J500 Media and the Environment

Going green is people! by jseverin


When I wrote my first piece for this site, I had little experience with blogs and had certainly never written a blog post. I had a definite aversion to journalists due to way too many misquotes and misrepresentations in the local papers. And although I have worked in the environmental field for over 7 years, I wasn’t sure just how to reach people that weren’t already part of the choir.

Three months later I am starting to get the hang of things. I’m no pro, but I think I’m starting to find my voice in the blogosphere and discovering the tremendous impact this sort of dialog can have. In the process of reading, watching, listening to, and discussing environmental media, I have learned to appreciate journalists for the difficult task they have to present a balanced and unbiased picture of what’s going on in the world and the huge responsibility that comes with that. Most importantly, I have learned that there is no magic message that is going to help put an end to our environmental woes.

I suppose I knew that all along, and it always bothered me. But the conversation we have engaged in over the past several weeks amongst ourselves and with others from around the globe has put that once disappointing realization into a positive light.

Something Adam Werbach mentioned during our discussion with him on April 24 really resonated with me. He pointed out that in an effort to solve our planetary problems, environmentalists have ignored the challenges that people face in their own lives by focusing on a “new exotic challenge of saving the world”. (My apologies if I misquoted you, Adam.) In other words, it isn’t just about this one overarching problem, but all the individual pieces of that problem. We all have a role to play in creating a more sustainable future, and that means something different to everyone. The goal is to find what that something is.

As the authors of this blog went around the room trying to define “sustainability” this week, it was evident that environmentalism isn’t about polar bears, rain forests, CFLs, wind turbines, organic food, chemical-free products, or all the green “stuff” that is starting to show up on magazine pages and The Oprah Winfrey Show (sorry, Simran).

It’s people. It is people forming relationships with each other, with the environment, with local farmers, and with the processes that bring all that “stuff” into their homes. It is people understanding and re-establishing the forgotten relationships, which probably got us into this mess in the first place. It is people – whether part of the choir or not -communicating with each other to help create the best planet we possibly can. Whether we call it Green, Blue, environmentalism, or sustainability, it is still about people.

It has been an honor writing with and learning from all the people involved in this conversation, and I look forward to continuing the dialog. Afterall, we still have to go about the dirty work of saving the world.

– Jeff Severin


Plastic Presents In My Mailbox by kimwallace

NOTE: This is a makeup post from one of the weeks when I was gone. Please comment! —Kim

I am a magazine fanatic. I subscribe to seven (7!) lucky magazines that live in neat, organized stacks in my bedroom, bathroom, coffee table and other places around my apartment.

Each month, I squeal with delight when I find my mailbox stuffed with glossy pages of fashion, beauty and other photographic delights. It’s like getting a present each month, even though the present is basically re-gifted (does that count as green?) ideas from the previous month/season/year.

To make this monthly present really seem like a present (that you paid for in advance or keep getting $12 collection notices about, grrr), some publishing houses are taking it upon their marketing genius to encase their glossies in a fine cloud of….plastic packaging.


photo by kim wallace

Yay! So I get see-through wrapping paper, at no additional cost, to put all those annoying blow-in cards (you know, the millions of rectangular subscription cards that magazines pepper themselves with each month) inside.

Wrong. The additional cost is huge. Of the seven magazines I subscribe to, five of them are delivered to me in plastic each month. That’s 60 pieces of plastic packaging that ends up in the landfill from me, via these publishing companies, each year.

The publishing company’s only legitimate reason to send shrinkwrapped magazines, I think, is to save on postage. Most times, there’s always something extra in that packaging—a bill (ahem), a renewal notice (which leads to another bill), a solicitation from a sister magazine, or some other little “bonus” booklet from the magazine. (FYI, my “little bonuses” this month were renewal notices.)

In an effort to combat this waste that overtakes my bathroom trash can, I have devised a greening plan for the magazine industry that includes other areas of the publishing process.

Don’t use plastic packaging! If you really want me to feel like I’m getting a present each month, pay for a subscription for me (and offer me a job when I move to New York in a couple of years.)

Quit sending me renewal notices (and bills!). Switch to an all electronic system for notices, or if you must, offer switch incentives to people who receive paper notices.

Stop going crazy green only for your March/April issues just because Earth Day is April 22. Incorporate green, even if it’s just a column, every month, because face it: every day is Earth Day. Challenge your readers to try new green things, even if they are of the light green shade.

Consider soy or vegetable ink for your printing needs. Soy ink has low VOC (volatile organic compound) levels, which keep your book from smelling like death. And, soy ink produces just as rich and vibrant colors as conventional, toxic ink produces.

Promote the reuse and recycle aspect of the 3R’s with your publication. Encourage pass-along to your subscribers (this increases readership and will likely gain you Web traffic from curious newbies) and be more courageous with your recycling campaign than the “Please Recycle This Magazine” symbol on your masthead. Realize your power.

Incorporate that slogan at the end of each editor’s note (some readers idolize particular editors—if you can convince me to *buy $300 shoes, you can convince me to recycle a magazine!).

And, of course, do all the necessary office revisions (things us readers usually don’t see, unless of course, you’re in the magazine world): Use CFLs, stock your vending machines/kitchens with local/organic food, dim the lights (it makes for easier vision when your glamorous editors are hunched over their Macs) or try to use natural/New York City streetlights when possible.

Let us know what you’re doing to be green! We love hearing this positive stuff, and it encourages us, the readers, to be more like you—trend or no trend, light or dark green. Your power is ENORMOUS and what you do influences us all. Make sound, thoroughly researched choices.


*I have never actually been swayed into buying $300 shoes, though I’m sure millions of women, with the power of Visa, have!

Niche Media’s Green Obligations? by genghiskuhn
February 18, 2008, 4:37 pm
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags: , , , , ,

Bryan Welch opened his presentation last Thursday with a reiteration of a well-known journalistic truth: fair-and-balanced sucks. Instead, he proposed a more palatable idea: the journalist’s duty is to present his or her best crack at The Truth.However, Mr. Welch’s reply to a question addressing hot-button green issues pointed in an entirely different direction: “Well, for example, Utne readers like to be challenged.” This statement’s unspoken half, unfortunately, is that the readers of Motorcycle Classics DON’T like to be challenged. From presenting The Truth (sorry about the caps, I just can’t help it!), we’ve suddenly shifted gears to “creating communities of readers”. Is this Facebook or the news? When coupled with the intense user-feedback mechanisms he described, this means people will never have to read anything that upsets or challenges them.

The upshot: Do informed niche-media journalists have a duty to present green material in publications with anti-green readership? If so, how should they go about it?

(Next time: Natural Home AND Motorcycle Classics?!: Media Diversification Makes John Uncomfortable)

John Kuhn