« Year-end Status Report: failed to watch any TV once again, but otherwise kinda freakishly good | Main | Jessica Simpson: a new box office low! »

December 27, 2007



I don't see how trees taking carbon out of the air should be part of the life cycle you are mentioning here. Are you saying without magazine publishing trees will not take carbon out of the air or that there would be no trees? This post doesn't make any sense. Web publishing has a much lower footprint on the environment than print does.

Chris Anderson

C'mon Nanek, you can do better than that. The sustainable forestry industry (ie, the feedstock to the magazine industry) sequesters carbon from existing trees (by feeding them into a process that takes the carbon out of circulation) and plants new ones. The net effect is that magazine industry prompts more trees to be planted.

Please respond after you've had a chance to think it through.


Actually, hydro-power is not carbon neutral. In some cases, it produces more pollution than oil-burning power plants. It also produces considerable methane:


Chris Anderson


Sigh. In the calculus of traditional carbon accounting, hydro is considered netural. Please try to stay with the context here, which is carbon math as it is currently practiced. Nobody knows what the real effect is for each dam and each bioload in each river, so links like the one you sent are not helpful in a broad macro calculation like we're doing here.


Given that world newsprint production is, apparently, of the order 38 million tons a year. It seem's to be neglecting the carbon cost of the tree extraction process from the forest to the pulping plant and the cost of transporting the paper reels to the printing press's plus the energy required to produce the ink and in the case of glossies the environmental cost of china clay production plus "International Paper uses herbicides on about two percent of our lands annually to increase fiber yield and we apply fertilizers on a site-specific basis to less than five percent of our lands annually to stimulate forest productivity". It is also not clear to me why young trees absorb carbon faster - surely it must be a function of leaf area?


After thinking this through some, it appears that the essential difference is:
* Magazine - converts the tree into paper, which is either recycled or landfilled. Replaces the tree with another fresh tree.
* Website - lets the tree be where it is.

I could dissect the whole post and explain exactly how this is, but this is the essential difference as I see it.

This then becomes a question of whether the magazines are properly recycled or landfilled, and what percentage of them are. To the extent that they AREN'T recycled/landfilled properly, they DO contribute to the carbon footprint.


Are young trees more effective than older trees at absorbing carbon even when we account for the fact the a new tree is tiny compared to a mature tree?

Chris Anderson


The age of the tree doesn't affect my calculation above (the age point was just an aside, although it does help the case for new-growth forests as carbon sinks), but the answer to your question is that there is a carbon absorbtion curve that peaks somewhere after the first decade of a tree's life, although the specific age varies from species to species and region to region. Older trees absorb carbon slower, but they're bigger. Younger trees absorb carbon faster (more new growth) but they're smaller.

The peak of that curve is between 10 and 70 years, depending on the species. See this for more: http://ask.metafilter.com/42874/Cant-see-the-forest-for-the-carbon-absorption-rates.


I would be totally in agreement with Chris' were the title of his post "Are dead tree magazines actually carbon negative?". By bringing climate into the title he complicates the issue. Consider that fossil fuels are nothing more than nature's landfills plus time plus pressure. From a "carbon footprint" point of view modern landfills that inhibit decay are actually a good thing. They take carbon and "lock it up". Magazines that end up in a landfill are actually carbon negative. In a way our current landfills are taking the place of the fossil fuels we take from nature's landfills.



It seems as if the result you got is based on the assumption that the Post Office would be traveling the same routes using the same transportation methods as they do today whether or not there was print media to carry. It discounts the distributors' role in getting magazines to the stands, an so on.

You'd have to show me numbers behind these two assumptions to make this believable. Also, since the class of postage requires a large percentage of the magazine to be advertisements, doesn't that basically mean that 2/3 of the trees killed are killed to print magazines are killed for ads? Thinking about this in the same way you are, no matter how many ads are served, the cost to serve them is the same as the web sites that deliver them. So how could this not be cheaper?

