Explosion of New Media Promotes "Green Lifestyle"

by kespeland on January 18, 2008

A greener lifestyle is within reach. Or at least… that’s what the latest magazines, cable shows, and radio programs are selling. WFPL’s Kristin Espeland reports.

“You’re listening to Lime, healthy living with a twist…”

If you subscribe to Sirius radio…you can tune in to this 24-hour green lifestyle channel. Lime radio calls itself a community of people seeking a healthier…greener…more balanced life. People like Josh Dorfman, who hosts a daily talk show called “The Lazy Environmentalist.”

“One of the challenges with the environment, is that, it just still, you know, we think about going green, it always sounds like it’s so complicated, you know?”

Then Dorfman simplifies it for you: “going green” is essentially about using less. And since Lime launched in 2005, programs like “The Lazy Environmentalist,” “Organic World,” and “Meet the Planet” have been promoting that idea.* It’s part of an explosion of “green media.” Over the past few years, we’ve seen major magazines like Vanity Fair and Businessweek run green issues. A week of green coverage from NBC. Nearly 2000 green-themed stories in the country’s top 10 newspapers in 2007 alone….up from less than 200 in 2000 according to the National Center for Business Journalism. But several outlets have placed their faith…and their dollars…specifically behind green lifestyle media properties. Mark Spellum launched one of those properties… a magazine called Plenty…in 2004. He says it’s because he noticed something new taking root in society.

“People were responding to the problem of global warming, they were looking to lessen their footprint they had on the earth. And also businesses were doing the same. There was this whole sort of green business and cultural revolution and it didn’t seem like anyone was writing about it.”

Plenty’s media kit tells potential advertisers that its pages are all about hip green living. Its reader demographics tell them there’s big money to be made….their median household income is around a hundred thousand dollars and they’re willing to pay for a greener lifestyle. It might look like a gold rush on green. But Spellum believes it’s no fad.

“I think it’s hardly a fad… I mean part of the problem is, I mean, if you buy into global warming, which most scientists do, this is, you know we have to change the way we makes things and go about our lives. This really isn’t going away.”

Proof positive: this year… Plenty will be on the racks at every Target… Office Depot… and Office Max around the country. Green-minded consumers can also tune in to even more green lifestyle programming on television. Max Mead produces Building Green TV, a show that teaches viewers how to make their homes friendlier to the environment. The first season just aired on PBS and season two is in production. Mead says the topic is going mainstream.

“Producers and publishers are really starting to feel their way around and starting to figure out how they’re going to work with green themes, and to what extent they should have dedicated programming or if they should integrate the theme into existing shows. That’s where there still a bit of head scratching and confusion still.”

Discovery Channel executives got past the head scratching stage. They’ve invested 50 million dollars to launch what they’re calling the first 24-hour TV network dedicated to the green lifestyle. It’s called Planet Green. You can’t watch it yet… the network goes live later this summer. But not all green lifestyle producers and publishers are new kids on the block. Doug Moss launched E the Environmental Magazine 18 years ago.

“I think back then we were ahead of our time but right now obviously we’re right on time.”

Moss says it’s the buzz about global warming… and Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth that put green in the spotlight. And made the media world take note.

“I think that a lot of publishers are jumping on board now because they see there’s so much public interest it’s something they can do, viable, as a business.”

But Moss looks askance at some of all this bandwagon jumping… especially since he’s been publishing for nearly two decades. He questions the substance in it.

“You know, when you’re out there in the trenches, telling people a lot of things they often don’t want to hear. It’s very difficult compared to taking the warm fuzzy approach of supermodels biting an apple on your cover.”

Indeed….the message of green lifestyle media is often that going green is easy…painless…and certainly stylish. But that’s only part of the picture, of course. To live in a way that protects the planet often requires a little bit of work, doing things differently, and it’s not always stylish. But Moss says despite the trendy tone of some green media… interest in living a more sustainable life can only be a good thing.

Listen to the story.

*Update: Sirius Satellite Radio retired its “Lime” channel on February 13, 2008. No reason is given on their Web site. But the Lazy Environmentalist, Organic World Media, and Meet the Planet still operate, mostly as multi-platform media companies, distributing “green” content.

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