National Geographic—“Practice What You Print!”

November 2, 2010 at 9:12 pm 5 comments

Neil Ward is outraged—and you should be, too.

Ward lives along the Androscoggin River in Maine, which inspired the Clean Water Act of 1972 (CWA). The Environmental Protection Agency claims that the CWA has “implemented pollution control programs such as setting wastewater standards for industry and set water quality standards for all contaminants in surface waters.”  But Neil Ward and the Androscoggin River tell a different story:

“My family has lived along the Androscoggin River for four generations. As a boy, I was taught to stay away from the river because of its polluted state. It was covered with foam and dead fish floating on top of the foam. The river was never safe to be near.”

Androscoggin River pollution, 2005.

Despite the passing of the CWA, Ward says that the Androscoggin is still heavily polluted. It is for this reason that the Androscoggin River Alliance was founded in 2004.

Androscoggin River Alliance

The mission of the Androscoggin River Alliance is “to work together for a healthy river, good jobs, strong communities and to give the citizens of the Androscoggin River Valley a collective voice in the future of the river’s policy, planning and management.”

Neil Ward is the Alliance’s passionate program director. I had the pleasure of hearing his story at the Washington, D.C., Green Festival on Oct. 24.

Who is to blame for the Androscoggin pollution?

The Verso Paper Mill located in Jay, Maine, says that its sustainability philosophy is all about “making the products our customers want and need while leaving the smallest footprint possible.” In spite of its philosophy, Ward says Verso continues to dump 40 million gallons of polluted wastewater per day into the river.Stop polluting the Androscoggin River, Verso!

To offset the pollution, Verso is required to pump thousands of pounds of oxygen per day into the river.

However, Ward says that the oxygen injections still don’t bring the Androscoggin up to even the lowest standards of the CWA.

And the largest customer of Verso goes to…

…National Geographic! The very magazine that promotes a “Green Guide” section purchases about 10 percent of all the paper produced at Verso. It continues to be one of the few magazines that still refuses to print on 100 percent recycled paper. The only recycled content National Geographic contains is on the front cover.

The Androscoggin River Alliance isn’t the only environmental group fighting back

It has teamed up with Maine’s largest environmental organization, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, and Green America’s Better Paper Project to increase the power of its message to Verso. Ward says that Green America has tried for nearly a decade to get National Geographic to incorporate recycled content into its magazine production with no success.

National Geographic, Practice What You Print!

National Geographic—“Practice What You Print!”

How can a magazine that tells its readers how to reduce their Water Footprints do nothing to reduce its own?

Help stop the Androscoggin pollution and tell National Geographic to “Practice What It Prints:”

  • Facebook:
  • Twitter: @GoGreenNatGeo
  • Organize your campus: If you are a high school or college student, get your friends involved with the Practice What You Print campaign. Contact Sophie Glass for more information.
  • Join the Androscoggin River Alliance. Sign up here to join the mailing list and receive the latest news and updates.
  • Voice your opinion. Write a letter to the editor of National Geographic urging him to Practice What He Prints.

Every little bit of pressure we can put on National Geographic to use environmentally friendly printing practices helps!


Entry filed under: Pollution. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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5 Comments Add your own

  • […] National Geographic—“Practice What You Print!” via Green Brief­case […]

  • 2. Sophie Glass  |  November 11, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Thank you for bringing this important issue to life! However, I just learned that Nat Geo claims they only purchase 5% (not 10%) of Verso’s total paper production.

    Keep up the great work!

  • 3. Brittany Macchiarola  |  November 12, 2010 at 2:06 am


    Thank you for the update on the statistics. I will have to look into whether or not National Geographic actually only purchases 5 percent of Verso’s total paper production. It might be logical to think that maybe Verso increased its production, and while it seems as though Nat’l Geographic purchases 5 percent less now, in reality it buys the same amount as before. Just a thought!

  • 4. John Exley  |  November 14, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Brittany, wow…this is an informative post. I can tell you put a lot of hustle into this. Good work.

    The pollution I’ve witnessed in Shanghai is ridiculous. Wait til you get here…you will definitely want to blog about it! I guess it was less awful during the World Expo as they shut down some of the worst polluting companies, but since it ended those companies are back up and running…aka back up and polluting.

    Keep up the hustle, and enjoy your time in China when you come next year.

    – John X

  • 5. Brittany Macchiarola  |  November 16, 2010 at 8:43 pm


    Thanks for the kind words. I am happy to spread the word about a great cause to stop pollution in the Androscoggin. When I heard Neil Ward’s story at the DC Green Festival, it really hit home. I’ve grown up in Ohio along the Cuyahoga, a river that was once so polluted it actually caught fire many times!

    I am discouraged to hear of the pollution in Shanghai. And you best believe I’ll be taking lots of photos and notes for a lengthy blog post. Still, the visit to China will be a great eye-opening experience to the way other people many miles away live their lives. I can’t wait!

    I look forward to chatting with you more in the future!



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