Chris Anderson


I think you're missing the point. It's not about "cheaper", it's about total carbon taken out of the system. The more trees we cut down and (eventually) bury in landfill, the better. So a print ad is "better" from a carbon perspective than a web ad, because it fells more trees and thus sequesters more carbon.

As for what fraction of the Post Office's carbon footprint we're responsible for, I can't answer that. But I made some very conservative estimates above, letting the once-a-month carbon cost of printing and mailing equal the carbon cost of serving something on the order of 60 million pages views a month on the website, running 7/24. So I think that whatever you want to "charge" the magazine for the Post Office's vans, it's still doing better than our server farms from a carbon perspective.


The conclusions that you draw seem to be in line with a thorough and scientific work from the Centre for Sustainable Communications of the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm. In their report "Screening environmental life cycle assessment of printed, web based and tablet e-paper newspaper" they found that for dead-tree newspapers the paper had the most impact, for e-readers the manufacturing and for web reading the energy consumption. But paper newspapers still beat the rest. (Using google on the title you can find the full report).


There are several problems with the statements above. The first one is that we really do not know how much "co2 equivalents" the forests are absorbing. We know how much carbon a tree has, but then working out the amount a forest actually absorbs is a different question. Many of the calculations used for working out the footprint of a forest are quite dubious.

If we plant a so called "sustainable" forest of pines, or eucalypts they will push out native fauna and flora. The decay of the native flora and flora will add to the co2 footprint. Plantations of pines, and eucalypts greatly increase the fire risk. You also have count all the thinning of trees that takes place for the maintenance of the forest.

It also takes of energy to produce paper, you can not claim that because the paper is made with hydro that it is carbon neutral as the hydro power could be used for reducing the the need for coal or gas fired plants elsewhere.

On the release side a magazine will take about a year to compost and release co2 back into the environment. A tree will take many years to then absorb the carbon back.

Eric Dewhirst

Great news!

Hmmm just some questions:
1) How do the tress get harvested (mmm machinery)
2) How do the trees get to the mill? (mmm truck)
3) How does the paper get to your printers? (mmm truck)
4) How much CO2 is emitted in the creation of the inks for the magazine?
5) How do they get from this super efficient train to the various postal outlets, and magazine shops? (mmm truck)
6) How much cost is it for the garbage trucks to haul the magazines to the dump?
7) Can magazines be recycled - ahh nahh too much ink - darn - landfill them - oooops landfills create methane - hmmm methane is worse than CO2

And some big ones - "and the carbon cost of running our webservers 24/7 is roughly equivalent to (if not higher than) the cost of running the magazine's printing plants once a month." Based on what? Have you been to your printing plant? Do you have a clue on how much energy it takes to make your magazine within a printing facility? Also how big is you server farm? Server "Farm" sounds huge but I doubt it is more than 10 3U servers that serves up your static content and if you say it is more you are a stranger to the truth.

Your website takes no carbon out? Come again? You are right kinda like when I choose to ride my bike to work I don't take any carbon out but then again I don't release as much CO2 as I would if I drove to work.

Now I can take some pie in the sky flippant CO2 reduction math and round things favorably and say it all balances out to being equal in macroeconomic terms - but it is not equal and you know it is not. I am not sure what your post was about but if you are getting into the debunking climate change business keep that happy smiley easy peasy CO2 cost calculating up and I am sure you can get a lot of favorable funding from The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition.

No I think the bottom line is Printed Magazines are more lucrative - advertisers have to pay upfront and even if people don't look at the ads the publisher gets paid. Online CPM rates suck and everything is going CPC and if you are engaging people then they don't want to leave to go to an advert.

To be blunt - it is painful to read your post and the fanboys who prop you up - we live in the land of mis-information for the purposes of delaying change to reduce CO2 emissions and you Chris are now on the wrong side of the ledger. Play tricks with your words, intimidate those that comment, but your message in this post is clearly: Are Magazines really that bad for CO2 reduction? hmmmm? leave people with doubt, provide one side of the story that supports your argument and leave the necessary dirty details out. You are not cutting down the trees and burying them as they fall - you are processing, transporting, manufacturing and printing, transporting them again and in that entire process you require vast amounts of energy which produce CO2 emissions to achieve your goal of having your people read your articles.

