It's Not Easy Being Green
Publishing & Production Executive asked Doug Moss, publisher of E/The Environmental Magazine, to discuss his publication's commitment to the environment, then put him on the spot to see if he carries out that commitment in regard to E's production workflow. Moss, who oversees editorial and production planning for the Norwalk, CT-based publication, which publishes six times annually for 56,000 readers, passed the test with flying colors.
Publishing & Production Executive: What's the story behind E?
Doug Moss: I founded E with Deborah Kamlani, my wife, inspired by the Greenhouse Summer of 1988, which saw hotter temperatures than normal (and a lot of mainstream media discussions about global warming), and by stories then of medical waste washing up on New Jersey shores. Deb was pregnant with our first child, which increased our concern with environmental issues. By the time the Exxon Valdez spilled its cargo into Prince William Sound in Alaska in April of 1989, we were well underway with plans to launch E. We got a big boost by an overall growing environmental awareness and by the then-upcoming 20th anniversary celebration of Earth Day in March 1990. Preliminary networking with the environmental advocacy community indicated strong support for the idea of an independent, newsstand-quality environmental magazine. We launched in December 1989 with a January 1990 cover date.
PPE: What is the magazine's mission statement?
DM: Our mission is to provide information, news, resources and commentary on environmental issues—for the benefit of the uninitiated, but also in sufficient depth to appeal to the dedicated environmentalist—to inform and inspire people so that they will either get involved politically to advance environmental awareness, or at least look at how they can take steps in their own personal lives to live more "sustainably."
PPE: Who are your readers?
DM: Our readers, for the most part, are very interested in the environment and use E to shore up their knowledge and commitment, but also to learn ways to modify their lifestyles. As such, we have not only features and news items about big, overarching topics like global warming, ocean pollution and population impacts, but also a Green Living section which addresses the more personal side of being environmental. We also syndicate a great deal of our articles to mainstream media, via The New York Times and Los Angeles Times syndicates and Alternet, so via this we reach the maintream readers out there who are not reading E. This is also part of the mission, why we are nonprofit and why foundations support our work with grants.
PPE: How would you describe your advertising base?
DM: Our advertising base is made up primarily of small, growing companies providing "green" goods and services. They range from publishers of environmental books to companies offering socially responsible investing options, phone services which donate to environmental causes, organic cotton (and hemp) clothing, health (and vegetarian) foods, green travel, recycled products, animal protection and environmental organizations.
PPE: Describe the publication's production staff.
DM: I am involved in large part at the editorial planning and art concept stages. I work with the other editors to plan out editorial, and I also think up many of the magazine's covers and illustrations. Aside from that, the magazine is art directed by All Caps of Westport, CT, a one-woman operation, basically, run by Carol Petro who used to art direct Connecticut Magazine and On Cable magazine. She works with us on a freelance basis and has been involved with us since our inception (and before the days of desktop when we were pasting down galleys of type). We write about a third of each issue in house and commission out the rest. We have a local photographer, and also work with several regular illustrators and a number of stock houses.
PPE: Outline the magazine's typical production workflow.
DM: We write and edit in an IBM environment, but then Carol converts it over to Macintosh. She is now also doing the scans. She sends final electronic files to a prepress house—East Coast Color in Hamden, CT—which provides the loose color, bluelines, a few Matchprints (we try to minimize to cut costs), and makes final film which they strip to a Cortron and send to our printer, Lane Press (Burlington, VT).
PPE: Are you interested in taking E CTP?
DM: I'm looking to go direct to plate ASAP. I've been waiting for Lane Press to get me their pricing which they are still working out. I visited their plant and saw all the facilities for CTP.
PPE: E claims to be "the nation's leading green magazine." How does your production workflow reflect your commitment to the environment? Have you experienced any production problems or difficulties as a result?
DM: We use recycled, uncoated paper for the inside pages of the magazine (50 lb. Williamsburg Collage) and for the cover (80 lb. Sterling). At our previous printer, however, we didn't use a recycled cover stock because we had a bad experience—that is, it didn't do well in the mail—with one sheet that we tried. We DO NOT varnish, sacrificing some protection through the mail because those are highly toxic chemicals. Other than that, we think we get pretty good quality on our paper—and using the uncoated stock feels more "eco" and it also fluffs up the thinkness a bit and makes the magazine (which is only 64 pages) feel thicker (for those who unconsciously do the weight test at the checkout). On the other hand, we do not use soy ink, which was Lane's decision.
PPE: Did you consider environmental factors when choosing a printer? What, if anything, is your current printer doing to support your position? In general, do you think printers are environmentally conscious?
DM: Yes—to some degree. One can only be so pure about these things. We're a nonprofit with not much cash to bat around, so the primary consideration was cost, though Lane Press (like many Vermont companies) considers itself environmental.
PPE: Is there any aspect of your operation that you plan to change to achieve further "greening"?
DM: We already do a lot to try to conserve. We try to use both sides of the paper (in press releases, for example). We reuse paper in the copy machine. We use recycled paper for stationery, envelopes, etc. I use open-panel-window envelopes (i.e., no plastic or material of any kind in the window—you can put your finger through it) in our renewal and billing efforts. We jumped into e-mail and use of the Web very early, in recognition of the positive environmental impacts.
PPE: Can you offer any tips to help other publishers make their workflows more environmentally friendly?
DM: Don't varnish! Use recycled papers and soy inks. Don't produce so many magazines for the newsstand that just get shredded (and often not recycled). Write about topics that are worth the paper they are printed on. Sheesh! How many magazines does the world need about sports, celebrities, cigars, Monica...?