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consistency. making a book. Making the world a better place?  RSS feed

 
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This post is about me sorting through my feelings trying to decide what path I want to take for making my book.  Is it possible to stay consistent with my values in this world?


Yesterday, I received in the post an item I had despaired would never arrive.  It's just a little item, a book actually, but I've waited months for it to make its way over land and sea to my mailbox.  The contents of the book talk about permaculture and more importantly, how to make the world a better place.  

When I turned the key in my mailbox cubbyhole, I was unsure what the parcel was at first.  It was in a paper bubble mailer, the kind with paper on the outside glued to a plastic bubble wrap liner.  Let me stop there to talk about this envelope, because for me it's important and kind of the thing that got me started in this funk.  

Yep, I got in a funk over an envelope.  

As much as I avoid bringing plastic into the home, some sneaks in, like in the form of bubble mailers.  But I live in one of the few cities in the world where we have a plastic recycling system that takes just about every single kind of plastic.  Even some mixed plastic.  In our home, we carefully clean and sort any plastic that we cannot reuse before packing it in the van for our monthly pilgrimage to the recycling depot.  It's so cool there.  They have two rows of bins.  On one side, it's tiny for things like electronics, print cartridges, and batteries - items that are sorted yet further before going in the big bins.  On the other side, they have bins big enough to raise a family in if they weren't full of tires, paper, hard plastic, and if you're very lucky, you get to watch the big crushing machine obliterate cardboard.  At the end of the rows, is the soft plastic and styrofoam station.  Everything has to be well sorted and the guardians of the recycling depot guard this section with enthusiasm that has earned them the undeserved nickname "garbage nazis".  There's plastic that crinkles, bags that crackle, colour, mixed.  All needs it's own bin.  All needs the paper removed.  Any cross-contamination can destroy the entire batch.  

I know, I know, recycling is a band-aid, but it's still a fun day out.

It also means that we go months between putting out our trash bin.  Only that which cannot compost, burn, or recycle goes in the trash.  Mostly just bubble mailers.  

Actually, last garbage day it was only bubble mailers.

Bubble mailers with mixed plastic and paper.  All plastic ones and all paper ones can both be recycled.  But not mixed.


At the corner where the community cluster of mailboxes, I opened the 4th one on the left with my tarnished key, and I saw another mixed bubble mailer.  I wasn't too impressed.  But inside was a real treasure of a book designed to inspire and help us find a better path in the world.  It is from a company whose whole mandate is about improving the world and who has made great steps in teaching and inspiring people all over the globe.  All wrapped in a non-recyclable bubble mailer.  


The last few months, I've spent a lot of time seeking plastic free shipping options.  I ship a fair amount with my etsy shop and hope to ship a whole swack of books in the near future.  It's important to me to be consistent with my values and my values tell me that I want to reduce my impact on the world.  More so, I want to make it easier for others to do so, and so I seek out easily recycled packaging.

It hurt my feelings to see this bubble mailer because I am such a small cog, and yet I have put nearly 100 hours researching how to ship responsibility.  Just before I had gotten to the mailbox, I spent over half an hour talking with the lady at the post office to get her opinion on how different packaging performs and which mailers are worth the extra expense and weight.  And on the way home, here we are.  A big name, a name I love and adore, sends me something beautiful, wrapped without a thought for the impact their packaging has.  I feel shamed.  I feel that I should not be caring about this.



The book itself is lovely.  The content exceptional.  


I've been spending the last few months I've researched how to transform scribbles on a typewriter into a physical book.

It seems I have two ways to go.  I can go the cheap and fast way, which is to use standard stock paper.  But learning about the impact of these choices really bothered me.  

When I was younger, I used to spend a lot of time in one of the old growth rainforests here.  Trees wider than my house, and tall!  So tall.  Giants that reached beyond the sky to grab rain from the blue, and gently wash away any dust we accumulated on the logging road to the forest.  A park now, but not so long ago, it was scheduled to be logged.  Great works by people all over the world saved the valley from the chainsaw.  Giant trees that one could imagine would build 20 houses.  But the trees are too big for the lumber mills and would have become nothing more than paper pulp.  There is something about those trees.  Spend time under them and they leave their footprints on your spirit.  