It is fair to say there are un-calculated costs of publishing online and it is not carbon neutral - I agree - but that is not at the core of what you were saying in your post - your former colleagues at Nature and Science would shake their head and wonder as I do why you have strayed.

Flame away!

Cheers - Eric


You write that "Additional power is generated by burning bark, and the carbon from that is usually captured and sequestered."

This is simply untrue. Carbon sequestration is a long-term goal, but it currently exists nowhere other than a handful of early-phase pilot projects designed to test the idea.

The entire post, devoid as it is of numbers or empirical findings of any kind, is nothing but creative story-telling and totally unpersuasive. But it is whopper about carbon sequestration that demonstrates conclusively that you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.

Henri Weijo

"Sustainable forestry companies (the only kind we use) cut down those trees, and plant an equal number to replace them (trees absorb the most carbon in the young, high-growth period of their life. Update: see comments for more on this). Carbon neutral"

Sorry if someone has posted this already, but here goes. I see point #2 as being Carbon negative. If the trees are NOT cut down, they will release all that carbon they've inhaled back into the atmosphere. So cutting down trees and using them in, say, housing is very carbon friendly - especially if you plant new trees in their place!


I'm not sure if you can really negate the impact of shipping by saying that they are taking routes they take already, but include the use of the millions of computer minutes used to read the articles, along with the running of the infrastructure, which are certainly on regardless of which website the user is viewing.

Chris Anderson


I didn't discount our share of the postal carbon cost entirely (I put that line item as a carbon positive), I just said that the whole process was net no more (and probably a lot less) than the net carbon cost of reading online. The Swedish study I linked to confirms this.

Chris Anderson


The simple answer is that it depends on the paper mill. Since the 90s, the mills have been leaders in regeneration and effluent capture because they've been under so much environmental pressure. Some sequester and some don't (see this for more: http://www.springerlink.com/content/7817j51161u1r022/)

The mills we use change from time to time based on price and availability, so it's very difficult to do a perfect carbon accounting at any one time. But the rising cost of oil has made European (mostly Finnish) paper uneconomic in the US (it has to be shipped across the ocean), so we're mostly using Canadian paper, which tends to be more hydro-powered and thus more carbon neutral.


It's not true that hydro power could be used equally elsewhere so I shouldn't count it. Transmission losses favor uses close to the point of generation, and paper mills, being right on the river, are among the most efficient users of hydro power.



Thanks for the link about carbon capture and storage (CCS).

However, the paper is about _SIMULATIONS_ of CCS. - not actually operating CCS. There is a diference.

Carbon capture and storage is the 'holy grail' of combating climate change. Geologists don't know if it will ultimately work and the technology to capture CO2 is, at the moment, prohibitively expensive.

Gary Frost

What if the comparative energy accounting is based on a per -read unit over time? Remember that paper publications can be reaccessed for centuries. If you discount the housing overhead common to both servers and print books, a lower energy is allocated to sustained reading in print as compared with sustained reading on screen, especially as projected in centuries.


wow , displaying your creativity , eh ?

what exactly is carbon sequestered ? every piece of tree/paper that makes it to the landfill is eventually decomposed and the carbon is returned back into the atmosphere. So it most definitely is not neutral . If the tree were left to live however......

Why do you just not use solar energy or somesuch to power your servers and be done with it ?

Jax .

Chris Anderson


I think you need to research modern landfill methods a bit more. There's no reason why today's landfills won't do pretty much what the plant material of a million years ago did--end up deep underground and turn back into fossil fuels. Of course by then we (if we're still around) sure won't be using fossil fuels anymore.


John Carnegie

I'm pleased to see the number of comments that have been generated by this blog post so far.

Our friendly neighborhood nuclear fusion generator (just a short powerwalk of 93 million miles away) delivers over 180,000 Terawatts per day to our little carbon-based biosphere. Our daily use of oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear, hydro, and other energy sources at the loooong end of the energy tail (solar, wind, etc.) adds up to almost 20 Terawatts per day.

