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


I think your decision is wise and totally understandable . Now, I need to subscribe!

Tiffany June 13, 2016

I put the plastic cover in with my recyclables. I know some folks are willing to put up with damaged issues to avoid extra packaging, and I respect that, but I’ll admit I really like to have my magazine arrive in good shape.

Annmarie June 13, 2016

Thank you for this explanation. It helps she’d some light on the bigger pictures you, as a company, are dealing with. Keep up the good work. Can’t wait to wrap my fingers around the pages of Breathe.

Kylie June 13, 2016

I have just come across this blog article having decided to have a wee look in anticipation of my latest Taproot arriving. I received last year’s 4 editions at Christmas, as a long anticipated present, but sadly they arrived here in the UK on a very very wet day……….they were soggy and pretty damaged around the edges. I wasn’t too bothered, taking it just as a bit of bad luck, but it does take a little away from the aesthetics of my beautiful magazines which I fully intend keeping.
This makes me wonder – should they have been plastic wrapped (in this instance I’m sure they weren’t although it appears they perhaps should have been)? I fully understand your dilemma and I would feel the same in your shoes. Good luck! Julie

Julie June 13, 2016

Great idea! June 13, 2016

Please do! June 13, 2016

In addition to the recycling option, plastic bags can be given to potters who wrap their clay in them to keep it from drying out before firing.

Alice June 13, 2016

What’s up, I read your blog regularly. Your story-telling style is
witty, keep doing what you’re doing!

eco friendly tumblers manufacturing system June 13, 2016

I, too, thank you for your explanation and I really appreciate receiving my eagerly-anticipated next issue intact! I believe that most of us have inconsistencies – we may strive to be kind to our planet in most areas of our lives, yet there are a few things that may cause others to scratch their heads in confusion (i.e., I am a committed environmentalist in most ways, yet I drive an SUV). Bottom line is, we try the best we can. It’s ok that the magazine is wrapped in plastic. I love it and have given it as a gift and I hope that the articles and images bring as much joy to others as I experience! Thanks for all your wonderful work!

Betsy June 13, 2016

Living in the Netherlands and receiving your announcements of new items of Taproot is living with doubts…Really interested in your beautiful magazine but not being able to pay both subscription and mailing costs and now reading about plastic covering questions I wonder: why not offering a digital subscription for those who want to have a choice in whether or not using paper or plastic? Just paying the costs of being a US citizen including mailing costs is ok for me then.

sylvia June 13, 2016

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