Haunted by trees like this, I want my book to be printed responsibly.  I don't want to be responsible for the destruction of trees like this.


This book I got, in a non-recyclable bubble mailer, printed on... well, greenwashed paper.  With a cover I know from my research, is not the most responsible choice.  


If they don't mind using these materials, why should I fuss over it?  It certainly is less economical to go the eco-friendly path.  But it is possible.



With my book, I'll have a kickstarter to pre-sell copies to pay for a print run.  But, if I ask for too much money, then I won't get funded and there will be no book.  

Do I go the normal path and say "sucks to be you forest"?  

Do I take the risk and go the eco-friendly path?  

Do I stay consistent with my values when my role models aren't?  


 
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wow, R.  That's some deep experience on that envelope.  I don't envy your situation.  My opinion: I think it's probably best to follow your conscience on this.  You are in this book making thing to make money, sure, but, I have the sneaking suspicion that there is more to making this book then making money; a lot more.   If you compromise on it in such a way that you will endlessly regret it, then that might go on for a long time...  I guess I used the word endless already.  I'm not going to tell you what you should do, because it's not for me to say or decide.  But considering your adamant and very commendable plastic free initiatives, I have a feeling that you will likely keep with your personally committed program.  Hopefully you will be able to find an inexpensive, non plastic option to get your books out there without the ethical conundrum. If I think of anything I will let you know.  And please post about it here if you do find something, as, at some point, I hope to put out a book or two of my own.
 
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I want to say R that I even before this post what I have seen from you talking about your values and your book project has really made me have a lot of respect for you and what you do.

Living according to ones values in our world seems so hard and I always wonder if there is a way to do it without disconnecting in part from the rest of the world. Thinking about books that teach people how to live a better life in regards to their impact on the world... do we look at it as a scale? Where one side of the scale has the negative impact that producing the book has on the world through the printing, writing it on a computer, packaging, etc. and the other side has the positive impacts where potentially a whole lot of people take small actions that reduce their impact. Is the negative impact out weighed by the positive impacts?

For my own book/business projects I have been researching marketing and promotion for well over a year on an almost daily basis to try to get my head around how to get something good like a permaculture book in front of as many eyeballs as possible. But a lot of the methods I see full time writers using rely on environmentally unfriendly methods. If I sell an ebook on Amazon that does not have some of the negatives associated with a physical product but if I try to sell a print book the easiest way that also scales well and works for an independent author not going through a publisher is to use the print on demand services. But from what I can tell these services don't focus on making things environmentally friendly. Plus Amazon always uses those big bubble things in their boxes... And going through Amazon supports them and there are a lot of potential negatives associated with Amazon that would need to be discussed in the cider press so I won't say any more on that.

With the method I'm looking at using I would minimize my risk, I would have more control over my own book (than going through a publisher), and I could reach a much larger audience. Does that negate the negatives on the scale? It could be argued that I would reach a bigger audience and be more likely to be successful so I can keep making books and other products to reach even more people.

I guess the question I have is does it make sense to try to get the good information out to as many people as possible today despite the negative impact so that hopefully enough people will demand better options so that eventually the environmentally friendly option is the normal default choice? But is this essentially just passing on responsibility to others instead of taking responsibility for my own actions/impacts?

Perhaps there is a way to do it all in an environmentally friendly way that I don't know. You have researched that far more than I have. But going back to the idea of disconnecting in part from the world... my gut tells me that using all the best methods for being environmentally friendly will make it harder - not impossible - to scale up and reach a large audience since some of the best marketing methods might not work (print on demand books for example). But at the same time you would so greatly minimize your impact that perhaps people would be drawn to your book because of that and want to support you even more... But would that only be quote and quote preaching to the converted? Those people who would already appreciate the low impact methods you would use? Would the average person care enough to pay more for a product made and shipped using better methods? If not are you losing the opportunity to have a conservation with that person and potentially help them along the journey to potentially sharing and valuing your values?