180,000 - 20 = 179,980 of underutilized energy potential every day. Are there other cost-effective ways to use more of that underutilized energy potential, without contributing more problems than solutions? Will we have to sell our children into slavery to purchase the technology to make this happen? The simple answer is 'No.'

A portion of this energy source, combined with carbon dioxide and water, gets converted into carbohydrates (sugars and starches) by plants and trees (photosynthesis). This is the ultimate carbon sequestration system that existed on this planet for a long time.

No need for multi-billion dollar theoretical research and development of multi-trillion dollar technology deployment schemes to cool down our fevered planet - let's return to simple science originally discovered by our ancestors resulting from them observing the decomposition of organic matter.

* Sugars and starches and yeast and water and heat...what are some of the ultimate outcomes that result from mixing these ingredients in specific measurements and sequences?

* Would you be surprised to learn that most of the original automobiles and internal combustion engines produced in the 1800's ran on this fuel?

* Do you know that most gasoline powered automobiles can run on 50% of this fuel right now, even though our present fuel blends only use 5% to 10% of this fuel source?

* Did you know that 99% of all of this fuel produced in the United States is presently purchased by the very same industry that spends tens of millions of dollars spouting propaganda that if we attempt to produce more of this fuel, millions of people will die of starvation because the cost of food will skyrocket?

* Did you know that the clippings from the largest nonagricultural 'crop'- that we pay people to cut and dispose of - could be used to produce about 1/3 of this fuel source?

* Did you know that the Dead Zone (over 22,000 square mile body of water around the Mississippi Delta and Gulf of Mexico) could be used to generate this fuel to power all of our vehicles, power plants, home heating and cooling systems, etc.?

And that's only a fraction of the existing potential delivered every day by our local nuclear fusion generator...

I sent Chris an email via Wired.com on a subject that may help us all reduce our carbon footprint dramatically, whether we choose to consume pulp-based or electrically powered editorial. I look forward to his future post on the subject, and I will refrain from referencing it here prior to his due diligence efforts.

Let's all do our best to make 2008 a more intelligent year regarding carbon footprints and renewable energy sources.

Best regards,

John Andrew Carnegie


Chris ,

Maybe you can highlight the ways the landfills are maintained and powered .

Most of the publications point to the complications and the ruinous long term impact of landfills and even presently landfill maintenance is becoming a issue of concern .


Are you sure you are just not passing the buck ? Try to factor in the footprint of the complete cycle.....



I flipped through that paper from the Swedish technology institute. Two points to make.
First, paper only comes out ahead if you assume 30min/day of reading time. If you assume 10min/day, web-based is much better.

Second, the reading-time dependence suggests that electricity costs are hurting you. If you look at the model they used on page 24, the PC model is from 2002 and uses 160W of power. This was an unfortunate choice, because modern PC's are much more power efficient; a correct figure is closer to 60W. See here.
Using an updated figure would probably make web-based come out far ahead of paper.

However the report also assumes a 5-year lifespan for PC and I think this figure too is out of date; PC lifespans have gone down in recent years, increasing their environmental impact. Thus I think the numbers are inconclusive at best.



While most of the time I agree with you, on this issue I don't. But the argument is Academic as Wired is not going to stop printing magazines, and will not be closing its web operations down! Or is there something you are not telling us?

You say that because the paper mills are close to Hydro Power, and it is uneconomic to transmit the power long distance then the power can not be used for other purposes.

Why doesn't Conde Nast move its servers to Canada, or Norway, where the power is Hydro, or to France where the power is Nuclear. Then the whole argument comes down to how much energy your readership uses. And you could use your brilliant magazine to persuade them to use greener power.

On the Swedish report, of course they would be saying paper is good. How many jobs in Sweden are dependent on the paper industry? In the report one of the key assumptions is that it will take 100 years for paper to decompose. Most people, including the IPCC, use the figure of 2 - 5 months. Unless your readers (like me) annoy our partners by keeping Wired for years on our bookshelves.

