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PlentyPlenty

Circulation: 200,000
Date of Birth: November 2004
Frequency: Six times a year
Price: $4.95
Natural Habitat: In a Whole Foods bag next to the biodegradable yoga mat and glass bottle of organic juice

By Zainab Zakari

The United States started to embrace a green culture in 2004. Whole Foods opened the largest grocery store in Manhattan’s Columbus Circle. Starbucks dedicated six weeks to promoting environmental awareness in cafés. The Toyota Prius Hybrid Car was winning acclaim.

Some months earlier, Mark Spellun had started planning a new magazine. Spellun, an environmentally conscious editor who had worked at the Economist Group, had become aware of a gap in the magazine racks. There were health-oriented magazines such as Organic Style (now defunct) and Natural Health; wellness magazines like Martha Stewart’s Body + Soul that encouraged environmental awareness; and other more general magazines that had an ecology section or an annual “Green Issue.” But he saw no magazine that spoke directly to green culture.

With a four-person team, he created a magazine that aimed to fill this gap, and in November 2004, Plenty was launched.

In 2005, gas prices reached record heights, wrenching the country’s attention toward the need for conservation. Then Hurricane Katrina struck. Plenty was two months shy of its first anniversary when the hurricane swept through New Orleans, raising new and critical questions about environmental policies.

“We were ahead of some of the frenzy,” Spellun says now, more than three years after Plenty was unveiled. “I don’t think there’s anything quite like us.”

Now, with 14 full-time employees, the magazine is distributed in the United States and Canada six times a year, from locations including Whole Foods, Barnes & Noble and Target. The twentieth issue, released this winter, was the first to sport a chic redesign—the previous issues looked like a cross between Martha Stewart’s Living and Cosmopolitan—and a sophisticated tagline, “The World In Green,” replacing the singsongy predecessor, “It’s Easy Being Green.”

Its contributors, whose résumés include The Daily Show, Salon.com, Entertainment Weekly and GQ, make eating fair-trade chocolate and traipsing through the jungles of Madagascar to discover two monkey species seem accessible to any conscientious 20-to-40-something urbanite. “Our goal is to help people make incremental changes in their life,” Spellun says.

Plenty also devotes a lot of attention to its website. Spellun says it started with just a “click here to subscribe” link, but it now offers considerable original content that supplements the material in the print version, and it’s updated frequently. They try to offer an original feature on the website almost every day.

This works quite well for the web-only magazine reader. Considering the Green Revolution’s push for an increasingly paperless world, Plenty’s option to subscribe to an online-only version seems appropriate. Plenty’s hope is that this will help it reach international readers at a time in the magazine’s development when it would be prohibitively expensive to mail the print version overseas.

Before paper is done away with altogether, however, Plenty is still printed on 85 to 100 percent recycled material. And though its 10 percent recycled cover makes it less glossy than other magazine covers, Plenty makes up for it in originality.

“We can’t just put a shot of George Clooney on the cover,” Spellun says of the competition for readers’ attention. Their eighth issue featured a Roy Lichtenstein-inspired cover, which attracts attention at media events because of the depicted woman’s angst-filled question: “He could be the one—he drives a hybrid…but does he compost?”

Plenty styles itself for readers who want to be more environmentally conscious but might not be comfortable strapping themselves to a tree. It makes being green look sexy and, as contributor Liz Galst says in a recent issue, with the effects of global warming becoming increasingly difficult to ignore, the Green movement needs all the savvy spin it can get.

 



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