Readers write in about April Fools’ stories, ungreen magazines, seal clubbing, and more
Re: Cover Story
To my astonishment, the story about the proliferation of “green” issues of magazines like Glamour, Sports Illustrated, and Town & Country made no mention of the paper these magazines use. Where is the cynicism, irony, and humor in the face of outrageous hypocrisy? With only the exception of Outside, which is printed on some, unstated (read: low) percentage of recycled fiber, these “green” issues give publishers a chance to cash in on the green craze and line their pockets with, well, green, without addressing the destructive impact of their magazines, which are likely printed on paper that comes from clear-cut forests.
North America’s boreal forest is being destroyed at a rate of two acres per minute to make things like catalogs, junk mail, toilet paper, and, you guessed it, magazines. Every year, the magazine industry destroys an area the size of Rocky Mountain National Park — that’s an average of one tree per second.
Cutting down a tree is the same as firing up your gas-guzzling SUV as far as climate change is concerned. Forest destruction emits more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector, and the magazine sector alone accounts for nearly 7 million tons of greenhouse gases per year.
At ForestEthics, we have been working to transform the catalog industry. Williams-Sonoma, Victoria’s Secret, and Dell computers have worked with us to create strong paper policies, including using post-consumer recycled paper and Forest Stewardship Council-certified paper.
As far as we can tell, when it comes to going green, most magazines aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on — and the industry needs to be called on it.
Re: Cover Story
I think that it is great that more and more glossy magazines are doing “green” issues to raise awareness among their readers. However, at times it can be as disconcerting as a “Stop Global Warming” bumper sticker on an SUV.
With the possible exception of Outside magazine, none of the magazines that you highlighted use any recycled content at all. Probably the largest circulation mainstream magazine to use recycled paper is Shape, and they get no mention at all.
Out of about 18,000 magazine titles in the U.S., only slightly more than 100 publications — and growing — are using recycled paper. You can see a complete list at Co-op America.
I’m all for promoting environmental awareness, but I think that there should be special mention made of those magazines that are producing a quality publication and doing so in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.
Thanks for the interview with Van Jones. He provides a perspective that I think we need to keep front and center. Making sure we include the health benefits of stopping pollution and the job benefits of renewable energy in our discussions and our plans will broaden our coalition and greatly improve our chances of winning.
To win, we are going to have to offer hope and unity. That means listening to people who we may not have listened to before. Making sure young people of color get listened to and are included as a central part of the movement to a new energy future will change everything for the better. I don’t think any of us can really have the kind of society we want without thinking well about everyone who is in it.
Thank you, thank you, thank you Tom Philpott for writing about this. We’ve pretty much always exploited someone to make our food cheap — whether it was slaves, sharecroppers, Chinese immigrants, or Mexican or Central American undocumented migrants. The prison scheme simply takes this to an obvious extreme, as Philpott so nicely points out.
In recent research, I’ve been thinking and writing about why the organic movement was so successful — and I think part of it has to do with the fact that it pretty deliberately chose not to address the labor issue. Now that organic has gone large, that decision has become more obvious.
If we paid laborers what they were really worth, food would be a lot more expensive. And this includes migrant workers, but also the hardworking farmer on a two acre organic plot working seven days but barely breaking even without paying herself. And since organic requires, usually, even more labor per unit of yield than industrial farming, organic may rely even more on the exploitation of labor — prices would have to rise astronomically for that small-scale farmer to actually pay herself a fair wage.
Either the price of food needs to go up or we need to decide to compensate farmers in a different way for the service they provide. No one can make a good living selling lettuce at $4/head without exploiting someone.
Re: Hogwarts and All
I’m sure Harry Potter fans and lovers of the earth across the globe were thrilled to hear the good news. But alas, my feelings of joy were followed by a familiar thought: “great, but that’s not enough!”
So I emailed Scholastic about two hours ago and challenged them to repeat this idea across all their production practices. I was happy to receive a prompt response detailing their plans for future partnership with the Rainforest Alliance and efforts to green up the company.
While it is not happening at the pace we’d all like (does it ever?), it’s reassuring to see these changes in global producer and consumer culture.
I am no real fan of Wal-Mart and I miss the small mom and pop stores. However, I feel that Wal-Mart often gets slammed as “the cause of all things bad” simply because they developed a business plan that works. While I am sure that Wal-Mart has a negative effect on the environment, it may not be as bad when compared to small businesses. When I shop at Wal-Mart, I buy food, household supplies, clothes, etc. under one roof. I usually only shop there on my way home from work so that I add very little to my travel.