I don't honestly know... For myself with my business I have been planning on using the methods that would let me reach the most people even though the printing and packaging would not be ideal. Is that bad? I guess my hope is that I will reach enough people to offset the negative. Plus using print on demand services means that I will never print more books than what actually sells which does minimize some waste. I will also focus on ebooks but that has its own negative impact and I will still be selling print versions too... I don't even really have a clue how to calculate the impact that my future books could have both positively and negatively...

So I guess no answers... only more questions...
 
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Do I take the risk and go the eco-friendly path?  

Do I stay consistent with my values when my role models aren't?



Yes! Take the risk!

Letting the money take the lead is how we got in this mess....stick with your values and I think you will stand out and be funded.

I can't wait for my book to arrive in its plain brown paper wrapper.....
 
raven ranson
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I found a local printer that has a wide range of paper and ink options.  What's more, they are already carbon neutral - which means, all waste is either reused or recycled.  All publishers (around here) are like that to some extent, but this one goes well above and beyond the norm.

Local = less shipping to me which saves fuel and environmental costs.  It also saves money because I work two blocks away from them, and can just pick up the books instead of having to pay shipping.

The more I print, the less the per-book expense is.  If I could print 2,000 books, the per book expense of the eco-friendly option would be the same as the per-book expense of the standard option at 500 books - which is a very comfortable price for me because I may need a distributor in some countries.  At 1000 copies or more, I can go with an offset printer (which seems to be the more ecologically responsible choice).  The more I scale up production, the more I can save on per unit cost.  

The larger the scale, the more options I have to be eco-friendly and financially sustainable.  

I don't know if I can sell 2,000 books.  I don't know if I can sell 500.  I'm not writing on a topic that has a huge audience.



I'm thinking about what price to ask for my kickstarter.

If I don't make my funding goal, I don't get funding, so I need to set the goal low enough that I can make it.

I could set it low at the 300 copies of standard printed books.  Then hope I reach the goal amount I need for an eco-friendly option.  But I don't like this option.  I think I would regret compromising on this issue.

Do I ask for enough to print 1,000 copies with the eco-friendly option?  But then, I might not get that goal and the book would be scuppered.

I don't know.  
 
raven ranson
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The more I looked into print on demand books, the more concerns I have about the environmental impact of it.

Pro:
- locally printed to the end user, therefore, less shipping.
- only printing what you sell so that there are no excess books to dispose of later.

cons:
- the author has little to no control over the inks and paper used.
- the quality of the books I have bought print on demand have been poor.
- there is quite a lot of waste from cutting and binding, and not all print on demand people recycle.

With a local printer, I was able to find sizes that fit evenly into the size of the sheets of paper.  That way there is less trim and waste.  This also reduces my expense since there is less waste.
 
Daron Williams
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It sounds to me that you know what you want to focus on and what is important to you. I say stick with that!

I also think a kickstarter is a great way to minimize the risk associated with not using print on demand. For myself I don't want to order a bunch of books and then not have them sell or have to store them while I slowly sell them. But with the kickstarter you negate that risk since you know how many to order in your first batch.

Just to add the other methods to me is not about following the money - being an independent author is rarely the path to riches. But these methods are helpful to reach a lot of people - which is always the challenge for independent authors and really authors in general. Many never sell more than a handful of books. I'm nervous about making something that is already very challenging even harder.

But for you R, I think from what you have posted here and on other threads that you should stick with the options that fit your stated values. Hopefully, with the backing of permies and the community on here we can all help to make sure your kickstarter is successful and you can reach a large audience.

I know I will do what I can to help and I'm sure many others on here will too.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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there is quite a lot of waste from cutting and binding, and not all print on demand people recycle.

 you could voluntarily pick it up and recycle it.  Maybe get some local permie group to help you put it to re-use via sheet mulch,,,, or something?  Maybe Dale will want it for one of his projects?  
 
