Campaign FAQs

Smithsonian: Practice What You Print
From production to disposal, paper contributes to the dangerous impacts of climate change. Paper production is the fourth largest industrial source of greenhouse gas emissions in the US. Additionally, paper products account for 40% of solid waste in US landfills, where they decompose and release toxic methane gas in to the atmosphere, which has 23 times the heat trapping power of carbon dioxide. The EPA states that recycling one ton of paper saves 3.3 cubic yards of solid waste from entering a landfill – meaning fewer methane emissions. Every ton of 100% recycled copy paper (which can go into a magazine like Smithsonian) saves 17 million BTUs from being used in making virgin paper…that’s enough to power the average home for over two months!
Smithsonian Institution has made symbolic commitments to sustainability, but when it comes to producing its publication, Smithsonian Magazine, it’s falling short. Smithsonian Magazine is printed on 100% virgin fiber paper. Smithsonian Magazine acquires its paper through a partnership with Time, Inc. Time publishes 90 magazines, producing hundreds of millions of copies every month, none of which are on recycled paper. Encouraging Smithsonian Magazine to incorporate recycled content will start the conversation within Time to move more of its publications to recycled paper. Smithsonian is also a highly respected institution and publisher. By getting Smithsonian to go green with its magazine, it sends a message to the entire publishing sector that consumers expect recycled paper to be part of a publisher’s commitment to being green.
Smithsonian Magazine publishes over 19 million copies every year, requiring almost 65,000 trees, or enough trees to fill five National Malls. Just by incorporating 30% of recycled paper into its production, Smithsonian would:
  • Lower its annual wood use by an equivalent of more than 19,000 trees.
  • Reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 2 million pounds of carbon dioxide each year.
  • Lower its annual water consumption by about 14 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
  • Keep 707,000 pounds of solid waste from going to the landfill.
Environmental impact estimates were made using the Environmental Paper Network Paper Calculator Version 3.2.1 For more information visit
We’re calling on Smithsonian to…
  • Start by committing to switch to 30% recycled content paper in its flagship magazine, by 2017.
  • Adopt and implement a “best in class” environmental stewardship policy that guides continual improvement of paper use practices.
  • For the virgin paper needed, only use fiber sustainably managed from Forest Stewardship Council certified forests
Yes, more than 100 publications currently print on recycled paper. If National Geographic and Fast Company can use recycled paper, Smithsonian Magazine can, too! (We’re proud to report that at Green America all of our publications and printed materials are on 100% post-consumer recycled paper.)
Recycled Content Like many people, you might see the word “Recycled” on a product and assume that it’s a high quality recycled product. Unfortunately the product can contain anywhere from 1% recycled content all the way to 100%. Look for any indication of the percentage of recycled content on the product package, such as 30% post-consumer recycled paper. Also, be conscious of the terms “recyclable” or “please recycle”. While these mean that the product CAN be recycled, they do not signal that there is any recycled content in the product. Certification There are a few different certifications to look for when buying a paper product. We advise seeking out the FSC seal (Forest Stewardship Council), a certification program that ensures products are made with as little impact to the environment and nearby communities as possible. If the product you are buying has non-recycled fibers in it, make sure it is FSC. Learn more here:
That’s great! If you love to support Smithsonian, take action with us! Smithsonian Magazine needs to hear from its visitors that making the move to recycled paper is the right choice for the planet and a great way to follow through on its sustainability aims. Sign our letter and consider calling Smithsonian to voice your concerns at 800-766-2149.
If you are a member and receive the magazine, it is very important for Smithsonian to hear from you! Please make sure to take action here and check the box that says “I am a Smithsonian subscriber and member!” You can also call the magazine at 800-766-2149.
The “Smithsonian: Practice What You Print” campaign is led by Green America, a not-for-profit membership organization founded in 1982. Green America’s mission is to harness economic power—the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace—to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society.
If you would like to support the campaign or participate in events please email Beth Porter, program director, at bporter@ We would love to hear from you!