There is a special kind of magic that ensues when you get a copy of the latest issue of your favorite magazine, curl up in your comfiest chair with your favorite cup of hot tea, and flip open the cover. The crisp pages, the smell of freshly printed ink, and the vivid photos take you to another place far away from your hot tea and a comfy chair. With each issue we release, we get quite a few people asking if they can purchase a print version of the magazine and our answer, unfortunately, but firmly, is no.
As much as we would love to see our magazine in beautiful print, hold it in our hands, and smell the fresh ink, we made a hard decision in the beginning stages to not go to print. This decision was one we researched heavily and was based on our values and not finances. The bottom line is magazines make the majority of their money selling ad space, not selling actual magazines. Advertisers like to know that their ad will be seen in "x" number of magazines sitting pretty on store shelves. The number of magazines printed determines ad prices- not sold, and some magazines print way more copies than they know they will sell because of this. Because of this system, it is much harder to "sell" a digital magazine ad than a printed ad, and it is harder to quantify the digital value to potential advertisers.
So, what are some of the impacts printed magazines have on our environment?
While some magazines may be printed from trees grown specifically for printing, recycled paper, and/or some eco-friendly processes, the industry isn't considered "green." From the water, pesticides, and herbicides needed to grow the trees, the chemicals used in the processing plant, the toxic inks used for printing, the greenhouse gas emissions accumulated from transporting the magazines, and the waste after the magazines are used, there are environmental issues in each stage of the production. One of the most eye-opening discoveries we found was the sheer number of magazines that do not sell (up to 3 out of 4 as told by a magazine "insider). We wanted to know what happens to the magazines that don't sell at stores, and it turns out, they get boxed up and sent to a landfill or to be recycled, never to be enjoyed by someone sipping tea in their comfy chair.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 2.5 million tons of magazines are thrown away each year in the U.S. The magazines that are not recycled take up precious space in landfills, and as they compost, methane gas is released as a natural part of the decaying process. This methane gas is natural, but too much of it in the atmosphere can contribute to global warming. The magazines also contribute to creating leachate, contaminated liquid made from water percolating through a solid waste disposal site, accumulating contaminants, and moving into subsurface areas like our groundwater. The inks used in printing on paper, especially color inks from magazines, are incredibly toxic.
The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) claims 63.4% of paper is recycled in the U.S. However, other agencies have refuted these numbers and are said to be somewhere between 20% and 40%. These numbers are for all paper types, including magazines. Much of the recycled paper in the U.S. gets shipped to China, where it is recycled into cardboard packaging for the products that China sends back and sells here. So, we're printing magazines that don't get read to send on a ship to China to get recycled into packaging for more stuff we don't need to be sent back to us? MIND BLOWN!!!
We hope you can see why we decided to go digital.
But we understand that nothing is perfect, and there are impacts a digital magazine has on the environment too. The energy used to power and store digital magazine does create C02, plus the device you are reading your magazine on takes a ton of resources to make. But we understand you will have your phone or tablet regardless of whether or not we create a digital magazine. We also hope to invest in more sustainable and renewable energy sources to offset the C02 produced with current sources.
While we might be different in the way we do things, we see the future and it is digital- it has to be digital. We also knew from the beginning our magazine would be free for anyone who wants to read it and going digital alleviates some of the pressure to sell magazines to help cover the cost of printing. We believe the information we are putting out isn't just for the privileged, it is for everyone. Don’t get me wrong, we do sell magazine ads and packages for advertisers who see value in what we provide with a little twist. For each full-page ad we sell, we choose a non-profit or start-up company we can get behind and gift them a free full-page ad. It's our version of "Buy One Get One," and we do it because it makes us feel good, and it supports the community who has supported us. We believe there are much bigger and more important things than just selling ads.
Is digital perfect? No. Is it a good option? Yes. At the very least, we can feel good about what we're doing here on many levels. So, while you may never hold an issue of Hike It Off Magazine in your hand, you can still get comfy in the chair with your hot tea and tablet and be taken to the trail far from you just as easy as if you were holding paper in your hand.