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First off, I want to say a big THANK YOU, R, for all the attention you've brought to shipping in an environmentally friendly way. I honestly hadn't thought about it much before I read your posts. I'm probably not the only one. Sometimes, we can be really knoweldgeble about some issues, but not on others. Like, I try to reduce toxins in my food, and we bought our 5 acres so we could grow food organically....but when we fixed up our house, I didn't even think about having non-toxic flooring or paint. I was just thinking of getting it done...and the same thing happens with packaging, I think. We just want to get it done, and don't stop to think about the ecological impact of how we do so.

You've got me thinking of how, if I ship my fairies/dragons, I will ship them. I keep and reuse all the bubble mailings that I get in the mail, so I will probably reuse those, first. But, I really want to get better tape, so I'm not covering the pacakage with even more plastic. It was something that never occured to me before I read your plastic-free shipping thread.

Hmmmm, speaking of plastic, do you know of anyone that ships Corrindale roving without plastic? Mine all came in little plastic baggies....

r ranson wrote:
If I don't make my funding goal, I don't get funding, so I need to set the goal low enough that I can make it.

I could set it low at the 300 copies of standard printed books.  Then hope I reach the goal amount I need for an eco-friendly option.  But I don't like this option.  I think I would regret compromising on this issue.

Do I ask for enough to print 1,000 copies with the eco-friendly option?  But then, I might not get that goal and the book would be scuppered.

I don't know.  



Maybe have the 300 copies be the goal, and set the "Stretch Mark" at  $1,000. Perhaps you could offer ways for people to want to pay more than the cost of a book, such as getting their name in a book, or paying a lot extra to get a handmade towel. You would be brining awareness to all who look at your kickstarter of the costs--both economic and ecological--of printing and shipping. That is really, really valuable. I don't think many people even know to think about it. BY having it a stretch goal, people would be (1) more motivated to support you, and (2) more knoweldgable about shipping, and more motivated to ship and print in an ecologically-friendly way.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Perhaps you could offer ways for people to want to pay more than the cost of a book, such as getting their name in a book, or paying a lot extra to get a handmade towel.  

You could charge extra, for eco shipping with super bonus uber padding done with one of your towels!  The people that get in on the advanced pre-order, will get one with the bonus towel, get their name in the eco-supporter list in the acknowledgements or something, and will help offset the costs of the eco friendly shipping for others who will receive it packaged in simple recycled brown paper... or something like that? maybe?  
 
raven ranson
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:

there is quite a lot of waste from cutting and binding, and not all print on demand people recycle.

 you could voluntarily pick it up and recycle it.  Maybe get some local permie group to help you put it to re-use via sheet mulch,,,, or something?  Maybe Dale will want it for one of his projects?  



Print on demand prints in different cities in the world.  

Locally they have to recycle.  One printer gets a poster from the recycling company saying how many trees they saved each year.

Problem is (other than the general problems with recycling) is that the 100% post-consumer paper costs almost double virgin paper.  
 
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It is inevitable to create rubbish that cannot be recycled while we are living our industrialized lives.

You have kids, family, house, paying mortgage, living in a suburb, buying a cheap car that creates a lot of pollution.

Some you can stop some you cannot like the bubble wrap coated envelope.

You can may be compensate by growing trees from seed and sow them in various places guerilla style.

Say every 5 Kg rubbish you create, you grow two trees. One for the rubbish, one for the environment.

They will certainly outlive you and continue to scrub carbon from atmosphere.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Problem is (other than the general problems with recycling) is that the 100% post-consumer paper costs almost double virgin paper.

 pardon my language but that is f&cking retarded.  How can it make more sense economically to log it and haul it and make paper then to recycle it?  It must be that all the paper plants are in the bush towns, and the recycling that is done has to be hauled there to get re-pulped anyway.  We need local paper recycling, I guess, in the cities.  Double!  That's is so backwards. I can't wrap my brain around this economy. sorry.  this isn't useful.
 
raven ranson
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:

Problem is (other than the general problems with recycling) is that the 100% post-consumer paper costs almost double virgin paper.

 pardon my language but that is f&cking retarded.  How can it make more sense economically to log it and haul it and make paper then to recycle it?  It must be that all the paper plants are in the bush towns, and the recycling that is done has to be hauled there to get re-pulped anyway.  We need local paper recycling, I guess, in the cities.  Double!  That's is so backwards. I can't wrap my brain around this economy. sorry.  this isn't useful.



