This episode of 5Across is brought to you by USC Annenberg’s Specialized Journalism Program. This 9-month program is for mid-career or aspiring journalists. To learn more, go to the USC Annenberg site.

When I canceled my daily newspaper subscription, I figured it was the right thing to do for the environment. No longer would someone have to ink up all that newsprint and deliver it to my doorstep. But what I didn’t consider was the environmental impact of all my electronic devices — their energy use as well as the harm they can do when being “recycled” in developing countries.

On this episode of 5Across, I convened a group of experts to examine the environmental impact of print media, as well as e-waste and the energy used by web servers when we go online. Most surprisingly, I learned that newspaper publishers use mostly recycled paper, as well as “virgin paper” that comes from the refuse generated by saw mills when creating lumber for houses. Could it be that over time newspapers are actually the greener option versus using electronic devices? No one knows for sure yet, but it’s a fascinating question to ponder.

5Across: Environmental Impact of Media

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Guest Biographies

Shona Burns is executive director for production development at Chronicle Books. She is currently working on expanding the environmental responsibilities within Chronicle Books and is a member of the Green Press Initiative Advisory Board, in addition to being a member of the Book Industry Environmental Council. Prior to joining Chronicle Books, Shona graduated from the three-year Book and Periodical Publishing program at Napier University in Edinburgh, Scotland, and she has held numerous production positions in the United Kingdom. She has spoken on various production topics at Book Expo America, Booktech and Stanford University’s Summer Publishing Course.

Joe Kelleher is the production director for the San Jose Mercury News. He is a member of the company’s operating committee and is responsible for all aspects of operations. This includes prepress (digital ad team, ad production, composing, paper make up, ad services, platemaking), printing (pressroom, newsprint warehouse), packaging, and building support services. He previously worked for the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., and the Detroit Newspaper Agency. Prior to his newspaper career, he was employed in the field of injection molded plastics.

Charles Uchu Strader is a worker-owner of Gaia Host Collective, a cooperatively owned Internet hosting company dedicated to environmental and social sustainability. Charles has worked for 15 years in the Internet infrastructure field with both open source and commercial software. At Gaia Host, he works to grow a low-impact Internet hosting infrastructure, and focuses on data-center efficiency, maximizing the use of the embodied energy of the hardware through life-cycle extension, efficiently managing the load on the computers, as well as managing the efficiency of software running the infrastructure. Charles is also an active board member of a non-profit operating an off-grid environmental educational facility in Massachusetts.

Jean Walsh is the outreach specialist and has been working in communications for the San Francisco Department of the Environment since 2007. She supports the toxics reduction, green business and zero waste programs using new media marketing, grassroots outreach, press relations and traditional advertising. Prior to joining SF Environment, Jean served as consumer outreach and marketing manager for TransFair USA, the non-profit organization that certifies Fair Trade products. A former Peace Corps volunteer in Nicaragua, Jean holds a Masters Degree in City Planning from MIT.

Sarah Westervelt is the e-stewardship director at the Basel Action Network. Her work includes developing the e-steward’s accredited certification program, educating the public about issues associated with exporting e-waste, as well as highlighting the worst-case scenarios. Sarah co-authored BAN exposés including films and reports documenting horrific “recycling” in China and Nigeria. Through programs, policy, and education, the e-Stewardship Initiative provides guidance to go beyond inadequate regulations and practices, and better understand existing international laws that pertain to trade in toxic wastes. Sarah has a Master’s Degree in Organizational Systems Renewal from Antioch University, and worked for years as a consultant in organizational development before joining the Basel Action Network in 2001.

If you’d prefer to watch sections of the show rather than the entire show, I’ve broken them down by topic below.

Recycled Paper in Newspapers and Books

The Problem With E-Waste, Web Servers

Online or Print?

Educating the Public

Finding Solutions


Mark Glaser, executive producer and host
Darcy Cohan, producer
Charlotte Buchen, camera
Julie Caine, audio
Location: Vega Project & Kennerly Architecture office space in San Francisco
Special thanks to: PBS and The Knight Foundation
Music by AJ the DJ


Thanks to Vega Project for hosting 5Across

What do you think? Do you consider the environmental impact of the devices you use, and the print products you read? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

This episode of 5Across is brought to you by USC Annenberg’s Specialized Journalism Program. This 9-month program is for mid-career or aspiring journalists. To learn more, go to the USC Annenberg site.