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April 2008

Backpacker’s Carbon-Neutral Project

Last fall, we showed you the many ways that climate change is altering the wild places we love. Now, a look at what BACKPACKER is doing to reduce the magazine's impact.

What We Did | What We Learned | What We’re Doing | Where We Stand | What You Can Do

What We Learned
Analysis of every phase of BACKPACKER’s production yielded a carbon footprint for the magazine. Here’s what the number means–and where the energy is spent.

A carbon footprint, if you’re new to the term, is a measure of the total fossil-fuel energy consumed and released by a person, product, or business. An example: To footprint a car, you would calculate the fuel economy, the energy needed to acquire and assemble the parts, and the emissions–plus you would factor in a slice of the automaker’s energy overhead (office electricity, corporate travel, etc.). Out would come a number, expressed in pounds or tons of CO2, the most prevalent of the three major greenhouse gases that scientists blame for rising temperatures.

In 2007, BACKPACKER’s footprint totaled 2,305 metric tons, or just over 5 million pounds of CO2. The charts below offer two close-to-home comparisons, but the simplest way to look at it may be this: A single copy of the magazine last year resulted in 1.12 pounds of greenhouse gases (GHG) being released into the atmosphere. If you’re a subscriber, that amounts to 10.1 pounds per year. (Which you could negate by walking or biking 8 miles you’d usually drive.)

The primary components of BACKPACKER’s carbon footprint didn’t come as a surprise. Paper is nearly half of the total, and distribution is another quarter. We were surprised, though, that staff and writer travel has a bigger impact than the printing process itself.

A few magazines have gone carbon-neutral (Surfing), studied their paper consumption (Time, InStyle), or offered readers the chance to pay for subscription offsets (Outside). But until other titles conduct complete energy audits like ours, we can’t say how we compare. (Editors: Call us. We can help.) Here’s what we do know: By making immediate cuts, we’ve reduced our footprint by 12% for 2008, to .99 pounds per copy. And we’re investing in offsets rather than asking you to–because we think it’s the right thing to do for the environment.

What We Did | What We Learned | What We’re Doing | Where We Stand | What You Can Do

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