I was asking one of the printers about that very thing today.

She said, in Japan, some printers have a machine that takes their old paper and shreds it, bleaches it, does some other stuff, and out the other end comes paper that is ready to use the next day.

Neat if true.  

This would make a huge difference to the local print industry.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Very neat.  By importing that tech, a person in a place like Victoria could really set up shop to do some good, eh?
 
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R, you have inspired me to rethink a lot of packaging as well.

I laud your efforts...and I think the consistency with your values is important - maybe even vital!!

This guy, Tad Hargrave of Marketing for Hippies, has some interesting things to say about marketing versus the product (or the thing, the service, the experience, etc.). In his mind there is no "versus" - the product IS the marketing.

The values that come with the product, everything about it, IS the marketing. And the typical marketing questions he asks, actually help in multiple ways:  honing one's niche, and even identifying the most likely customers (or book buyers in this case), among other things.

For some reason I couldn't find this video of his on his YouTube channel, it's only on Facebook, sorry; but I think he makes several really good points that are in support of you sticking with your values here.

https://www.facebook.com/hippymarketer/videos/10154679752031962/

It's interesting to me that, in this video, Hargrave mentions that quite a lot of his clients are too general with their business focus, with the implication that their business might not be doing very well because of it.

So...I think making the book, the actual manufacturing making of the book, I see that as integral to you, your values, and the product/book that you offer. It makes it different and inherently valuable in my mind. So while folks tend to think of "marketing" as a dirty thing or almost a type of "con," the way Hargrave views marketing is different and with integrity. It's an extension of the goodness and uniqueness that is you and what your book literally IS.

Put conversely, you could also be repulsive (I think Paul uses this strategy quite a bit--haha!):  https://marketingforhippies.com/repulsive/


Here's hoping going down this path wasn't too off the mark. I just wanted to chime in in support of your Very Good Work.

Wishing you all the best!!


 
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A friend of a friend told a story...

To qualify for the term "recycled paper" paper company A simply sells their waste to company B and vice versa. Tada! recycled paper. As to 100% recycled paper, this article got me thinking, maybe some of the cost is due to the short staple length of the resulting product. Maybe this paper requires a slower printing speed, tying up the machines, so they charge more for this reason.

"Another issue is whether 100% recycled paper is ‘greener’ than, say, 80 or 90% recycled. The reality is that each time paper is recycled, the fibers that control strength grow shorter. For this reason, 100% recycled paper often will not run through high speed printing presses without unacceptably high break rates. Mixing in the longer fibers from only 10 or 15% virgin pulp solves this problem and makes the recycled paper acceptable for high speed printing presses. So while 100% recycled printing paper might SOUND greener, in fact it would not be widely accepted in the market place. Adding in a little bit of virgin makes it a more practical solution, making a product like FutureMark’s paper more commercially competitive and allowing their operation alone to save more than 2 million trees per year

In other words, depending on various factors, buying 93% recycled paper might be a greener choice than buying 100% recycled paper, or even 100% post-consumer – especially when the quality of the final product is critical."

https://www.triplepundit.com/2010/12/100-recycled-anything-sort/
 
raven ranson
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Recycled paper is something I'm thinking about a lot.

I'm also thinking of the perceived greenness of the product vs, the actual greenness of the product - there's some guy around here that talks about this and light bulbs ;p

according to my talk with the printer, here are some of my options:

recycled paper which is usually the cut off bits and bobs from places like a printer. Very clean.  More affordable.