Other assumptions where the Swedish numbers could end up being misleading is that they do not count the energy used in making the aluminum plates. Aluminum is very energy intensive. For example in Ghana 25% of the countries power use is for processing Bauxite. Another point they don't take account of is energy lost in returns, and magazines/newspapers been pulped.

Estimating the footprint is a very hard thing to do, because you need to know on where to stop. If you take wired how do you divide the emissions from articles that are used in both the magazine and the web? What is easy to do is reducing your power use, by doing things like moving your servers to Norway!!!!


Andrew Fuller

I've been editor of an online magazine since 1999. My webhost is carbon neutral. Does that make my magazine carbon neutral, or are all the readers sucking energy? Other thoughts: the timber industry has its own in-pocket industry watchdog "SFI", so their measurements aren't reliable. FSC certified forests, mills, papers and printers are truly well managed, so depending on who does the certification of sustainability. And, while a high recycled content paper might be used for a publication, it's not a good system if that pulp is not getting back to the local forest land, and that land being well managed and sustained over the long term (thinning instead of clear cuts, planting like species, etc.)

Chris Anderson


Thanks for your comment about the Swedish paper and your good observation about PC power consumption and useful life. However, I think that this sort of micro analysis of web energy costs misses the big point I was making, which is that the main advantage magazines have from a carbon perspective is that we cut down trees and bury them. This isn't covered in the Swedish report (which only considered the use of recycled paper), and really tilts the advantages strongly to the print side.



Well, frankly I'm not convinced by big-picture arguments until they're backed by numbers, and the best numbers available seem to be in the Swedish report, and they're not that convincing either.

Here's my big-picture analysis. If all you were doing was cutting down trees and burying them, and replenishing the forest - no processing into paper or anything, your entire business is just chop, bury, re-plant - what would your footprint be? How much carbon would you sequester from the trees, and how much would you burn as operating costs? Call your total carbon savings S.

On top of this ideal business, you will burn energy processing the wood into paper, printing the magazines, distributing them to customers, recycling or landfilling the paper, and so on. Call the total energy usage P (for paper). Likewise you burn some energy running webservers and PCs for the online version. Call the usage W (for web).

If W > P - S, you win. My intuition tells me that the savings S is pretty small on a per-magazine basis. Likewise I expect P is large, and quite a big larger than W. But until I have a solid basis for how big these numbers are relative to one another, I don't trust any conclusions. I would be happy to see some more evidence.

Brian O'Connell

Interesting about W, Paul. If a server is running at 1000 watts, and serves 1000 pages an hour that's a very low amount of energy- and I think that any hosting service/server farm is going to optimize at a far higher throughput than 1000 hits an hour. Let's add 10 hops on 10 routers at the same conservative estimate, so that makes your consumption of the internet infrastructure 10 watts. If I'm anywhere near right, then it's clear that the vast majority of energy is used by the client computer- 60 to 100 watts, say. More counting the display.

Analogizing from the postal service already running the routes though, if anyone keeps their computer running 24/7, then the additional energy required to read a magazine online drops to near zero. Counting carbon is full of these somewhat perverse effects.

On another tack, a problem with that Swedish study is that it uses a printed norm for the web. That is, it compares reading a single printed newspaper for 30 minutes with reading the newspaper's website for 30 minutes. But who reads a newspaper website for 30 minutes? What nearly everyone does on the web is read an article or two from a newspaper site, skim a few grafs from some magazine sites, read an article from some other paper's site, etc. (And that's just for websites that have dead tree versions.) So if the study used the web's reading norm, it would have to consider the carbon costs of producing and distributing 5 newspapers a day and maybe 10-20 magazines a month. Probably not such an advantage on those terms.

