June 01, 2007

Going Green

We are not a large publishing company. We don't influence how the USPS sets postal rates (apparently, that is left up to Time-Warner; witness the July periodical rate increase), and while we like to think we have some effect on how people perceive Russia, that is something you really cannot measure.

But we know we have an impact on the environment. Every publisher does. And so it is our goal to continue doing the good we do (providing information an insights into the world's largest country) while decreasing the bad we do (killing trees, contributing to global warming).

By our calculation (actually done with the help of the Environmental Defense Fund), each year our magazine, Russian Life, must use the following in its production process:

  • 532 trees

  • 1229 million BTUs of energy (enough to heat 3 homes for a year)

  • 1124 pounds of sulfur dioxide

  • 240,890 lbs of C02 equivalent greenhouse gases

  • 716 pounds of nitrogen oxides

  • 404 pounds of particulates

  • 40 pounds of hazardous air pollutants

  • 572,390 gallons of water

  • 85,832 pounds of solid waste

These are just some of the numbers (and don't include things like electricity to light our offices, fuel to ship magazines to subscribers and my flights to and from Moscow). And, while statistics can be open for interpretation, these are pretty stark. And a responsible publisher needs to ask: do I need to be doing this? Is there a way to be loyal to our mission without betraying our planet and the future of our civilization.

Ok, a bit dramatic, but you get the point.

I would hate to be the head of Time-Warner or Martha Stewart publications and see what kind of numbers they generate! Ok, so I would hate to be the head of TW or MSP, period.

So, in 2006, we made a commitment to start becoming greener and joined as one of the early members of Coop America's Magazine Paper Project. We had our printer investigate recyclable paper options and costs. We found a quality 10% post-consumer recycled paper and began using it (Orion is the brand name) for both our body and our cover. It was just as opaque and bright and the results have been quite nice. The downside, of course, is that this came at a cost. About a 4% cost increase, actually. But it was a hit we were willing to take to begin moving down this road.

According to the Environmental Defense Fund's calculator, this move saved the lives of 50-odd trees, but has moved few of the other ugly indicators even as much as 10%. I feel good about the trees, but we are only spewing 3 pounds less sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere.

We will continue to look for ways to do better.

Our goal is to at be using at least 30% PC recycled stock in the magazine by 2008, and, technology and quality permitting, to be 100% PC recyclable by 2010. But that is not all. We are investigating carbon offsetting programs and we will work out a plan to be 100% carbon neutral by the end of 2010.

There will always be an environmental impact to what we do. It takes fuel to run the post office's trucks that deliver our magazines to readers. It takes paper and ink to print the magazine and to print and mail renewal notices, etc (we have tried electronic renewal notices, but response is miserable). And we have to buy power to keep the computers and lights running. But that does not mean we should not be doing all we can to lessen our impact.

And if a little publisher like us can take this on, then surely the bigger guys have not excuse for doing the same. Not that I think our actions could influence anyone...

More to come...

About Us

Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

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PO Box 567
Montpelier VT 05601-0567