From the Publisher

Paper chase

by Chris Klein
y life is circumscribed by paper. Some paper I like: books, magazines, personal letters, invitations, $20 bills. Most paper I don't: junk mail, bills, packaging, and all those little bits that are too important to throw away that defy categorization in my filing cabinet. Mail comes in by the pound, and goes out (almost) as rapidly. Every horizontal surface in my office is frequently three inches deep in the stuff. I think I could disappear, and if someone kept the paper flow going the world at large would hardly know the difference.
Paper is our society's most voluminous waste product, comprising about 40 percent of solid landfill waste. My statistics are higher: it looks like about 80 percent of our household waste is paper. The bulk of it arrives via the U.S. mail (of which about 20 percent goes directly into the recycling bin without being opened).
Recycling it helpful when the market is up (which it is, again). Problem is, there are only a few plants that can do the recycling - far too few. Building new plants is an expensive and slow process, not without risks, so we'll still be packing it into Miramar for some time to come.
The sheer quantity of paper makes it an excellent target of opportunity for making difference for the environment: less paper means less landfill space, fewer trees cut, less energy used, less pollution from processing, and so on. Reducing or eliminating a material so central to our lives is almost unthinkable, but, what a payoff!
Electronic communications is starting to make a small dent in the paper blizzard here at the Times, and at San Diego Earth Day (my "other" job). We routinely communicate with colleagues across the country with electronic mail sent via America On-Line and the Internet. Messages are sent from San Diego to New York in minutes - with no paper. I'm corresponding with a woman in Germany who will be doing an article about recycling over there; again, delivery takes only minutes and is almost free of charge. When FAXes come in they are picked up by the computer and displayed on the screen. No paper.
I'm won't contend that this is an electronic panacea; it won't stop Publishers Clearinghouse or VISA offers. Still, trading electrons for wood pulp is a good bargain, and I've never gotten a paper cut from my keyboard. It does provides just a glimpse of what may lie ahead, one way out of the paper maze.
My favorite (and only) paper anecdote: A resident in the far north woods of Maine made it a point to get on every mailing list he could. Each week, catalogues, flyers, brochures, contest entries and credit card applications would arrive by the bushel. When questioned about this unusual practice, he would smile and say, where but in America would a paid employee of the federal government, at no cost, bring you your winter fuel.
To a publisher, of course, paper is critical. Paper is the single largest cost of producing the Earth Times: about 35 percent of the total budget. And the cost is increasing. As the economy heats up (as Washington assures me it is), so does the demand for paper. Add to this a major long-term strike at key Canadian paper mills and you have a big paper shortage. One local supplier indicated that wholesale prices for recycled paper had increased 30 percent in the last four months. My printer, who has been holding the line on cost, says prices will increase this month.
Like it says in our masthead, we print the Earth Times on recycled paper. Getting recycled paper costs more, and sometimes is not available in the quantities we purchase.
Which leads me to a confession. Not all of every Earth Times has been printed on recycled paper. In the December issue, only about half of the covers were on recycled stock. In the January issue, the cover was recycled but the interior was not. When press time came, the printer simply wasn't able to get enough recycled stock, and not printing was not an option. (All the other issues were on recycled paper, though.)
I am committed to using whatever recycled paper I can get, even at the higher cost. So, the paper weight and color may vary some from issue to issue. It's supply and demand, and the only way to ensure a good supply in the future is to keep up the demand now.