The Dogwatch Mail Buoy – September 2018
PLASTIC OR NAKED?
Last month I put it to the readers about whether you think we should continue sending our magazine out into the world in single-use plastic polybags or send it naked and unprotected against weather and the man and machines employed by the postal service. We heard from well over 250 readers. Despite my call for a simple “plastic” or “naked” vote, many respondents were emphatic and thoughtful in expressing their preference. Before I present the results, let me clarify a couple things that a few folks seemed confused about.
First, there is no option to send wrapped magazines to some addresses and unwrapped magazines to others.
Second, many readers assumed that ditching the plastic would be a cost savings and that we are aiming to ditch the plastic bags to save money. Just the opposite. We’ve tried going bare in the past, on a few occasions, and the result has been a marked and sustained increase in the number of damaged issues we need to replace. Fielding and fulfilling these requests, one by one, is expensive in terms of manpower, postage, and product (and it stokes ill will in some of our subscribers). Therefore, the status quo, shipping the magazines in plastic, is less expensive than not. Plastic is a cost-saving measure, not an expense. If this were strictly a financial decision, we’d keep the plastic without question.
But we did question, because we believe plastic has its place in this world (including the manufacture of sailboat hulls), but there is no good that comes from producing and using plastic unnecessarily.
We received 110 emails from readers requesting that we ship our product naked. We received 121 emails from readers requesting that we ship our product in the plastic bags we currently use, no change. Many of the naked folks urged us/begged us to get rid of the plastic for environmental reasons. Many of the plastic folks urged us/begged us to keep the plastic as it’s our responsibility to get our product to them in like-new condition.
We also received just over 50 emails from readers who want the magazine protected in some way, but suggested we find an alternative to plastic.
So the conclusions we’ve drawn are:
- there is a strong consensus for protecting the magazine
- there is a strong consensus for finding a plastic alternative
Accordingly, we will continue to ship our product in plastic polybags while exploring other options. Our printer doesn’t currently offer an option other than plastic polybags. I’ll keep everyone up-to-date on what we learn and decide in future issues of The Dogwatch. In the meantime, we encourage all subscribers to find another use for your Good Old Boat protector. Our bags are made from a low-density polyethylene, among the safest in terms of food exposure. It’s the same stuff that protects loaves of bread in the supermarket. For those without a dog or a sandwich to bring to work, the bags are recyclable, at any place that accepts plastic recyclable code #4.
And now just a few of your excerpted thoughts…
Plastic please, I promise to recycle it. –Steven Wiggins
As you are celebrating your 20th anniversary, send it out in its birthday suit. –Paul Alcock
I think reducing the waste stream is vital to our planet. –Graham Blundell
I’d rather have plastic than a torn magazine. However, I’m not going to fall on my sword about it. I very much prefer hard copy to electronic. Yes, it’s old school, but I like the feel of a real magazine. –Peter Triandafillou
I am for no plastic…I’ve asked other publishers of magazines that my wife and I receive to discontinue the plastic. Enough is enough. –Jim Schaub
As long as we appreciate the tactile feel of real magazines, you don’t have any choice but to continue cover protection. Perhaps a plain paper cover might be more economical, and recyclable. However, that alternative would probably require new equipment and other capital expense. This magazine is not cheap, so increasing the cost for different cover protection would to be appreciated. Keep up the good work. This is one of the few magazines I always read from cover to cover the day it arrives. –Jim Simons
I definitely prefer the magazine be protected by plastic during shipment. Yes, there may be a few irresponsible individuals who fail to properly dispose of the wrapping, but I do not think the majority should be penalized for actions of the few…I have many uses for these “single use” bags and am not looking forward to their demise. –Bruce Cutcliffe
We are a good old boat family and we don’t mind a few dings and dents in the magazine. Also, not having plastic wrap would allow the mail carrier to browse the magazine, perhaps generating another subscriber! –Dennis Kirk
I would rather not get the plastic wrap for my Good Old Boat magazine, but would like to have the magazine show up in one piece, which sounds like it has been an issue in the past. National Geographic has switched from the plastic wrap to a paper wrapper that seems to be holding up well through the post office. They have also switched to PEFC-Certified paper (PEFC/29-31-58) which seems to be a standard to ensure the paper source is sustainable and legit. Plastic has become so embedded in our daily lives that it is sometimes tough to find eco-friendly substitutes. But we must start somewhere. I have started a “Go Green” at my local sailing club and have become the recycling guy. This has caught on at the club and most are looking at ways to recycle, re-purpose and cut down on our consumption. –Joe Cloidt
I put the plastic cover in the recycle container after removing, that’s got to be better than the waste of printing extra magazines and the fuel used to deliver them. –Dave Bonzon
Although I appreciate a copy in new condition, I don’t particularly like what the postal service (both US and Canadian) does to magazines. But I don’t like excess plastic either. What ever happened to paper wrap? I recall Playboy arriving in a brown wrapper back in the 1980’s (last time I subscribed, damn I’m getting old!). Is it cost effective? I’m all for naked delivery! With the PDF now available online I may defer to that alone, time will tell. –Bert Vermeer
Most of my better magazines come in a plastic bag. I keep most of my magazines for a long time. If they are going to get messed up, I would prefer to do it, not the mailman. I am for the plastic cover or some other protective cover. –Henry Fleming.
