Better Paper

GOAL: Empower the magazine industry to go green to protect forests, climate and communities.

  • Status: Ongoing
  • Focus Area: Emerging Opportunities
  • System targeted: Magazine Publishers, Printers, and Paper Mills
  • Start Date: 2001
  • Contact: Beth Porter,, 202-872-5356.

 For more information go to the Better Paper website:


The Better Paper project was launched in 2001. At the time, few U.S. magazines were printed on recycled paper, and many went unreadtrees were going straight into the landfill. To build demand, Green America formed a network of magazine publishers and helped numerous magazines, including Fast Company, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and many others, make the transition by providing technical assistance.


With an official position that virgin paper is environmentally preferable to recycled paper, industry opposition has been a key barrier to our work. To overcome this hurdle, we worked with National Geographic, a leader in the publishing industry, to fund an independent life cycle study (LCA) comparing the environmental benefits of recycled and non-recycled paper. This independent study found that recycled paper was the better environmental choice on all 14 dimensions measured. 

The results of the LCA study and National Geographic’s eventual switch to recycled paper was featured widely in publishing trade magazines and has reverberated among major publishers, feeding directly into our work with one of the world’s largest publishers to implement the most progressive paper sourcing policy in the U.S. 

Timeline of Success 

  • 2001 Nearly 100% virgin paper; Almost none is recycled; Highly resistant to change; Shifting industry
  • 2002-present Worked with mills to improve magazine recycled paper options; Worked with Printers to overcome resistance to recycled fiber papers
  • 2013 National Geographic conducts sustainability analysis of recycled paper and demonstrates superiority of recycled fiber for the environment
  • 2013 National Geographic begins to incorporate recycled fiber into its magazines
  • 2013 National Geographic conducts sustainability analysis of recycled paper
  • To date we've helped nearly 200 publishers switch to recycled fiber papers