Discover this: "Discover" and its own carbon footprint

"Discover" Magazine profiled their own publication's carbon footprint. Here's the whole article, a brave move not likely to be popular among mag publishers.

"Discover" Magazine profiled their own publication's carbon footprint. Here's the whole article, a brave move not likely to be popular among mag publishers. Here's some of what they found:

"Two and one-tenth pounds of carbon dioxide. That is our best estimate of what is emitted into the atmosphere when we harvest trees, turn the freshly milled paper into your individual copy of DISCOVER, get it into your hands, and see it to its final resting place. For comparison, this is the same amount of CO2 produced by twelve 100-watt lightbulbs glowing for an hour or a car engine burning 14 ounces of gasoline.

"As a publication that keeps a close eye on the state of the planet, DISCOVER decided it was time to look in the mirror and take stock of our own contribution to the greenhouse-gas problem...

"To define the scope of our analysis and set the standards for our calculations, we turned to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, a widely used emissions accounting tool for businesses and governments. (It was created by the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, a coalition that gathers information on how to make businesses greener.)...

"Before an issue of DISCOVER can exist as a physical object, it needs to be conceptualized, reported, written, edited, fact-checked, copyedited, designed, and supplemented with advertisements. That requires 35 people to make their way to our New York offices every workday..., we used government emissions estimates for subways, buses, cars, and air travel to determine that DISCOVER’s staff puts out 5.4 tons of carbon dioxide getting around each month.

"Then there’s the office itself. Heat and air-conditioning keep it habitable throughout the year. Its energy-using devices—computers, fluorescent lights, printers, and (of course) the fridge and coffeemaker—allow us to do our work...Using emission rates from the EPA for electricity generation in our region and natural gas emission figures from the Department of Energy, we determined that our office’s energy use adds another 8.7 tons of CO2 to the total.

"Once the magazine is ready for printing, we notify our paper supplier, who has paper shipped from a mill in Quebec to our printing plant in Jonesboro, Arkansas. It is a behemoth shipment: Printing a million or so copies of DISCOVER every month takes over 348,000 pounds of paper... Using greenhouse-gas figures for truck and rail from the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (and assuming tractor trailers running at six miles per gallon of gasoline), we found that moving this monthly 174-ton load kicks out 13.7 tons of CO2 .

"Making paper is an emission-intensive process on its own. Each magazine begins as a tree in the forests of Quebec (fir, spruce, or pine), which is harvested and transported to a sawmill. Chips and sawdust from here make their way by boat to a paper mill (pdf) in Quebec, where the wood fibers are separated, creating pulp, and bleached white. Water is mixed with the pulp to form a slurry, which is then spread into a thin sheet, pressed to squeeze out the liquid, and dried...The quantity of that paper DISCOVER uses every month releases 614 tons of carbon dioxide—making it the single largest source of emissions in the production chain. Even so, this takes into account only the manufacturing process. Harvesting and transporting the trees to the mill bumps up the CO2 count another 22 tons. Add the magazine inserts (those little cards that offer subscriptions)—which amount to 8 tons of 50-percent-recycled content—and we gain another 20 tons."

The article goes on to describe shipping the magazines to stores, to subscribers, then the endgame of waste and/or recycling. To close the piece, a plea for more recycling:

"Each month’s issue of DISCOVER in this process, transportation included, releases the equivalent of 170 tons of CO2 , whereas recycled magazines—only a small portion of the total—produce about 6 tons. Beyond reducing greenhouse gases, recycling saves about 1,000 pounds of solid waste, some 10,000 gallons of water, and 17 million Btu of energy per ton of paper. Furthermore, two tons of trees per ton of paper remain standing due to recycling."