From the Editor

Confessions of a Tree Killer

March 2007

EVERY OTHER THURSDAY, when I roll that big purple cart to the curb, I can't help feeling like a fraud. Sure, I've dutifully separated the bottles and papers and plastics from the rest of my trash, but that little bit of recycling hardly atones for my far greater environmental sins.

After all, I'm a magazine publisher. I kill trees for a living.

How many trees? In all honesty, that's a question I've been avoiding for years. But as we prepared our first-ever guide to green living in Colorado ("It's Easy Being Green," page 102), I realized I couldn't put it off any longer.

Here's what I discovered: With a press run that routinely tops 90,000 copies, the typical 200-page issue of 5280 consumes almost 107,000 pounds of paper. Over the course of a year, that works out to about 13,000 trees.

That number would be even higher if it weren't for the fact that, more than a decade ago, 5280 began printing on "recycled" paper. I use quotes because only 10 percent of the paper's fibers come from recycled sources. The rest come from freshly harvested trees.

Though 10 percent is better than nothing, I always assumed that there were plenty of other magazines doing much better. But according to most estimates, about 95 percent of American magazines contain no recycled paper at all, including the majority of the leading national publications.

So if you're a glass-half-full kind of person, I guess you could say that 5280 is doing pretty well on the environmental front. But "pretty well" hardly seems good enough anymore. Now that the politicians have finally agreed that global warming exists, it's time to begin the real debate: What are we going to do about it? That's a question that's particularly relevant here in Colorado, where the landscape so directly shapes our identity, and where our answers will likely be center-stage in the 2008 presidential race.

For us, the first step was to get more recycled content in our paper. After an extensive search, we've discovered a paper stock made with 30 percent post-consumer waste that looks great and is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, meaning the trees used for the remainder have been harvested in a sustainable manner. You'll get your first look at it next month. (We would have started with this issue, but 54 tons of paper isn't something FedEx will deliver overnight.)

The switch will raise our printing bill by at least $52,000 a year, but I think the payback will be worth it. According to estimates provided by the Environmental Defense Paper Calculator (, we'll be saving 2,520 trees annually. And because recycling requires far less energy than milling newly cut trees into paper, the benefits won't stop there. In our case, the savings will be enough to power 19 homes for a year while reducing carbon dioxide emissions by an amount equal to taking 25 cars off the road.

As encouraging as those numbers may be, they're really only a first step. What's far more important is to change the way we think about the things we do every day, the way we shop, play, eat, and travel. That's the aim of this issue's green guide—showing you how to transform "green" from a groovy, abstract notion into a concrete part of your everyday life.

Even if you're a guy who kills trees for a living.

Daniel Brogan
Editor and Publisher