I love old paper. I love the texture and weight of it, especially old rag paper. My hobby is collecting ephemera, most of which is printed on paper, so my following statement may seem odd.
I hate new paper. The amount that flows through my household every day is dizzying. I do recycle religiously, but I’d rather not deal with the excess in the first place. I need to break some habits first, though: Cancel those unwanted catalogs, switch to online bank statements (I’m having the most trouble giving those up), renew association memberships online. My electric and phone bills are automatically deducted from my checking account, but I’m still attached to the paper statements I receive in the mailbox. Baby steps.
Fortunately, at work, I am not quite as emotionally connected to the paper that crosses my desk—which is a lot. Publishing is a paper-intensive business. You would expect that, since much of our product is printed on paper. But a lot of the paper we use to produce magazines and books here at Rodale never makes it to the newsstand or bookstore. We use cost-tracking spreadsheets and author invoices and production schedules and author emails and status reports and page proofs and—you get the idea. All of these need to be printed on our office printers.
Or do they?
A few years ago, Rodale began to challenge that assumption. Could we cut our office paper usage and not compromise the quality of our work? As it turns out, we could and we did. Between 2009 and 2010, we reduced our office paper usage by 1.1 million sheets. According to my decidedly unscientific calculations, that’s about 137 trees.
How did we do it? By thinking before we print. We ask ourselves some basic questions: Do I really need a hard copy of that email, or should I just archive it on my computer? Could I print this report double-sided? Does this web page offer a printer-friendly view option? Have I picked up all of the printouts that I sent to the printer down the hall earlier today?
All of these changes added up to big paper savings for the company. (Not to mention cost savings: 220 cartons of paper are not cheap.) The environmental benefits extend beyond trees to the chemicals and water and energy used to manufacture and ship the paper. Since more things are now stored in electronic form, there is more demand on our computer servers, but our IT department has addressed this and we are still saving energy.
Our biggest paper-saving transition is happening this year. We’ve introduced new workflow software that will allow us to track statuses and costs and copy changes electronically, thus eliminating a lot of printouts. It will also make it easier for us to prepare content for multiple platforms: print, website, iPad, and whatever else readers demand.
Did I mention that we’ll be saving paper?
Look at the difference between the paper we used just in the Organic Gardening editorial office to produce the two most recent issues:
I think we can do even better with our October/November issue. Now multiply those savings by six issues per year. Then consider that Rodale publishes six magazines and a lot of books. The reams start to stack up. Or, rather, not stack up.
Anyone who spends a lot of time with the memorabilia of previous generations is often struck with how few of our daily joys and sorrows are new. The technology and language we use to express them may change, but the emotions and realities remain the same.
Example: We ran an article in our April/May Earth Matters column called “Hard Work = Tastier Food.” It seems that researchers at Johns Hopkins University experimented with mice and found that the mice enjoyed a snack more when they had to work harder for it. Although we’re not mice, I’m sure this is one of the reasons that vegetables we pick from our gardens taste better than those we merely “pick out” at the supermarket.
But guess what? Our mothers already knew this. That’s why they sent us outside to “work up an appetite” before dinner. They learned it from their grandmothers. Take a look at this Victorian-era pamphlet, the type of token that would have been given to a Sunday-school pupil for learning bible verses.
It describes a young girl who turns her nose up at the “bad” soup her mother serves her for lunch. Her wise mother tells her she doesn’t have to eat it because she will have better soup for supper. Then she takes the girl into the garden, where they spend the afternoon harvesting potatoes. At suppertime, the girl is so tired and hungry from working that when her mother serves her the same soup, she pronounces it delicious.
The moral? Hunger is the best sauce.
And it still is. Whether scientists say so or not.