Post-consumer recycled paper is stuff we put in the recycling bin to prevent it going to the landfill.  This often has to be bleached or other chemicals to make it white again. It also contains that bad health chemical from receipts - heat activated ink or something.  I can't remember what it does but it makes the body misbehave.

tree paper which is basically mashed up tree.

And variations and mixes of the different kinds.

Then there is the location where it's made.  How water conserving they are, shipping, blablabla.. on and on and on.  

As for which is the most actually green, I have no idea.  

I should mention, this is how it was presented to me, with the caveat that things are way more complex.
 
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Ranson, i just wanted to comment that you have made an impact already. You are in the back of my head on a daily basis and I'm sure others will say the same thing.

I used to stop and get a bottled water once or twice a day. Now i have a one gallon water jug with me in my truck.

I can't seem to grasp bringing my own bags into a store, but i have gotten good at not getting my stuff bagged. Its either a handful i can carry, or it goes back in the cart and  then into my truck.

The walk up bar b q sandwich place that insists on putting my one sandwich in a bag along with a container for the pickles and one for the onions and one for sauce(just hand me a danged sandwich!). He lost my business.

Its crazy when you start looking. You have me looking.
 
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Thank you all for your kind words.

I hope no one thinks I'm perfect.  I try to be aware of how my decisions affect the world around me, but sometimes I just can't bring myself to do the right thing.  I think it's probably better for the world as a whole that I have at least one cup of coffee a day even though it travels long distances and comes wrapped in plastic.  But I do carry a travel mug if I need caffeination while away from home.  



The more I research, the more I discover that it's economy of scale that can make the most difference.  Amazon, for example, now ships with nearly zero plastic.  In Canada, they choose smaller boxes to fit the product, often combining my orders together to save on packing material.  Postage here is volumetric so packing large but lighter boxes cost more than small heavy ones.  Paper tape, recyclable packaging, and things arrive in better condition than the old way of packing.  They aren't perfect in many ways, but they are making a difference.

I don't have the power of being a large scale company but I do have the power of choosing companies that come close to my values.  

Even if I don't always make the best choices, I try very hard to be aware that I am making a choice.  Every action from wrapping leftovers to buying a cup of coffee can have a direct effect on the world.  It's scary but also kind of neat to know we each have the power and voice to tell big companies what we value.  Every dollar is a vote.  

and now I'm turning evangelical.  sorry.  Stopping now.  
 
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Location: Boston, Massachusetts
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R,
I struggle with getting started, getting things just right, doing "the right thing", finishing things... it can be paralyzing sometimes.
I'm finding that getting something done, delivering, even if it could be better, makes a bigger difference to those on the receiving end.

As far as your book, I'm willing to bet that the world will be better for its existence, regardless of the exact recycled content of the paper. Get the book out there! Infect some minds!

Your big name permaculture author surely meant well, hoping the book would be well received, and in good condition.
Still disappointing about the bubble mailer, although it did reach you in one piece. Which is better than my first try at getting the Rocket Mass Heater book... which got lost. (now replaced, and in R approved chipboard envelope packaging!)  ;-)

It's good that there are some companies doing shipping right, because there are plenty that aren't. One of our suppliers re-uses any old boxes they have, and tosses our stuff in loose(no packing), and of course some arrives broken in torn boxes.
Sure they replace it, but it's a shame. I can only imagine that they save tens of thousands of dollars on shipping supplies, and spend only few thousand on the replacements, which they probably get to write off...
This is the other extreme, they took a good, brand new thing and made garbage, just by mailing it.

I think there's a duty to respect the product being shipped, so it arrives in good condition. Protecting the investment in the materials and work that made it.
 
raven ranson
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Location: Left Coast Canada
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I've found a good middle ground.

The paper has more actual greenness but less perceived greenness.  Aka, the story isn't as great, but I'm very happy with the ecological footprint.  It's also a lot more affordable than the one with the good story.

The further I go into this project, the more I understand how important it is to me to be consistent with my values.  I don't like the idea of saying one thing and doing another.

 
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