The Staying Power of E
Ah, the environmental craze of the early '90s. Fueled by the good intentions of Earth Day's 20th anniversary in 1990, everything green was suddenly tres chic; sort of like the "new black." From hordes of celebrities doing pro-recycling commercials and screaming, "Take It Back!" to Halloweeners dressed as big, fat walking globes, not only was saving the planet important -- to many, it was also the cool, "in" thing to do. It seemed as though everything was being made from recycled paper -- including the slew of green magazines that debuted at that time, such as Garbage, Buzzworm, Trilogy and E (The Environmental Magazine)."The 1990 Earth Day recruited a whole lot of people, and a lot of them have since gotten out of it," says Jim Motavalli, editor of E. "But those people weren't real serious about it, anyway -- you have to expect that. But there is a fairly high level of causal environmental awareness among people," he points out.A decade later, E is the only one of the aforementioned independent green magazines still in business. The Norwalk, Connecticut bimonthly celebrates its 10th year publishing this year.The magazine's editorial breadth includes everything from recycling to rainforests, personal to political. "We offer a nice mix of investigative stories and personal lifestyle topics, all aimed at inspiring and empowering readers to make positive personal lifestyle changes that benefit the environment," says Executive Editor Doug Moss, during an interview at E's small, no-frills office. Moss is surrounded by two phones -- one for magazine business ("That's my 'E' phone," he quips), the other for Douglas Forms, his side printing business that's partly responsible for those annoying subscription "invoice notices" that seem to come in the mail once a week. "I kinda wear two hats in the course of a typical day," he chuckles.Moss and his wife Deborah Kamlani didn't lack the inspirational fodder for starting E in 1988, what with medical waste washing up on New Jersey beaches, fires in Yellowstone Park and other global environmental problems that were garnering increasing media attention. E rolled off the press with its first issue in December 1988, in the wake of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. That environmental disaster showed the world how much a corporation like Exxon really cared about the Alaskan coastline and habitat.Since then, E has received a number of awards and citations. Noted magazine analyst Samir Husni called E one of the few magazine "hits" of 1990. It won two Utne Reader magazine excellence awards for "Best New Magazine" and "Best Special Interest Magazine." Not to mention the kudos given by Project Censored for covering "issues and topics overlooked by the mainstream press."And Moss wants to make sure the "mainstream" media doesn't get used to doing just that. "We're trying to make a case, because we don't want to preach to the choir," he says. "Look at the state of our media -- obsessions with Monica Lewinsky and all that stuff. The American public's being dumbed down by this crap. So, we need to really bolster a good progressive media to support at least some of the points of light, to be successful. That's one of the reasons we're good to have around, because we influence other coverage."With a circulation of 56,000, E doesn't have the reach of larger magazines. But the heavy syndication of its articles more than makes up for it. Stories such as "Talking Trash" and articles on male breast cancer have run (respectively) in The New York Times and Chicago Sun-Times, among many others. "Chances are, there were a lot more people reading the Chicago Tribune piece than read our magazine per year," laughs Moss.Another point that sets E apart is that it's independent and not a mouthpiece of a large environmental group such as the National Audubon Society or Sierra Club, for example. "Garbage was a lot like E in terms of the way it looked," says Moss. "But it was a bit more conservative than we are. A lot of the environmental community didn't like that kind of attitude -- like, they would run ads for GE inside their front cover promoting their plastics, and inside the back cover, they would do a little feature trashing some poor little green company for being impure."Ah, yes -- there's the rub. What does a small magazine do when it comes to advertising? Sell its soul to run big, money-making "Every Day is Earth Day at Exxon" ads? Or, stay true to principle and eke it out on a much smaller revenue?"It can be a challenge, because we'd accept only environmentally-friendly products or those that are all-natural or organic," says E advertising director Karen Soucy. In order to make sure a potential advertiser isn't secretly dumping toxic waste into rivers on the side, the staff does research on the companies, and then shares the information during staff meetings."Although we have turned down advertising from some corporations when we've felt their interest wouldn't be best suited for our readers, there still seems to be a healthy group of advertisers we can contact and work with," she says, citing Aubrey Organics and Maytag as E advertisers. "It's certainly not as wide a universe as if we were a mainstream magazine, but it's a fun challenge -- especially because they may not know we exist, or vice versa. But when we connect, it's a perfect combination."Single copies of E are available at many health food stores and bookstores, or for $5 postpaid from: E Magazine, PO Box 2047, Marion, OH 43305. Subscriptions are $20 per year, available from the same address. E is on the Web at www.emagazine.com.