We can complain about Wal-Mart all we want, but as long as we want to dress fashionably, eat a variety of foods, and have electronic gadgets, we are going to cause environmental damage. I don’t foresee North American people buying into living with one pair of shoes, one shirt, one pair of pants, no air conditioning, and walking everywhere like my grandparents did.
While I agree that we need to keep pushing for greener businesses, I think we should at least give a nod of approval to the meager efforts that are put into place.
Wal-Mart has become the world’s largest retailer because they give average consumers just what they want: cheaper prices and more selection under one roof. No amount of editorializing is going to change that.
Wal-Mart has the largest amount of buying power in the universe. If they used that to urge their suppliers to green up, it would make a huge difference. Using smaller boxes for products like cereal and soap would be felt along the whole supply chain through less paper used to make the boxes, more product shipped per semi, etc.
So, you can either whiz in the wind, or make a real difference. I say, work to get them to use their force for good.
Re: Trash Course
I couldn’t help but notice a significant amount of incorrect information in your advice about whether landfilling or incineration is the preferred waste-management solution.
The U.S. EPA’s solid waste hierarchy lists energy-from-waste as a preferred method of disposal above landfills. The hierarchy lists source reduction (including reuse) as the most preferred method, followed by recycling and composting, disposal in combustion facilities, and then lastly, landfills.
While landfills do not capture all of the methane they create, releasing the rest into the air, energy-from-waste incineration facilities create electricity out of all the trash that they process and no methane is created. On average, every ton of waste processed at an incinerator facility making energy from it produces 28 times more electricity than the same amount of waste when it is landfilled. EFW is a sought-after method of renewable energy generation.
We excavate coal and oil from the earth for energy and bury trash that can be used to create clean, renewable electricity. That simply does not make sense. Why waste waste?
Director of Corporate Communications, Covanta Energy
It’s my first time on your site. Just wanted to say, best live-blogging I’ve ever seen anywhere. So vivid — a week or so from now, somebody will mention the hearing, and I’m going to remember having been there in person. Don’t know how you do it.
Re: Drown and Out
It gets a little old and wearisome to hear you wailing about the seal hunt in Canada. The Brigitte Bardot’s and the Paul McCartney’s need to mind their own business and go home. They need to stop the emotional tirades they carry on with. They fly in, get the media to take their pictures on the ice, and then leave. If Paul McCartney is such a peace-loving soul, then why does he support the Americans’ wars? If the seal hunt is so horrible, then perhaps we should stop eating beef and pork and chicken because those animals have to be killed and hit over the head too. Perhaps they should ban sport hunting in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world because they don’t always have a “clean” kill either. You need to come up with some actual facts and figures (like the government departments do).
Don’t get me wrong. I love my Grist. You guys/gals rock. But the graphic ad of the seal clubbing is too much. As soon as I see it appear, I decrease the size of my browser window so I don’t have to see it. And if it appears in the middle of the screen, I scroll by it super quick, letting my eyes blur as it passes. I would think that would be counterproductive to your goal, as I’m not going to take action on something that I can’t even read. Honestly, I can’t even tell you what specifically the ad is for. Just my two cents.
This is the second year I’ve fallen prey to your April Fools’ issue! My husband and I had been discussing Wal-Mart’s green initiatives recently, and we fell into your trap after reading the fake story on Wal-Mart. I don’t know whether that’s a testament to my gullibility or your writing style, but I should start reading my Daily Grist after I have my coffee!
Oh, you got me this year, and good! I still have the hook firmly impaled in my cheek.
I guess I could blame it on my late Sunday waffle-gorging haze, being distracted by the kids, or any other such excuse, but the reality is, I fell for it. Kudos, applause, and congrats to you. I am one who usually never falls victim to this yearly day of pranks.
It’s a shame, though, that you couldn’t witness me sitting here with my Sunday bedhead, muttering about “those Wal-Mart bastards” and “Ann Coulter?! That oughta be interesting.” And we cannot forget my quizzical look of distaste as I read about the Tuvalu shoe and TerraTots. But the true money shot had to be when I got to the last line and realized I was solidly April Fooled.
OK, now I gotta conjure up something for my kids …
With the good Bushies regularly fooling the public with practical jokes, one would think that Grist’s adult staffers would see the importance of refraining from gags so readers could rely on Grist for straight shooting and not waste their valuable time on tee-hee gotcha “humor” intellectually appropriate for elementary school playground hijinks.
This wasn’t funny. I don’t always have time to read the entire newsletter, nor do I always have time to read the primary sources to which you link. If you think it’s funny that I had an entire conversation with people about breaking news I had just read that Wal-Mart is changing their greening policy because I had five minutes to catch up on my Grist reading, then great, laughs for you. But certainly not for me. I’m rather upset and it’s upsetting that you weren’t clear from the beginning, or more outrageous with your headline story.