I prefer the plastic, please (please and please!). I have had to contact Practical Sailor more than once to get a new copy due to USPS damage. Thanks for asking! –Warren Beaver
I vote for whichever makes sense for you! You could suggest that the “want to see it naked” supporters try to cut one other plastic bag out of their life each month as a “bag credit.” Some local clerks around here have called me “the bag lady” because I started using reusable shopping bags long before it was cool. However, protecting a magazine in the way you do is a good use for a plastic bag. –Linde Lynn
I’m all for going naked. If the New Yorker can do it so can you. –Bob Rivituso
Not a fan of plastic here. I’ll put up with the occasional tear. –Mark Millan
As a reader, I wouldn’t hold the publisher responsible for wear and tear during mailing. Plastic is a MAJOR problem in our society and therefore less is better. Ditch it and save money and tell readers that is the way it goes, or they can go digital. –EJ Ohler
I don’t need the plastic. Thanks for thinking about how to reduce your use of this stuff. –Jim Johnson
Perhaps the tide is indeed turning on plastic and you should turn on it as well. Most good old boats show signs of wear and I don’t mind if my magazines do too…..I promise never to complain. –Randy Cadenhead
Keep the wrap….the gorillas in the back room of the post office chew on almost anything not wrapped. –Carl Heintz
Keep the plastic. Thanks for asking the readers! –Erik Stavrand
I can handle the wrinkles. We can’t handle the excess plastic. –Jeff Kantor
I prefer that my magazine arrives intact; plastic for me…I take the bags to the grocery store recycle bin periodically, so they don’t end up in the land fill or the ocean. –Mike Montesinos
I hate adding more plastic to the waste stream, but my mail carrier tends to not shut the mailbox, so my copies get ruined if it rains before I get to them. Plastic covers are probably the lesser of 2 issues for me. –Daniel Case
Plastic bags work well because they keep the magazine closed when it’s stuffed in a mailbox. Please note that a plain brown paper bag works the same way and is much more environmentally friendly. Of course, your neighbors will think you are getting porn…and well, maybe you are, boat porn… –Stan Clark
I want to see it naked or, if others prefer clad, then do as National Geographic now does, a paper wrapper. –Peter Bigelow
Being a problem solver in boating and work, [I know] there is a possible solution to the potential for damage [to unwrapped magazines]. Can the printer generate the front page wider and with a sticky-backed fold-over (like peel and seal envelope) that would bind the front cover over to the back cover? Readers could then zip it open with a letter opener. Maybe this is more cost, too much work, but just thinking. FYI, sometimes mine shows up late, bag open/taped, thinking the posty detoured it for a good read. –Keith Moore
One has to put the cat shyte in something. Carry on. –David Scandrett
I wonder what the cost would be to wrap a sticker around the edge of each mag? If that’s impractical (or wouldn’t solve the problem) then count me as a bare-naked mag vote. –Ginger Clark
How about wrapped in waxed paper as a compromise? Tell your printer to invest in other options. –Stephen Robinson
A little wear and tear from the post office is fine. No plastic wrapping, please. –Michael Grillo
Use compostable plastic. –Frank Farwell
Please wrap it in paper, not plastic. We can then reuse or recycle the paper cover. I like the magazine arriving in great condition but hate plastic. I am a publisher too, so I understand [receiving] issues the post office damages. Say no to plastic! –Dale Bowen
I’m asking you, I’m imploring you, I’m begging you on broken hands and swollen knees, please don’t stop wrapping my sacred copy of Good Old Boat in its proprietary, protective, purposeful, and pleasing plastic wrapper. After all, we are dealing here with the USPS. And yes, I know there are some good, caring and understanding postal folks who do slip through the cracks of the initial screening and end up actually handling the mail. [But they don’t work at] my post office in Palmer, Alaska. I’ve heard it said that each and every postal employee in Palmer, Alaska, is…given milk money, jelly beans, and Dove bars [as a reward] for overstuffing mail boxes….For those employees, it’s a welcome challenge when you notify the post office that you’re going on vacation and would like them to “hold” the mail. In Palmer, Alaska, “hold” translates to “cram”, “stuff,” or “mutilate.” In most post offices, when you return from vacation there is a slip of paper you take to the counter to retrieve