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Green is the New Glossy...but the Glossy Isn't Green
Sarah Rich, 30 Mar 06

leibowitz3453454-1.jpg It's happening. Entertainment media has tipped beyond talking about sustainability to actually embracing green as their new favorite shade of cool. For 2006, green is the way to display a fashion-forward, tech-savvy sensibility, as dictated by such trend authorities as Elle, Vanity Fair, and Wired.

If you haven't yet caught the buzz about the glossies going green, you'll have no choice but to notice when the next issues hit stands in May. The special issue of Elle was guest edited by celeb environmental activist and NRDC trustee, Laurie David, and underwritten in part by Aveda, whose environmental advocacy has led to the use of recycled paper in a number of magazines.

Vanity Fair has, among other things, done a photo spread of green bloggers and online personalities (though they missed some important ones...ahem). And Wired's green issue will have an introduction from none other than our own Alex Steffen.

But just as I was in the midst of writing this, news arrived through the trusty blogosphere that in fact Vanity Fair has extracted all the chlorophyll from their green agenda. The articles will still be eco-focused, but the pages, which were supposed to be produced with recycled content, will now be 100% fresh tree. According to Muckraked's calculations, this single issue probably used up to 2,247 tons of pulp, and produced up to 4,331,757 pounds of greenhouse gases,13,413,922 gallons of wastewater, and 1,744,060 pounds of solid waste throughout the printing process. (Figures which were conveniently calculated using Environmental Defense's Paper Calculator.)

Elle, on the other hand, has managed to use 10% post-consumer content (better than nothing) and still achieve that glossy look readers depend on. As for Wired, we currently have no information on the composition of their paper. And of course, though a magazine doesn't consist of all that many ingredients, the whole paper charade overlooks a few other environmental factors, such as the ink, the ad inserts, and the overproduction in which all magazines take part (most sell only half of what they print).

In spite of the details, the media has made their green proclivity known far and wide. Is it a trend? Absolutely: in addition to the mags, this year's Oscars had a green slant, as did the last Sundance Film Festival, and PBS will soon be airing a series on green design, with a feature appearance by our Cameron Sinclair and narration by Brad Pitt. In May, Cannes will have its first green festival, and recently the SF Chronicle discussed the greening of online media.

Of course, we delight in the acceleration of coverage and enthusiasm for all things green. But as they spread into editorial departments where the ideas are still mostly Greek, what of the quality and accuracy of the information that gets published? Will editors shy away from making suggestions of the necessary magnitude, when they want to keep from jarring their audience?

At this cultural juncture, "green" is as much of a PR opportunity as any before - we'd be fools to deny it. But the fact of its sex appeal does not have to negate the potential for real, sustainable change. It may seem like a fad at such a frenzied moment, but I should think that melting ice caps and fierce natural disasters might trump the typically temporary nature of faddism, and affirm that green living will be a good idea long after Brad's worn holes in his organic dungarees.

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It's encouraging to hear that main stream culture is jumping on the green ban-wagon.

I came across a david suzuki article a while back on celebrities that use hybrids, ikt's mainly about the technology but still worth a read.



Posted by: Vincenze on 30 Mar 06

I think the message to pass on here is: good, but not good enough!

Posted by: Tony Fisk on 30 Mar 06

It's encouraging to hear that main stream culture is jumping on the green ban-wagon.

I came across a david suzuki article a while back on celebrities that use hybrids, ikt's mainly about the technology but still worth a read.



Posted by: Vincenze on 30 Mar 06

People still read magazines?!

Seriously, if more people would stop subscribing to hardcopy they only read small portions of, if direct marketers would stop sending us dead trees we never read, the world would be a better place.

Posted by: Pace Arko on 31 Mar 06

Tony and Pace...

Do you have any suggestions how Magazine owners and celebrities could make even more contributions to the environment?

Perhaps a viable alternative to hardcopy subscriptions?

Just curious.



Posted by: Vincenze on 31 Mar 06

In addition to the Design e2 series, PBS has other series on the way this spring and summer:Edens Lost & Found from Wiland Bell and Natural Heroes from GreenTreks. I'll be hosting a conference call with the producers in April. You can find out about the call by visiting the US Partnership for the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development and hopefully joining as a partner (it's free). The focus of the call is not just the content of the series, but increasing the reach and impact of such programming (Wiland Bell's focus is on using the films as catalysts for community futuring) and increasing demand (GreenTreks's site has ecards for spreading the news and a cool interface for persuading local PBS programmers to run the shows.)
And later next summer/fall, Dr. James Martin's Meaning of the 21st Century" will be available to the PBS system. He says, "The new book 'The Meaning of the 21st Century' and the related TV series, is aimed at 15-30 year olds, whom it calls 'The Transition Generation'. If they get it wrong, we won't have a planet. Spread the news."

