being environmentally friendly as simple as saving the trees? Even
Felix Dennis doesn’t think so, and he’s got his own forest. Report by
Alyson Fixter and Caitlin Pike
IT SHOULD HAVE been so easy.
Nice environmental feature for Press Gazette’s relaunch issue: a bit
of green credibility for the mag, perhaps some eco-friendly advertising
off the back of it, and – best of all – hang it all on publisher Felix
Dennis hugging trees. Brilliant.
Unfortunately, Mr Dennis is onto
us. And, having invited Press Gazette round to his Soho home just to
inform us that it’s all bullshit, he’s very pleased with himself.
has no environmental policy, and never will while I live!” he roars,
throwing back his head with laughter. “I’m no great lover of trees. I
don’t go around hugging them and things. I’m not a tree nut.
Earth doesn’t require any assistance from the human race. We’re doing
what we’re built for: creating change. And that’s fine.
“Isn’t it a bit pathetic that these Greenpeace types are so worried about affecting the harmony of nature?
The harmony of nature depends on T-Rex ripping the throats out of all of the smaller animals.”
is currently personally financing a project to plant 50,000 acres of
British broadleaved trees in countryside in Warwickshire and
He’s also a bearded poet and counterculture
icon. So you can understand why it might seem that he’d be a good
person to speak to about publishing and its effect on the environment.
In fact, while the big corporate publishers have been
falling over themselves to tell Press Gazette about their environmental
achievements for this feature, Dennis is the only one who’s rocked the
“I’ve flown over Finland in my helicopter,” he adds,
uncorking some expensive wine, “and if you saw the way the Finns manage
their softwood forests you wouldn’t have a single worry – they’re
Luckily (for our feature at least),
there are plenty of publishers who would disagree with the claim that
the status quo is good enough.
The Surfer’s Path magazine,
independently published by Oxfordshire-based Permanent Publishing, is
the only magazine to appear regularly on the UK newsstands that is
published on 100 per cent post-consumer recycled paper, using
soya-based inks and absolutely no harmful paper coatings.
Alex Dick-Reid admits that the title is struggling to cover the costs
of this environmental soundness. For, while FSC-certified paper is
relatively easy to acquire (and most publishers now use it), fully
recycled is another matter. And most publishers continue to use toxic
inks and coatings, making sourcing more environmentally friendly ones
expensive and difficult.
But, says Dick-Reid, for a title devoted
to serious surfers like his, doing anything else just wouldn’t cut any
ice. “Surfers have such close contact with nature that if it’s
polluted, you damn well know about it,”
he says. “If there’s
effluent in the sea you’re literally swimming in it. So it fits in with
the ethos of the magazine to be environmentally friendly.”
charity Friends of the Earth, which produces Friend and Earth Matters
for its members, is also extremely careful to meet its readers’ green
“I use Friend and Earth Matters as examples of what
can be done to make magazines greener,” says print manager David
Shorto. “Soon we will have electronic versions of the magazines
available for people that don’t want to receive a printed copy –
cutting out the printing process altogether.
“When it comes to
the actual printing, we use vegetable-based inks, on paper made from
100 per cent post-consumer waste. That’s important because the term
‘recycled’ can be misleading – it is incredibly abused commercially,”
Another issue publishers should consider, according to
Shorto, is white space – and not just because of its pleasing aesthetic
result. He says that over-inking pages makes them impossible to
recycle, while standard paper production is damaging to forests,
polluting to air and water and uses excessive water in the process.
Paper bleaching uses highly toxic agents, while glossy papers require
toxic varnishes – all of these issues have been given little
consideration by most mainstream publishers.
non-chlorine papers and FSC papers are now available in a remarkable
range of shades, colours, weights and finishes – including some with a
sheen rather than a shine,” Shorto adds.
“If you can’t use 100
per cent post-consumer waste paper and have to use virgin fibre, then
it should be FSC-certified paper – meaning it comes from sustainable
forests, while a green magazine should be printed by a printer with an
ISO 14001 certificate.”
Publishers serving a more mainstream
audience, and with more of a need to focus on the bottom line, are less
finicky, but they are all eager to point out their adherence to the
basics: FSC-certification, ISO classification, in-office recycling,
stamps on their titles, recycling of excess copies.
general feeling is that there isn’t really an excuse any more not to,
and even Dennis, despite its owner’s protestations, follows the
Two big publishers – IPC and Future – have just
brought in corporate responsibility managers, while very few do not
have environmental policies. And the PPA is very eager to point out its
own contribution: “We are actively involved in a producer
responsibility agreement with Defra, aimed at increasing current
recycling rates through the promotion of a ‘recycle now’ logo.”
So can we all sit back and breathe a smug sigh of relief?
that all depends, according to Ecologist publisher Tyler Moorehead, on
whether your aim is just to be seen to do the basics, or to take it
“How many times have you seen an article about the
energy crisis adjacent to an ad for a budget airline or an automobile?”
she says. “Or an article decrying the use of 16-year-old models in
advertising over ‘real women’ next to an advert for anti-ageing or
“This kind of ideological discord between
editorial and advertising seems to be on the rise, and I believe the
result is rapid disconnection by the reader who has just received a
message that the two pieces of information are not related, when they
are in fact inextricably linked.
“If readers see this type of contradiction every day, it’s no wonder they’ve stopped taking any notice.
Apathy is as big a factor in environmental destruction as the destruction itself.”
The Ecologist now vets advertisers to ensure that their products and practices are “non-toxic, non-exploitive and high-quality”.
you are reliant on corporate advertising or just attract the odd few
ads, it’s publishing common sense to align the advertising and
editorial messages,” she insists.
And according to Jules Peck, a
global policy adviser at World Wildlife Fund: “We are far
lessinterested in the media’s direct impacts and more in the
‘brainprint’ they have on society.
“By far the most important
impact they have is the stories they cover and programmes they make.
The media helps frame the terms of public debate. It is what we read,
listen to and watch. Little of this is acknowledged by companies in the
So, sorry folks. And sorry Felix, nothing’s ever that easy. But let’s leave it with a thought from the man himself:
Do not trouble yourselves on my account,
Nor put on airs, nor rave alone; The teeth that snap, The lips that
flap, The fist that shakes, I bred in the bone.
And your mother’s heart is as hard as stone.
Do not trouble yourselves with right or wrong,
For yours is not the only law;
The urge to blame,
The rage of shame Has brought your house to peril’s door.
And your mother forgave you, long before.
Do not trouble yourselves with shibboleths,
Nor seek to mend in blind despair;
The damage wrought Is less than nought,
The price is more than a child could bear.
And your mother has long since ceased to care.
[Envoi:] I forgive!
(And you will forget – anon).
The stars! Now get you gone!
Post-consumer recycled: Collected
from previously used products such as newspapers and magazines – as
opposed to pre-consumer recycling, in which manufacturing waste, such
as virgin paper shreds, is recycled.
Standard inks are made from a petroleum base and contain metal and oil
toxins that are damaging to human health and the
environment. Soyabean-based inks are considered more green because
they come from a renewable source, emit fewer toxins and are
An alternative to standard paper bleaching, which uses chlorine, and
releases dioxins and other toxins into the atmosphere. Oxygen bleaching
is one example of non-chlorine bleaching.
Virgin fibre: Previously unused wood fibre.
ISO 14001: Certification that a business conforms to international environmental standards.
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC): International independent agency that labels wood products from wellmanaged forests.