Intended for healthcare professionals

How green is The BMJ?

The BMJ is committed to reducing its environmental impact across all the areas in which it operates. As a medical journal, we are profoundly concerned with the environmental determinants of health and with the health consequences of environmental damage and neglect. Our editor-in-chief, Dr Fiona Godlee was one of the founders of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change. Our publisher, BMJ, shares our industry’s commitment to making our business more environmentally sustainable. BMJ’s Green Team brings representatives of every department together every month to identify new initiatives in any area of our activity that might improve sustainability. So keep returning to this page for updates.

The BMJ print editions: greener paper

The BMJ is not produced from trees grown solely for the purpose of being chopped down and turned into paper. In printing the weekly journal, we use only paper created from the waste left over by Sweden’s environmentally-friendly home building industry, which typically replaces environmentally-damaging concrete pillars and cement blocks with wooden beams and planks. Roughly 25% of The BMJ’s paper comes from the forest ‘thinnings’, the young trees identified as unlikely to produce construction grade timber and therefore rooted out, leaving more space for the healthier specimens to grow larger, for 90 years. But the bulk (75% of the wood pulp) comes from the chips and shavings left over from the making of construction timbers. The new paper created in this way for The BMJ can be recycled into fresh paper up to seven times, before typically being turned into biofuel products for instance. The paper mills producing The BMJ’s paper are highly energy-efficient, and have reduced fossil fuel usage by 80% in the last decade by substituting with energy from hydroelectric sources and renewable biofuel, half of which is generated on-site at the mill.

The BMJ print editions: greener wrapping

We're on a journey. A few years ago we replaced our non-recyclable, fossil-fuel-derived polythene wrapping with oxo-degradable plastic. By September 2017 oxo-degradable plastics were being deprecated as a source of microplastics and we switched to a recyclable alternative--but it was still a single-use plastic, and still made from fossil fuels. More recently, paper wrapping has become viable for the first time, capable of wrapping The BMJ from a continuous roll at high speed--essential for a weekly magazine with short deadlines and a large print-run. We began trialling the use of this paper wrap on November 9, 2019 for copies going to nearly 80 000 hospital doctor readers. Over the course of a year (46 issues), that will mean ~3.6 million fewer single-use plastic wrappers from The BMJ. For the remaining 40 000 copies each week, we are trialling a carbon-neutral poly derived from sugar cane waste. This means that none of The BMJ's ~5.5 million wrappers annually is now derived from fossil fuels, and all remain recyclable, as before. We'll monitor the performance of both materials in the coming months, but anticipate wrapping all copies in paper within a year. For further information, see this editorial in the November 9 issue.

BMJ, the company which publishes The BMJ, is determined to reduce its environmental footprint still further, and has introduced many other measures, some of which are captured in the timeline below.

The BMJ offices: greener working

The BMJ’s owner and landlord the BMA, has been recognised for its work to make the building we share more sustainable. Originally built in 1929, before environmental impact was even a consideration in building design, BMA House was recently named one of the ‘Top 3 environmentally conscious venues in London’ by Conference news. It also won Hire Space’s 2019 ‘Greenest Venue’ award for the second year in a row, and achieved the Silver category for ‘Best CSR or sustainability initiative’ at the 2019 London Venue Awards. These awards celebrate a sustained focus on reducing our carbon footprint through initiatives such as:
Achieving zero-to-landfill status in 2016 - meaning all waste produced at BMA House is either recycled or recovered
An annual ‘Sustainability and Health Week’, during which themed activities encourage staff to adopt sustainable practices at work and at home
Achieving the Gold grade for Green Tourism’s Business Scheme in 2017, the largest and most established sustainable grading programme in the world.
Offering ‘Keep-cups’ in the BMA café, to help reduce our use of single-use items
A crisp packet recycling scheme which turns empty packets into plastic pellets to make new recycled products
Replacing standard flushes with water saving devices resulting in a reduction of 5.4 million litres of water used each year
Encouraging staff to use their own food container in the BMA House restaurant to cut use of disposable containers
Promoting a ‘clean air walking route’ to BMA House in conjunction with the Cross River Partnership
Commissioning an eco-audit of all our operations to identify further ways in which we can reduce our ecological and climate impact in the years ahead

∙ Follow-me printing introduced (late 2013)
∙ Removing waste bins at individuals’ desks (2015)
∙ BMA created Corporate Health and Sustainability Group (CHSG) (Jan 2016)
∙ Introduced ‘Cycle to work’ scheme, incentivising cycle commuting with ~30% savings
∙ Switched to only 100% recycled paper in all our office printers and copiers (2017)
∙ Adopted recyclable wrapping for The BMJ (Sept 2017)
∙ Office gym introduced, enabling cycling and reducing short car journeys (2018)
∙ Working only with marketing suppliers who minimise delivery packaging (2019)
∙ Phasing out one-use cutlery and food packaging in our staff canteen (Jan 2019)
∙ Single Use Plastic policy introduced 2019
∙ BMA House Green Audit 2019
∙ Currently investigating potential to carbon-offset business travel