That’s a wrap

I’m sometimes in a bit of a bind with my work and my ethics, as many of us are. The conflict I’m considering today is the battle between journals, papers and magazines being delivered and managing to be environmentally friendly. Many of these paper products are recyclable but the wrapper they come in may not be, so what do you do? As I write for some of the items delivered to you then I am part of the problem and we all know if you’re part of the problem you CAN’T be part of the solution!

All wrapped up

There are numerous options for postal wrappers of journals and magazines and as with much of waste now we need to play a bigger part in disposing of it than just putting it in your kerbside recycling box. The continued privatisation of our wastes journey does require us to be more proactive. For journals or magazines the current commonest wrapper is one that can be recycled with the 5p shopping bags. For some this can be put with your normal recycling but for others you will need to take it with you on a super market trip – any supermarket will do.

Other options include going back to paper envelopes, compostable wrappers and as more products become available other options will appear. What most have in common is that we, the end user, have to take part of the responsibility of where that waste will end up. Companies can provide greener alternatives but they only work if we carry out the necessary part of at the end of the journey.

Why bother getting any ‘waste’ delivered to you at all I hear you ask! Well, quite, the oldest green mantra of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle remains relevant today so if you can’t reuse or recycling is beyond you then reduce must be the only way?

So no paper journals at all?

Well… it depends how you measure your environmental impact. The CO2 produced by your computer use adds to your carbon footprint so moving to all online only publications isn’t necessarily more environmentally friendly.

The waste from producing multiple laptops and tablets and the necessary accessories also has an environmental impact. I recall the days of the one desktop computer at home, on a desk, in a specific room for ‘the computer’. I write this now on a laptop with at least 2 other screens active beside me and I’m not even in my office! Yes, it’s great to have as many different products as you need but if you have moved 100% from ‘paper time’ to ‘screen time’ then your environmental impact may have shifted rather than reduced. We emit 1kg of carbon for every 36 hours of computer use so online journals have their own impact.

A rise and fall and rise again

When the Kindle and other e-books arrived there was a wide spread assumption that physical book sales would plummet and book shops would close. As with all disruptions to the status quo book shops have had to adapt and book sellers have changed too yet the sale of physical books now rises year on year and the book shop is heralded as an important part of a community.

The value of the printed book has risen and the physical word is coveted once more. I suspect we will see a similar journey for the printed word in journals, papers and magazines. Online versions will supplement content and in some cases be a direct copy to allow people to choose their preferred lifestyle option. However I don’t think we’re about to see the demise of the printed word completely. Rather like in the book world the value of the printed word will change and the value of paper journals and magazines will change too. We may access articles in a wider variety of ways but the human need to touch will mean the value of holding a physical copy of a journal will become more highly regarded.

Value VS Cost

I keep an eye on reactions to the growing demand for a better environmental impact from ourselves and our community partly because it interests me but also because of the work of Learning without Landfill – the environmental campaign co-founded with fellow RVN Jo Hinde. Yet we can’t fight every battle – you need to pick where you can make the most impact and encourage others. There need to be leaders in every campaign but change has to be accessible to all.

It’s all in the value and that we protect what we love – in the words of Jacques Cousteau and Cal Major.

There will be a point where we establish the environmental impact of much of our daily lives and can make more informed decisions about what we decide is worth our time and money – you see paperless options have a cost as well as a value yet the way our economy has embraced the internet has been to charge for the hardware, a little for the software and the content is by and large free. Maybe this mind set also needs to change.

Whatever and however we are ‘consuming’ information we have to become responsible for our wastes journey and we have to decide what value and cost many aspects of our lives has and decide what to keep and what to discard. There’s no easy decisions so maybe taking that journal wrapper to be recycled at the supermarket isn’t that much of a chore after all.