Eco-Mags Go High Gloss

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The New York Sun

It’s getting easier to be green — at least in the publishing world now that interest in protecting the environment is hot. Both Vanity Fair and Elle devoted their May issues to the subject, and Al Gore’s tome about global warming, “An Inconvenient Truth,” has become a surprising bestseller.

“Interest has reached a tipping point in the last couple of years,”director of marketing for the Vermont publishing company Chelsea Green, Beau Friedlander, said. “It isn’t on the fringe anymore. Nowadays doing the right thing can also pay off for publishers. It works in three ways. You have happy, committed employees with a mission.You know you are getting the message out and helping to save the planet. And being green adds green to the bottom line.”

Another sign of the times: this month, a stylish new bimonthly magazine, Verdant, has entered the field. It is published by the same group that produces the upscale Hampton Cottages and Gardens and Palm Beach Cottages and Gardens. Verdant’s preview issue is filled with elegant photo spreads of “socially conscious centerpieces” and vacation villas in the Maldives, as well as features on “The Looming Water Crisis” and energy expert Daniel Yergin.


Edited by Sharon King Hoge, the magazine also mixes a humorous piece by Christopher Buckley about his evolving enviro-consciousness and an organic wine column by Baroness Sherri De Borchgrave with more practical advice on going green from Mindy Pennybacker, the editor of the Green Guide, a bimonthly newsletter.

“We didn’t want to put out a magazine that was boring. We wanted to put out a magazine that showed making smarter choices for better living really could be stylish and beautiful,” Ms. Hoge said. “The reaction has been fantastic. There really is a revolutionary change in thinking going on.”

Verdant’s publisher is magazine veteran Richard Ekstract, an entrepreneur who has created, launched, and sold more than a dozen business and consumer periodicals, many in the electronics field. His introduction to the issue come from his son, Michael, who was the former director of marketing for the U.S. Green Building Council.


“When I was young I read a book about how to make a million,” Mr. Ekstract said, “Its advice was very simple. Find a need and fill it.Well, there was a need for a green publication for people who aren’t tree huggers.”

The magazine will officially launch in March, but the preview issue is currently on sale. “We are aiming for a circulation of 100, 000,” he said. “That’s too small to interest the big publishers like Hearst or Condé Nast. But I think there are tons of advertisers who want to roost their message in a magazine that will be acceptable to them.” Mr. Ekstract notes his Cottage magazines — there is also Connecticut Cottages and Gardens — help defray the overhead costs of his new publication.

There are already other magazines in this field, including Plenty, launched in 2004 by editor and publisher Mark Spellun. The current issue has features on the 10 coolest eco-jobs and an election guide for green voters. The magazine has a circulation of 100,000, and is now sold in


Barnes & Noble, Wild Oats, and Whole Foods, which is a major advertiser.Other leading advertisers in the field are the outdoor clothing manufacturer Patagonia and the hair and skin care line Aveda, which will only place its ads in magazines that use 10% recycled paper.

One established presence in the market is E the Environmental Magazine, which has been around for 16 years and is published by the nonprofit Earth Action Network. E, known for witty headlines such as “The Scoop on Dirt,” also sends out a free online newsletter and a syndicated newspaper column that appears in almost a thousand papers. Publisher Doug Moss said,”We are in lots of small-town papers, right next to kids’ soccer scores, and that is exactly where what we want to be. We don’t want to only preach to the choir, but to take our message to the mainstream.”

A score of celebrities are also doing their part to make the message more attractive to the general public. Vanity Fair, which will publish another green issue in 2007,had Julia Roberts, George Clooney, and Al Gore on its May cover. Elle’s issue was guest edited by Laurie David, wife of Larry David, the star of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”Verdant has a long profile of Bette Midler, the force behind the New York Restoration Project, which cleans up neglected city parks. Simon & Schuster has just announced a series of books about green living to be edited by Deidre Imus, wife of Don Imus.

Other books in the offing this fall include HarperCollins’s “Simply Green Giving,” by Country Home magazine columnist Danny Seo, and DK’s “The Rough Guide to Shopping With a Conscience.” The biggest book of all is called “Worldchanging: A User’s Guide to the 21st Century,” from the art book publisher Abrams, which hopes it will be this decade’s “Whole Earth Catalogue.” It is 600 pages long and gives advice on all aspects of green living. Scheduled for publication in November, it’s the perfect gift to put under that recyclable Christmas tree.

With so much media attention to the subject, politics are not far behind. President Clinton recently announced the formation of a new investment fund, the Green Fund, which is expected to raise more than a billion dollars to help reduce dependence on fossil fuel. The environment is poised to become a key electoral issue across the political spectrum — from liberal Democrats to evangelical Christian conservatives. If so, these books and magazines are just the early crop. Expect to read much more.

The New York Sun

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