Rolling Stone Knows the Profit-Planet Problem

Last Updated Aug 20, 2007 7:08 PM EDT

Rolling Stone announced today that it will be the first mass-market magazine to print on carbon-neutral paper, so-called because greenhouse gases released in the production process are paired with sequestration activities to achieve net-zero emissions. But there's been some controversy over carbon offsetting, and for some environmentalists, Rolling Stone's green move isn't green enough. A New York Times article by Andrew Newman reports that, among the praise, no one has mentioned that the new paper has no recycled content:
"Are the steps that Rolling Stone is taking good and important ones?" Mr. Locantore said (director of the Magazine Paper Project at Co-op America). "Yes. But what I'm afraid they are doing in the process is diverting attention away from the need to use recycled paper." He added, "All the evidence shows that the greatest ecological and social benefits come from using recycled paper."
Eric Bates, deputy managing editor of Rolling Stone, said, "We think recycled paper is great."
But, he added, "we're publishing some of the world's greatest photographers and artists," and the print quality on recycled paper does not do them justice. "What we're trying to do is what we can do. We can't put out the magazine we put out on recycled paper."
In other words, we're seeing a new instance of the challenge in developing profitable and ecological business practices. The whole idea of sustainability, however, rests on the Triple Bottom Line, and that means environmentalists have to make concessions for profit, just as companies often have to make extra investments for ecology. And Rolling Stone has made a solid incremental step forward that deserves no rebuke.