Posted by: Will on 31 Mar 06


Yes, publish it on the Internet.

Considering all that has happened in the last twelve years, I'm surprised anyone needs to ask. The Internet has destroyed or radically altered most traditional methods of distributing content.

Fewer trees would have to be ground up for pulp if publishing execs and marketing weasels would finally give up the old ways and accept this.

Posted by: Pace Arko on 31 Mar 06

magazines published on the internet would be fine except for the huge segment of the population that cannot afford a computer at home or internet access.

Posted by: pam on 31 Mar 06

I'm not sure I can personally reconcile my love of magazines with my desire to tread lightly on the earth, but your post definitely inspired me today to muse about what "green" means (

Thanks for sparking dialogue!


- Amy

Posted by: Amy on 31 Mar 06


I agree digitial delivery of information is the way forward, and it seems to be headed that way indifferent to the environmental benifits it will ensue. But as Pam said, not everyone has access to the net, eventually hopefully we all will... but we shouldn't disadvantage those who don't have access for what ever reason.

That said, I doubt the big media companies are supplying paper copies of their magazines just for the internet-poor... and there's just something about actually holding a book and reading it that's better than reading from a screen... eventually maybe we'll have computerised newspapers (like in the movie Minority Report) that would be great.

Bottom line, internet publishing is the begining but certianly no the end silver bullet.


Posted by: Vincenze on 1 Apr 06

ok this may seem gossipy, but i think we have all established that glossys can do better (Earth Island paper is great and anyone really wanting a glossy paper can get it from the Living Tree peeps in Eugene OR their paper is totally pro (but made with hemp)

so the gossipy part: 1) i noticed that Graham Treehugger who was at that photo shoot is absent from the pic. Same with Chip Grist. is that the actual pic (i doubt it cause its lebowits not seliger)?? why would he get cut out of it?

And how could they think of doing something on the green blogspeher without including worldchanging?? and what about the Viridian Movement?? Woudl any of this have happened without that movement? That is totally lame (almost as lame as them including Ideal Bite) but i guess it goes back again to the whole issue of what intent one has when they can't even use non murdered pulp to print. Conde Nasty.

Posted by: lee on 1 Apr 06

All - just to clarify, these green issues are not yet out. The picture here is indeed a Liebowitz cover shot from quote some time ago (you'll notice some of your favorite Hollywood babes). Graham and Chip will be there, as well as Heather and Jenn from Ideal Bite, and a few others.

As for print vs. online, I certainly acknowledge that not everyone has access to the internet, but at the same time most glossy fashion rags cost at least $5, if not more. So picking up a stack of magazines each month is actually not cheap at all - more than a month of an internet connection! (but less than the cost of a computer, of course). With a free membership to a library, internet access is entirely free, so in reality, I think the argument holds less and less merit the more widely internet access is offered as a public service.

Posted by: Sarah on 1 Apr 06

We've been pitching a cradle-to-cradle green fashion magazine prototype to HachetteFilipacchi since 2001... so you can see where some of these oh, not so new green trends might be leaking from! More like eons in the making, since I was the first one while at Wetlands, the environmental nightclub we created back 1989, to advocate the exact same thing way before the Net made instant worldchanging communications possible. I did get Vogue to publish their first ever 6 pages editorial on how the planet was going down the proverbial toilet, but they omitted to credit the seed material. i.e. yours truly!!! Wetlands at the time was also promoting the first ever environmental magazine of its kind, E The Environmental Magazine, out of the club. Then came Buzzworm and Garbage, who lasted as long as their green surface sheen. We got Mademoiselle and Seventeen to create Save The Planet pages that lasted about 3 years after Earth Day 1990. This is just a case of history repeating itself. Difference is the only ecolutions they were up to providing - do as I say, not as I do - didn't go past compost and recycle - it all died down mid-90's. And I wasn't around to keep up the pressure. Too busy digging up the truth about why energy conversion technologies were being suppressed by the oil companies! Took another decade for the CondeNast building to grow photovoltaics, and for trade professionals to realize it was about greening their own industry, not about telling everybody else what to do! But my birth place is at Hachette. So that's where I am focusing my interest now. I aim to green the entire company inside out! If anyone is interested in cranking up the volume, logon to Lü magazine. If anyone doubts my resolve here, keep in mind I am only carrying on my dad's work, since he's the guy who more or less got ELLE off the ground in 1945, and shot all the covers till the late 50's, then became a staunch environmentalist, a behind the scenes figure with the Club of Rome. But Hachette has since been bought up by the largest Defense contractor in Europe, and it doesn't take too kindly to treehuggers infitrating the ranks of their flagship publication. Call it a little staff rebellion. Laurie David has no idea what she just got herself into... Stay tuned.

Posted by: RemyC. on 2 Apr 06



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