Nonprofit Environmental Magazines

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Photo Courtesy YES! Magazine
Winter 2013 cover of YES! Magazine.

When it comes to speaking up on environmental issues, a chorus is definitely stronger than a single voice. That’s why, as much as you may love your MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine (and we hope you do!), having a look at what other ecologically minded publications are doing can further inspire you and deepen the breadth of your knowledge.

In recent years, many such publications have found a home in the nonprofit sector. Among other advantages, this means individual donations to them are tax-deductible, and they can more easily receive support from foundations. But while nonprofit journalism contributes to a more diverse media, nonprofit status can’t be taken for granted. More than other types of print media, the success of this sector rests almost solely on government policy decisions.

For the past couple of years, some U.S. media organizations filing for nonprofit status have faced long delays and lots of scrutiny by the Internal Revenue Service, the government agency that makes the “nonprofit” determination. The delays have had a chilling effect on the formation of new nonprofit media, which is bad news for anyone who values a variety of opinions. Fortunately, the situation seemed to be improving toward the end of 2012, when several media organizations were finally granted nonprofit status.

Let’s celebrate media diversity by browsing a few environmental magazines that are putting out top-notch content and contributing to the growing conversation about sustainability. The three publications featured here are all nonprofit magazines.

YES! Magazine. This magazine approaches sustainable living with a positive attitude and a focus on solutions. Its tagline is “Powerful Ideas, Practical Actions,” and its mission is to help readers envision a positive future.

Each issue has a large themed section. For example, the Winter 2013 issue explored the question “What Would Nature Do?” with articles on biomimicry, permaculture, the logic of eating invasive species, and the benefits of constructing wetlands for sewage treatment. Other recent themes were “It’s Your Body,” focused on health, and “Making It Home,” discussing sustainable, affordable homes. Pick up an issue to dive into some imaginative solutions to environmental problems.

Published quarterly by the Positive Futures Network; Bainbridge Island, Wash.; $15 a year with the introductory rate.

Orion Magazine. This publication’s slogan is “Nature/Culture/Place,” and it addresses those themes through articles, poetry, photography and fiction. Although articles discuss a range of topics, nature writing remains a steady focus, and the entire magazine carries a smart, literary tone.

In the January/February 2013 issue, Orion ran a meditation on technology and an essay on the proliferation of nanoparticles in everyday products. It’s not all serious, though. The same issue had a playful photo essay titled “Animals That Saw Me,” featuring fun-loving fauna looking directly at the photographer. Orion is filled with beautiful writing and arresting images. It’s a great publication to take your time with, reading it slowly and letting it all sink in. Orion’s contributors include many well-known voices in sustainable living, such as Barbara Kingsolver, Terry Tempest Williams and Wendell Berry.

Published bimonthly by the Orion Society and Myrin Institute; Great Barrington, Mass.; $19 a year with the introductory rate.

E — The Environmental Magazine. If you’re looking for a magazine heavy on environmental news, E delivers. Coverage includes brief updates on ongoing concerns — such as issues with fracking and progress on the Cape Wind development — as well as in-depth features exploring topics such as the benefits of bicycling and the repercussions of climate change.

While E feels newsy, it also covers many lifestyle issues. Regular columns discuss everyday green living, including health and food, eco-tourism, green investing, and the best green products. Give it a read to get some fresh takes on ecological issues.

Published bimonthly by the Earth Action Network; Norwalk, Conn.; about $20 a year.

Looking for even more interesting publications with diverse viewpoints? Check out MOTHER EARTH NEWS’S sister publication Utne Reader, a for-profit, bimonthly magazine that gathers the best of the alternative press from magazines such as YES!, Orion and E.

Megan E. Phelps is a freelance writer based in Kansas. She enjoys reading and writing about all things related to sustainable living including homesteading skills, green building and renewable energy. You can find her on Google+.