Jason The Saj

I read the post, and well, IMHO I find a number of the premises quite flawed. That's not to damn the printing industry. They have a product, it's currently needed, so that's a good thing. (I find it wrong to criticize the auto makers when we're the ones doing all the driving and bigger and sportier vehicles, demanding more features, more room, multiple LCD screens, etc. Then complaining why MPG hasn't gone up? Well, gee folks, we didn't have 1,000 watt stereo systems with surround sound and 4 LCD screens in our mini-vans 15 yrs ago. The power has to come from somewhere - namely, your MPG.) So no reason to come down on the print publishers either.

But, the arguments I see against digital are very flawed and based on some very week premises. All that said, many comments point to some great aspects for digital publishers to look into - such as ways to reduce both their carbon and environmental footprints.

- hydro or renewable energy for servers (or credit equivalents as at present many top tier hosting locations are not available on such power connections)

- recycle the machines, computers are made out of a lot of toxic materials that should be re-processed properly. They also include many valuable elements (ie: gold, platinum, super high grade glass). Rather than simply dumping in the dumpster, proper disposal can bear much benefit.


2. Sustainable forestry companies (the only kind we use)

a. Having seen tree plantings, I know quite a few never make it past the planting. I've always been of the opinion one needs a 2:1 ratio of planting to cutting.

b. I also wonder with so much wood coming from foreign nations, South America, I wonder how they assure that their trees are coming from sustainable forestry. We've seen just within the organic foods how much falsehood can exist. Almost everyone in every wood utilizing industry claims that their trees come from sustainable forestry, but the truth of the matter is our global forests are seeing massive reductions year over year.

But I'll give them the neutral score for that.

3. Pulp process - having worked in a waste water treatment facility I have first hand experience seeing just how pollutive the paper pulp process can be. So while it may be carbon neutral it surely is not pollution neutral. And many of the arguments for this being carbon neutral seem "best world" to me. (ie: I question whether most such mills are still run by hydro-electric power, or whether all are diligent in re-capturing the carbon waste.

4. Sounds like a great way to dismiss. But let's be honest. How much of those materials are being delivered via big semi rigs to no where else but the factories & mills? And are you seriously telling me that if we converted every magazine into a digital format there would be no effect on the postal service? And what happens as more and more bills, notices, etc go digital. And as more and more personal correspondence moves to email?

5. I guess I can thank Al Gore for killing environmentalism. I attended a high school with a strong environmental emphasis. Back then environmentalism did not simply equal carbon footprints and corporate offset vouchers. And while it's nice to think that everyone is recycling. From my personal experience most cities did not recycle paper except for cardboard and newspaper. So in reality most of those magazines are going straight into the landfill. (Or even more likely, sitting around the house for 6-7 months with the best of intentions to be read, only to be tossed out unread during spring cleaning.)


Now a look at the digital world. The claim of running computers to serve digital editions 24/7 equates to as much as their mechanical equipment for processing paper pulp, creating dyes, printing, cutting, binding & stapling seems a tad off base. And just to note, nothing is given to substantiate these claims.

The author tries to burden the whole internet as part of the cost. Every machine used to get the digital magazine from their servers to you. But this is rather inaccurate. First off, the internet routes said information. Part of this system allows for machines that are not under heavy processing to enact such transit. Helping to ensure a more efficient utilization of resources.

Just an aside, most manufacturing plants are now automated. So while servers are being used to provide websites to readers. Very similar machines are being used to run the manufacturing equipment, deliver content to the machines, etc.

It's also claimed that we lose #1. This is incorrect....I know, this may be shocking and unexpected news to you. But trees actually have a built in mechanism for replanting. Not cutting the existing trees does not equate to no new trees. Rather, instead of a 1-for-1, we get a 1+.

"So by this analysis dead-tree magazines have a smaller net carbon footprint than web media."

So by an analysis which provides no real world measure of the digital magazine's equivalent. Fails to account for many additional elements of the magazine's production. And bears a false premise of no carbon being taken out of the atmosphere.

On top of all of this, the article neglects all the other pollutive aspects of the print industry. Somehow this became acceptable since Al Gore did his disformative documentary.

10 yrs ago, filling up landfills with paper was considered a bad thing. Now we're arguing it's good because of carbon.


