There’s a reason we choose to print Moonshine on newsprint, the paper made chiefly from groundwood pulp.

While a glossy magazine has that oh-so-alluring pop, the medium is more toxic in its creation and printing, and its lifecycle is infinitely more difficult to extend. A Moonshine ethos is to walk as lightly as we can on this earth, considering our impacts not just on today, but on the world that will be experienced generations from now. Newsprint meets this goal.

Starting with the words you’re reading — the ink — newsprint is usually printed using soy-based inks, sourced from a renewable vegetable. Meanwhile, glossy inks are most often petroleum-based and high in volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which are chemicals that are lighter than air at room temperature, so they emit as gas. Chemical solvents often contain VOCs — think paint thinners and dry-cleaning chemicals. VOCs are also produced in nature, mostly by plants.


While VOCs play an important part in an ecosystem, the manmade chemicals are proving to be highly toxic, especially indoors. Inside of homes, the concentration of VOCs is usually two to five times higher than it is outside, and it can be up to 10 times higher, according to the EPA.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency explains, “Exposure to VOCs themselves can cause a variety of health effects, including irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat; headaches and the loss of coordination; nausea; and damage to the liver, kidneys, or central nervous system. Some VOCs are suspected or proven carcinogens.”

Moreover, the aftermath of using glossy inks is a factor. A longtime press worker told me that employees have to use harsh chemicals to clean the press after using glossy inks, while with soy inks, they can just use water for cleaning.

It’s incumbent on us to consider the health of both print workers and the world at large when selecting an ink. Given the choice, I’ll go with soy. (Caveat: as with anything in our consumeristic world, you have to read the label carefully. An ink can be called “soy” even if it contains just 7% soy ink.)

Now, for the medium upon which our soy ink sits. Paper is either coated or uncoated. Newsprint is uncoated, which is exactly what it sounds like — paper that has no extra finish. You can tell it’s uncoated because there is no glare on the surface. Coated paper has been treated with a mixture of materials, or a polymer, so the paper is “sealed” and gets a special sheen. The finishes range from matte, dull, satin, and gloss.

Coated paper is known for exceptional crispness in printing, making photos pop off the page. Uncoated paper, being more porous, soaks up ink, and image quality can suffer. Yet, with an attentive design and a press team like ours, we can tease out wonderful results. It’s also said that uncoated paper, with no glare, is more appropriate for reading a lot of text.

Both types of paper — uncoated and coated — can use recycled materials and are recyclable. But the coated version can render paper less recyclable: The pulp is more difficult to extract — and more toxic, as is the case with treatments that use plastic.

Newsprint biodegrades by itself in two to six months and can safely be composted in home gardens — it works wonderfully as a weed-suffocating mulch — because the fibers break down easily and the inks are (usually) non-toxic. I’ve seen varying reports about the compost qualities of glossy magazines, but most sources say steer clear of it. You don’t want to use glossy as fire-starter because one, it doesn’t work as well, and two, the potential toxicity of the ink and the coating are not things you want to send swirling around your house or into your lungs.

To be fair, you can swat a fly with either glossy or newsprint, but that’s not our primary focus here. In fact, we’re looking to do less harm :).

The feeling of a warm newspaper right off the press is one of my favorites. I hope this Membership Update explains why we’ve found a happy medium between getting the word out and protecting your — and the environment’s — health.


  • Mayumi Peacock

    Hailing from a U.S. military family and a graduate of the University of Florida, Mayumi Peacock has lived in several corners of the country and globe, yet Tahoe/Truckee has been her home since 1999. She is founder and publisher of Moonshine Ink, the region’s award-winning independent newspaper, which continues to be created by, for, and of the community. Other passions include family, animals, books, healthy living, and humane food.

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