Way back in April 2005, we did our first environmentally themed Green Issue, beating a lot of other mainstream magazines to the punch. Vanity Fair launched its first Green Issue a year later, an annual practice the magazine continued for three years.
They retired it in 2009, suggesting that the environment had become a central enough part of general news coverage that an environmentally focused issue was no longer necessary. Many media experts speculated that a more important factor in their decision may have been newsstand sales.
It turned out that green-themed issues didn’t sell very well.
In retrospect, the fact that we were among the very first general-interest magazines to dedicate a full issue to environmental topics may have had less to do with our prescience than with our naiveté about newsstand sales. To be frank, newsstand was such a tiny part of our business, we never even thought about it.
It just seemed clear to us that the relationship between personal and planetary health was a rich and hugely important one. We figured it was something our readers would find as interesting as we did. So we managed to get way out ahead on that one.
We’re out pretty early with this Blue Issue, too — although I’m delighted to say that we are no longer on the bleeding edge. National Geographic’s superb Water Issue hit the stands this April. Over the past few years, Elle, Women’s Health and Men’s Health have also done water-inspired issues. And I suspect we’ll see plenty more of these from other leading titles in the coming months.
The concept of a Blue Issue came to us courtesy of Alexandra Cousteau (granddaughter of marine legend Jacques Cousteau), who was the cover subject of our “Get Into Nature” issue back in June 2009. She proposed the idea during the course of our photo shoot, and we were instantly sold.
Then began the challenge of figuring out how to fill an entire issue — spanning health, fitness, nutrition, personal development and quality of life — with water-related content. It turned out to be easier than we thought.
Clearly, we had to do a big environment-focused feature on water quality and safety — a look at the threats and looming challenges that have made water one of the most critical human-health concerns of our time (see “Troubled Waters“).
We wanted to do an in-depth piece on hydration, too (see “Drink to Your Health“), and to cover the current trends in water workouts (“Every Body Into the Pool“). Fish and seafood seemed like obvious picks for our healthy-eating departments (see “Good Fishing” and “Conscious Catch“). We even found a way to address elements of “blue” in some of our emotional-fitness and psychology departments.
There were also a lot of water-related topics we didn’t have room to dig into — like how adjusting our eating choices can play a big role in supporting more sustainable forms of agriculture, which in turn can have hugely positive impacts on our rivers and lakes. Or how changing the household products you use can help keep dangerous chemicals out of our drinking water.
For those of you interested in digging deeper into those issues, one resource I recommend is the PBS Frontline TV episode “Poisoned Waters,” which you can watch online at www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/poisonedwaters. The program is an exploration by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Hedrick Smith, who explains that today’s fastest growing environmental threats come “not from the giant industrial polluters of old, but from chemicals in consumers’ face creams, deodorants, prescription medicines and household cleaners that find their way into sewers, storm drains, and eventually into America’s waterways and drinking water.”
Speaking of which, if you’d like to know more about what you can do to upgrade water quality at your end of the tap, check out senior editor Laine Bergeson’s “Signs of Life” blog at experiencelife.com for a roundup of the best water-filtration options.
Of course, no amount of home filtration is going to change the fact that our planet’s water situation is serious. But learning what you can do to keep yourself and the planet healthy is a good start. And that’s what this Blue Issue is all about.