Paper or Plastic?
As ISSUE 9::BREATHE comes off the press and makes its way to binding, trimming and mailing, it seems an appropriate time to address the bothersome topic of why Taproot arrives to you shrouded in a plastic bag. I say bothersome, not because I am bothered by readers inquiring about how we square Taproot's stance on sustainability with the use of plastic bags (it is a completely appropriate question to ask!), but because I feel hamstrung by the options available to us as a small publisher. First, some background. We have a great printer in Wisconsin that we have worked with for many years both on Taproot and other projects. The price that they give us to print the magazine is extremely competitive and is one of the things that makes it even conceivable that we could at some point make an ad-free, small circulation magazine financially break even or possibly turn a profit. That said, part of the price they give us is based around Taproot fitting into their manufacturing process. The economical (automated) option that the printer has for bagging the magazine is a recyclable (#4) plastic bag. (We looked into compostable, but there doesn't seem to be one on the market at this time; the ones that were available smelled like sulfur or didn't actually compost.) To put the magazine in a paper envelope would all be hand labor; there is no way (at least with our printer) to automate the process and keep the magazine at its current price. Of course, this begs the question: Why put the magazine in a bag at all? For the first three issues, that's exactly what we did (excluding international copies, which have always had to be bagged). For each of those issues, we had to re-mail more than 100 copies per issue to folks who had received damaged copies or never received their copy. So, big deal, right? We mail out another copy first class and the problem is solved, right? We didn't see it that way. Our worry was that subscribers who notified us were the tip of the iceberg and that many, many more subscribers were receiving damaged copies and never letting us know, but also were less likely to renew given that their copies arrived damaged (or never arrived at all). Since we have made the change, the number of magazines that go missing or are reported damaged has dropped something like 90%. We hope that this means that copies are arriving safe and sound. But, beyond the delivery improvements, we are also now able to include exclusive items for subscribers in the bag that were not previously possible, like postcards and other inserts. Look for more of that in the future. Does this make everything OK? Of course not. We're doing the best we can on limited means. We print the magazine on sustainably sourced (FSC Certified) paper. We limit packaging on our print shop items. We are always open to other suggestions of how we can lower our environmental impact. Please be in touch if you have any ideas. -jason