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Audubon, Lands' End, Paper and the Boreal Forest

Last year, I received a thoughtful gift of membership in the Audubon Society, an non-profit organization that advocates for conservation-friendly policies, manages conservation areas and engages in educational programs on ecology and environmental management. Along with that membership, which helps sustain the activities of Audubon, comes Audubon magazine.

In the January-February 2009 issue of Audubon magazine comes an informative article about the boreal forest of North America, that stretch of trees extending from the latitude of Ontario northward. I learned that great swaths of the boreal forest in Canada have been allocated for logging, and that there is a connection between that logging and direct-mail commerce:

Consider the output of mega-retailer Sears. The venerable brand produces an estimated 425 million catalogs a year, 270 million of them for Lands’ End, a subsidiary, according to the nonprofit group ForestEthics. “These catalogs contain almost no post-consumer recycled content,” reports Ginger Cassady, paper campaign coordinator for ForestEthics. “We estimate one-third to half of the paper comes from boreal forests, enough to wrap the Sears Tower six times a day, seven days a week.”

Two Lands' End Catalogs in my January 2009 Mail Box

That puts the arrival of not just one but two copies of the latest Lands’ End catalog in my mailbox this week into striking context. Those pictures of hearty-looking kids lying on carpets of green in the great outdoors come to me at a cost to the greenery of the world and the heartiness of the environment upon which we all depend.

The situation regarding Lands’ End, paper use, and Audubon is not as simple as author T. Edward Nickens implies. Nickens later lauds Victoria’s Secret for moving from 0% to 10% recycled content in its catalogs. Yet I see in my Lands’ End catalog that its post-consumer recycled content is also at 10%. If 10% is “almost no post-consumer recycled content” for Lands’ End, wouldn’t that be “almost no post-consumer recycled content” for Victoria’s Secret? Or is it the movement in the right direction that matters?

For that matter, what about the Audubon magazine I received? It also contains inspirational pictures of greenery that come from forest materials. 25% of the Audubon magazine is from post-consumer recycled content, which is a greater portion, but still not reaching the level of a majority. What role does Audubon magazine itself play in the destruction of forest habitat?

To its credit, Audubon magazine does not use boreal forest materials, and later this year intends to begin printing on 90% recycled paper. But if the article calls for “cutting down on the direct mail you receive,” then perhaps that should begin with Audubon magazine itself. I’m calling both Lands’ End and Audubon today, asking that both parties cease their mailings. I can access information from both online, a much more environmentally responsible action.

1 comment to Audubon, Lands' End, Paper and the Boreal Forest

  • Jim

    My e-mail to Audubon circulation:

    “To whom it may concern,

    “Please discontinue my mail subscription to Audubon Magazine. Inspired by T. Edward Nickens’ excellent article “Paper Chase,” I would like to do my part to reduce my carbon footprint. I understand that Audubon Magazine is not produced using boreal paper, and that it intends to increase the percentage of recycled content in its pages, but its production and distribution still use energy and paper resources that for me aren’t necessary; I can easily go to audubonmagazine.org to read articles.

    “Thank you for your attention to this matter.”

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