Vogue Goes Green!!! (No, Not Really)

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Everybody knows that Green is the new Black, and nowhere is the corporate greenwashing trend more annoyingly exploited than in the pages of various Condé Nast magazines. So, for example, in the current issue of Vogue, amid a fashion shoot where models cloy at various “green” items (mostly CFC bulbs and mockups of wind turbines), is a picture of a giant bales of paper, with the following caption:

WASTE NOT, WANT NOT: It looks good on paper! Family-owned since 1896, Chambers Paper Fibres in Brooklyn sorts ten to fifteen tons of wastepaper an hour. Each recycled ton saves seventeen trees and 7,000 gallons of water.

Did I mention that this came on page 722 of the “840-page biggest issue ever!” of Vogue? So the question that leapt to mind (that is, after I contemplated which poor photo assistant had to construct the giant bales of paper so that the logos of the Times and the WSJ were showing) was: So just how much #$%@ing paper does this 840-page issue of Vogue use anyway?

Ok, so I think Vogue‘s circulation is around 2 million. And that issue weighed about five pounds. Based on those assumptions and on Conservatrees’ calculation that “one ton of uncoated virgin, or non-recycled printing and office paper uses 24 trees” then I see the math as following:

2 million issues x 5lbs per issue= 10,000,000 lbs of paper / 2,000= 5,000 tons of paper x 24 trees = 120,000 trees. And if all these issues of Vogue were recycled at Chambers (and Vogue’s fact-checking is kosher) it would take the folks there (assuming eight-hour work days with no lunch) 61 days to recycle Vogue alone.

I will eat one of Anna Wintour‘s least fashionable shoes if I’m wrong, but the post-consumer content for Vogue is negligible to none. Mother Jones, meanwhile, uses 30% post-consumer recycled fiber (and non-chlorine bleach), which allows us to save 432 trees, 89,564 gallons of water, 216 pounds of solid waste, and 33,393 pounds of greenhouse gases per issue. Now no old-media editor should throw stones, and fashion mags, admittedly, have the greatest incentive to print on virgin paper; advertisers demand it. But if every magazine changed its policies just a little—say 10% post-consumer—it would help change the market. And hey, maybe advertisers should demand it too. Especially those whose products are pimped on the facing page, to wit:

Borrow a look from the boys but in a delicate peach and baby blue with subtle luster. Miu Miu silk waffle-knit V-neck ($760), pant ($965), and leather belt: Miu Miu boutiques. LaCrasia pistachio opera gloves. Hermes leather d’Orsay plaforms.

Later this week: The incredible carbon cost of Vanity Fair‘s green issue. And, why does Condé Nast poly bag every one of its magazines with Fashion Rocks?

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And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

It's not, and if you can right now, please consider a year-end donation to support our team's fearless nonprofit journalism so we can close that big fundraising gap and finish the year strong, ready for all that's ahead in 2021. Whether you can give $5 or $500, it all matters in keeping us charging hard, and we'd be grateful.

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