National Geographic magazine

A stack of National Geographic magazines

Photograph by Megan Seldon, National Geographic

Over the past few years, National Geographic has commissioned or collaborated on a number of reports and studies intended to help us, as well as our partners, vendors, and the industry at large, better understand the environmental impact of our printing and production activities. We are committed to continuous assessment and improvement and strive to do our work in a way that minimizes our environmental impact while delivering a quality product at an affordable cost.

Each of the reports in this section has provided important insights and analysis.

2009 National Geographic Magazine LCA (Life Cycle Analysis)

The National Geographic magazine LCA was done by the Society with its paper supplier, Verso Paper, and its printer, Quad Graphics. It was done in conjunction with Harmony Environmental LLC, a certified LCA practitioner. The goal was to establish the carbon footprint of National Geographic magazine.

We undertook this "cradle-to-grave" emissions assessment of a copy of the magazine (the functional unit) so we could understand the opportunities we have to reduce those emissions. We have made significant strides in reducing those emissions since 2009 and we will continue to pursue the goal of driving those emissions down as far as possible.

Download a pdf of the 2009 "Life Cycle Carbon Footprint for National Geographic Magazine"

2012 Analyses of Virgin Versus Recycled Paper

In 2012 Environ International Corporation was commissioned to produce a report, aided by several NGOs, to help National Geographic establish the relative benefits of using recycled paper versus using virgin paper in magazine printing. Since much of the decision as to which to use depends on the existing market conditions for recycled fiber (availability, quality, cost, and performance on press), we had Environ also do a market study to help us understand the market conditions so we could be better informed on the availability and cost of recycled paper.

When the Environ reports were completed, we had Harmony Environmental LLC do a comparison of the results.

Download a pdf of the 2012 "Life Cycle Assessment of Deinked and Virgin Pulp"

Download a pdf of the 2012 "Summary of the Life Cycle Assessment of Deinked and Virgin Pulp"

Download a pdf of the 2012 "An Evaluation of Deinked and Virgin Pulp for Use in Magazine Paper"

Environmental Performance of the Verso Paper Androscoggin Mill

In the winter of 2011, the National Geographic Society commissioned an independent environmental assessment of a paper mill owned and operated by Verso Paper Corp, located on the Androscoggin River in Jay, Maine. The study grew out of an ongoing dialogue with a coalition of environmental organizations and Verso Paper, a supplier to National Geographic, about the overall health of that river and the paper mill's impact on it.

While the Society is firmly committed to environmental sustainability, we also understand that these matters are complicated and are most appropriately debated and adjudicated locally among the direct stakeholders, including the State of Maine's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). That said, it is important to us as an institution that all entities with which we do business meet or exceed local and federal standards, comply with all local rules and regulations and work collaboratively within the communities where they are located. In this case, we think everyone can agree that healthier rivers are in everyone's best interests.

We wanted the study to be conducted independently and objectively, based on the most currently available facts and metrics, with considerable input from the main stakeholders, which include the mill, Green America, the Androscoggin River Alliance and the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) as well as the state of Maine, which sets and monitors environmental standards and compliance within its jurisdiction. The Society itself was expressly NOT a stakeholder; rather our institution acted as sponsor, underwriter and facilitator.

Paul Stuart of Processys, Inc. in Quebec, Canada, was commissioned to do the study after being selected from a list of experts identified by the stakeholders. His executive summary describes the process he undertook as well as the results he found, along with his recommendations. Stakeholder responses to his findings are also included.

While the project took far longer to complete than any of us could ever have imagined, we are pleased to share the final product. National Geographic appreciates the transparency, patience and spirit of cooperation exhibited by the stakeholders throughout this protracted process. We are also pleased that the report affirms that the mill with which we do business meets or exceeds current environmental standards as set by the community in which it operates, and that steady and measurable progress has been made in a number of areas in recent years. That said, it is always possible to do better, and National Geographic is committed to encouraging continuous improvement with all of our suppliers, including those that produce our paper. We appreciate Verso's expressed commitment to pursue a number of the recommendations made by Processys, including transparently conducting periodic third-party reviews going forward and sharing the results of such reviews with us as well as the public. The frequency should be determined by Verso and local stakeholders.

We also thank Green America, the Androscoggin River Alliance, and NRCM for their participation in this project. We greatly value the dialogue that it inspired.