Sustainability: From hippy to hip

The trend for caring about the planet is spawning green media channels.

Green buzz is everywhere. Al Gore is writing green essays, David Attenborough is fronting green documentaries, David Cameron is talking about installing wind turbines in his backyard. When mainstream media cover green issues and some, such as Vanity Fair, dedicate magazine issues to the green cause, it's not surprising that green media channels are cropping up, with advertisers keen to make the most of them. is a new broadband TV channel dedicated to environmental issues and backed by the United Nations Environment Programme and the likes of Apple. Magazines such as Sublime and Green Living are on the cusp of launch and others, including New Consumer, are planning initiatives to reach a wider audience. Even outdoor is going green: JCDecaux is installing solar-powered bus shelters.

Ade Thomas, the managing director of, feels the moment is right: "There's a genuine need for to exist - the idea is ethically rooted, with the technological underpinning of broadband TV." will broadcast short films on environmental themes to a maximum reach of more than 136 million viewers. In its first two months, the channel has attracted two million hits and 150,000 unique users, driven partly by a banner ad on the iTunes podcast page. It remains to be seen whether Thomas and can raise sufficient sponsorship to support its service initially, then attract enough ad revenue to take it into a sustainable future.

The fledgling green magazines Sublime, Organic Life and Green Living are also new kids on the green media block. Theresa George, the co-publisher at Green Living, is bullish about the title's launch. "Our mission is to get to Joe Bloggs in the street with product features and celebrity features on food and clothing with a full-colour, green lifestyle magazine."

New Consumer's editor, Wendy Martin, is realistic. Having launched the title four years ago, she is now planning a relaunch in order to grow circulation beyond the current 15,000 copies. "It has been tough," she concedes. "The biggest challenge is to get it on the high street - we're looking at distributing a free, smaller version."

There are a number of recently launched green consumer titles to choose from, including The Green Parent and Red Pepper, Ethical Consumer and New Internationalist. But the ethical consumer doesn't yet represent a huge market. According to a Mintel report on organics published at the end of last year, organic food and drink accounts for just over 1 per cent of all sales. Advertisers are cautious about entering the green arena, and magazines such as Ergo and Rodale's US title Organic Style have had to close.

That said, there is an overwhelming feeling that consumer patterns are set to change, and established media lend the area credibility. Declan Moore, the vice-president and general manager of National Geographic magazine's international advertising sales, says the non-profit organisation, which started in 1888, is "all about inspiring people to care about the planet". National Geographic has a global circulation of more than eight million copies, not to mention its TV channel. Some advertisers become partners on National Geographic projects. But there are also plenty of straightforward display ads in its pages, including those for not-so-environmentally friendly gas-guzzlers. "We could say we wouldn't accept revenue from these advertisers," Moore says, "but the proceeds are going into funding scientists, researchers andexplorers."

Other publications are less clear-cut about who can and can't advertise and what their message should be. At the contract publisher Think, the publishing director, Ian McAuliffe, has 12 titles at his disposal, including magazines for the Soil Association and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. He has three portfolios - wildlife, countryside and outdoors - with more than five million readers."The big problem with green media," McAuliffe explains, "is whether or not publishers will accept advertising. Everyone has individual restrictions on who and what they can advertise." Some don't like to feature ads from big corporations, while others won't accept any travel advertising. Zayda Kebede, The Ecologist 's advertising manager, says: "We would not take advertising from any company that places profits before people and planet."

Most of Think's ads are closely re-lated to the magazines' subject matter or are advertorials. Mainstream ads more likely to get the thumbs-up include financial services such as the Amex Red card or green-focused retail messages, such as Marks & Spencer's "look behind the label" campaign.

What's certain is that green publishers and readers are discerning. Martin says she once received a call from Sir Terry Leahy's office to say that customers were accosting Tesco store managers to ask for products advertised in New Consumer. Advertisers beware, Martin says: "Readers of green media are savvy, active and compassionate consumers."

- Maintain integrity at all times. A veneer of worthiness won't work.
- Adapt your ad if it doesn't fit with the editorial ethos.
- Pick your media carefully. Some titles only take "deep green"
- Keep advertised product in stock, green consumers get very keen.
- Many green magazines aren't glossy; don't expect high production
- Some ad categories, such as tourism, need to be more sensitive than
- Consider advertorial.
- Consider partnership schemes with the title or channel.
- Lighten up - it might be green, but it doesn't have to look too
- Advertisers with a poor green track record beware.


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