From the Publisher
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
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
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.