your mail. Not so in Palmer, Alaska, no sir! In Palmer, Alaska, you can’t even turn the lock on your P.O. box when you return! [After just two weeks away, I’ve found] first-class mail, junk mail, 12 sailing magazines, catalogs from every mail-order business that’s ever been in business, 14 yards of Sunbrella fabric from a certain DIY vendor, deck boots from Uncle Bean, and an inflatable dinghy—all in my regulation 5.5-inch by 3-inch P.O. box…[However,] since you good folks at Good Old Boat went back to putting Good Old Boat in its beloved plastic sleeve, the postal employees in Palmer, Alaska, have not used it as a flotation device, placed it on the ground in front of the Employees Only entrance for use as a door mat, or used it as a ram-rod to pack 14 days of mail into my 5.5 X 3 inch “regulation” postal box. It has remained intact… –Jack Dunlap
I love getting Good Old Boat magazines that arrive in such excellent shape! I realize it might be not as environmentally responsible to have the issue wrapped in plastic, but it is one of my few indulgences to subscribe to a magazine and I really enjoy not having it frayed and torn. I hope most readers feel the same way. –Lisa Johnson
Wendy Saliin and I are long-term subscribers (I believe since 2009). We would prefer that you do not use plastic covers. We save all copies, but they are not museum pieces. We believe the environmental impact and added cost are unwarranted. –Jason Wall
My vote: naked. And for those with an environmental conscience, how about [choosing] an iPad-only subscription? –Rich Cassano
No plastic, I’ll take my issue well-seasoned. –Jim Shinners
Bag them. I second-use them when I walk my pup. –Robert Hopkins
I appreciate the protection the plastic provides, but I think the world must do something about The Plastic Problem. Every little bit helps, so I go with no plastic. –Colin Smart
Prefer the plastic, rural mailboxes aren’t always waterproof. –David Andresen
If there is a bio-degradable alternative to plastic that does just as good of a protective job as plastic, then change to it. Otherwise, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! –Pete Begich
I’d prefer plastic-wrapped. We can recycle the plastic at numerous stores, and it ultimately has less environmental impact than recycling a USPS-mangled magazine. Not to mention less frustrating. Thanks for asking; it’s refreshing to see this level of interest in user satisfaction. –Pete Heinlein
Cheers from Canada. Up here all stretchy plastic is recycled 100%. Please continue bagging my Good Old Boat. –Derek Barrio
We recycle, pick up floating trash when sailing, and scorn people who fail to take care of the planet. I’m sick of the absurd political correctness from people who think removing the protective covering of OUR magazine will enhance the environment. If they feel that strongly, they can order a digital subscription. I, for one, often open my copy of Good Old Boat on my Good Old Boat. I want it fresh enough to smell the ink and crisp enough to go back through it at least three times. Keep the wrapper and offer a discount on digital subscriptions. –Harvey Hauschildt
Editor note: As of July 2018, we do offer a discount on a digital-only subscription. A 1-year digital-only subscription is $29.95—a $10.00 discount off the 1-year print+digital subscription.
I prefer naked. I’ve never requested a replacement issue despite receiving some bruised—and I save all my issues. –Cary Andras
What about using a paper sleeve in lieu of the plastic bag? It won’t save a magazine from rainwater in an open mailbox, but is otherwise good protection. –Steve Carr
I prefer plastic. It’s more wasteful and disappointing to have to replace wet and damaged issues. –Peter Mora
I’d like to see you try “no plastic” again. I receive magazines in both formats and haven’t noticed excessive damage to the unwrapped magazines. –Joe Malon
Tough choice. I like the pristine copy mailed in plastic. I recycle the plastic, but every other mag I get is not wrapped and there are very, very few problems. I suspect that those who’d object to “no plastic” are motivated by their habit of effectively archiving their issues for later reference. I’m easy either way with a slight preference for no plastic. –Ken Young
I vote plastic. Climate in eastern Canada is what it is, good old mailman is what he is. Plastic please! –Remy Knoerr
I prefer to see it naked. I abuse it quite well after I open it anyway, because I read it several times! –David Carstens
Ship the magazine without the plastic. [Find a way to seal] the pages shut so they don’t open and aren’t subject to damage. I think this can be done with a sticker or removable tape. –Andrew Sinclair