For Publishers: Why Switch to Recycled?

Person reading a magazine

What we mean by "better paper"

Better Paper refers to paper with a cleaner, greener, more efficient paper production process at every stage - including pulping, paper-making, printing, distribution and recycling.  Green America's Better Paper Project has helped hundreds of publishers choose better paper by developing smart purchasing policies to ensure the use of recycled and FSC certified papers. Consumers have made it clear: they want sustainable products from companies that reflect their values. Your company must consider environmental and social impacts to remain relevant in today's market (we also think it's just the right thing to do).

Far too many magazines in the US contain most of the “brand-risk” ingredients instead of the better paper ingredients. The good news is that doesn’t have to be the case. There are many different environmentally-responsible paper options on the market from a variety of different paper mills, merchants and printers.  Publishers have an opportunity to create the market for ever-increasing rates of recycled paper.

Click here to receive free copies of our publisher resource kit and our Green In All Grades Report.



Nearly 50% of all trees harvested in North America are turned into some type of paper product. Using post-consumer recycled paper reduces the need to log forests. Additionally, the paper industry consumes much more than just our forests. Producing paper from virgin fiber is both energy and water intensive, and releases significant amounts of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. Using recycled paper measurably reduces these impacts.

Every ton of recycled fiber displacing a ton of virgin fiber saves:

                                       Wood- 100%#669933.png

Using recycled paper is the most important step in reducing a publication’s ecological footprint. Paper accounts for approximately over one quarter of the solid waste clogging up U.S. landfills, and while recycling has increased in years past, recovery of printing and writing grades of paper remain extremely low. 

We lend our expertise to create an environmental stewardship policy that illustrates a long-term vision for sustainable publishing, articulating key principles and demonstrating a commitment to environmental stewardship. Publishers that factor sustainability into their core business strategies are well positioned to take advantage of emerging opportunities in the radically changing market environment. Developing a sustainable, strategic paper policy set you up to grow profitably, and the Better Paper Project can assist you every step of the way!


Publisher Responses

The Green America Better Paper Project helps publishers cut through the clutter in order to understand the environmentally beneficial paper options available.

  - Bryan Welch, CEO, Ogden Publications


The Better Paper Project helped us attain our wish to publish a greener magazine by providing the information needed to fit our magazine and budget… As a magazine publisher, we consider them a valuable resource in helping to protect our forests and planet.

 - Sita Stuhlmiller, Editor, Light of Consciousness: Journal of Spiritual Awakening

Green America’s Better Paper Project director… agreed to guide us through the thicket of rules, paper suppliers, and acronyms we’d need to learn about to go green.

    - James Shaheen, Editor & Publisher, Tricycle

Green America & the Natural Resources Defense Council successfully urged National Geographic to begin using recycled paper

In 2013, Green America and NRDC joined with National Geographic on the most rigorous study to date of the benefits of using recycled fiber versus virgin fiber in magazine publications. Conducted by Environ International Corporation, an independent third-party for National Geographic, the study found that recycled fiber is superior to virgin fiber in 14 out of 14 environmental categories, such as energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Since then, the groups have been working together to develop a plan to incorporate recycled content into the pages of the National Geographic magazines. 

Read the full Life Cycle Assessment of Deinked and Virgin Pulp for National Geographic Magazine here.

National Geographic’s use of recycled paper in their magazines demonstrates that publications with world-class photography can use recycled paper without any compromise on quality. That means there are no excuses for any publishers to use virgin-fiber paper any longer.

The National Geographic Society has committed to using as much recycled paper in their magazines as possible. Their initial switch to paper with five percent post-consumer recycled content will:

  • Lower their wood use by an equivalent of 26,000 trees.
  • Use less energy – the savings equivalent to approximately 145 homes.
  • Reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 238 fewer cars each year.
  • Lower their annual water consumption by about 19 Olympic sized swimming pools.
  • Reduce their solid waste generation by about 33 fewer garbage trucks.