Oh yeah, archiving... it was said that archiving with print was much better for re-use. But is it? How many digital editions can you store on a single long-life DVD? Now how much space does it take to store the equivalent number of print editions.

Now, to truly keep a magazine in archive format you need good conditions (proper temp, humidity, etc) otherwise you are merely left with a crumbling yellow newspaper much of the time. This is not to say that some people don't have very old newspapers kept in a stack of books in their attic. But that quality cannot be assured. And while many digital mediums (DVDs, CDs, etc) are also susceptible to conditions - you can store far many in a much smaller space. The end result is you need a small climate controlled room versus and entire warehouse.

Also, unlike the print editions. You can clone a perfect copy of the digital edition and move it to a new and improved archive format once created. (Something we see done a lot in the digital world. Just look at all the 10-20 yr old video games now being played on Xbox Live.) Try doing this with an old newspaper.

Padraic Ryan

I'm curious what you mean by "sustainable forestry companies". If you mean Forestry Stewardship Council-certified, than that's great. There are, however, other certification processes which are pretty much regarded as pure greenwash.

Mull Mott

Terrible post. Among the 100s of other things mentioned, you assume the sole purpose of my computer is to watch one website? Yet at the same breath you assume the US mail's emissions are irrelevant because they would be going "anyway". You have to parcel that out man! Divide it up!

Chris Anderson


What? Please re-read the Swedish study, which doesn't do anything of the sort. It calculates what fraction of a PC's energy use should be allocated to any one site per minute. You can disagree about how many minutes a newspaper site actually gets, but the basic concept is sound.

Also please note that this is NOT the core of my argument. Paper wins because it sequesters carbon in the form of burying trees in landfill. The relative carbon cost of websites vs mag delivery is an aside.


Alex Tolley

"Paper wins because it sequesters carbon in the form of burying trees in landfill. The relative carbon cost of websites vs mag delivery is an aside."

Then instead on going through the involved and polluting printing and delivery process, just sequester carbon by burying whole trees. You could buy carbon credits to do this and the webzine could then be arbitrarily carbon neutral/negative.

We don't need to use landfill to bury trees either, they can be sunk into the deep ocean trenches.


And what about magazines printed on recycled paper? Well, putting aside the inconvenient truth that there isn't enough recycled paper to go around and that it's ruinously expensive for large-circulation titles such as ours...

I'm tired of hearing that recycled paper is more expensive to print on! Using a green printer and 100% recycled paper, my print costs are equivalent or lower than using non- or semi-recycled paper at a 'normal' printer. And I'm in Australia, I'm sure recycled paper/vegetable-based inks here are actually comparatively more expensive than they are in other countries (such is life in Oz). General printers will jack the price up for recycled paper... printers with a true green ethos won't even stock non-recycled papers, and they keep competitive by keeping their prices competitive.

If anyone in 08 is printing on non-recyled or using non-green processes, it's because they simply don't care, not because the options aren't there to do it cheaper.

Spencer Reiss

don't forget distributed auto sequestration--the many Wired subscribers who archive on a bookshelf. not an accident, either--viz the checkerboard "perfect" binding

next stop: subscribe to Wired and get a carbon credit

James Farrar

I do not see how Infoworld can come to the opposite conclusion to Wired on this. I understand the academic point Chris is trying to make about how ultimately burying paper sequesters carbon. But in the real world, physically processing and distributing paper products is more carbon costly than web publications - easily.

This thread shows need for robust carbon accounting methodology see more here


Although Chris Anderson certainly goes too far when he claims that magazine publishing is carbon neutral, I think he makes a very good point when he says that electronic publishing is not the environmentally friendly solution it seems te be. See also this article: "Information damages the environment"

The comments to this entry are closed.


The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

Notes and sources for the book

FREE was available in all digital forms--ebook, web book, and audiobook--for free shortly after the hardcover was published on July 7th. The ebook and web book were free for a limited time and limited to certain geographic regions as determined by each national publisher; the unabridged MP3 audiobook (get zip file here) will remain free forever, available in all regions.

Order the hardcover now!