Sustainable Magazines | Content for Park

Independent magazines have always pushed the boundaries of culture.

By Paul Tomlinson, Published 07.01.2022


Independent magazines have always pushed the boundaries of culture.

This hasn’t always been to their financial advantage. More often a labour of love than a business, they’re typically side projects alongside somebody’s day job. Sadly, many are too short-lived.

But this is also part and parcel of what makes the indie mag. With principles and identity before profit and scale, they’re uniquely adept at capturing cultural shifts ahead of the curve, and tackling complex, even controversial issues with intellect and sensitivity.

Unsurprising, then, that many have taken up sustainability as a cause.

There are some similarities in their approach. Few use recycled papers (though many would like to), due to the higher cost and budgetary restrictions. Many have chosen rough, uncoated stock for its natural look and feel, and as a fitting carrier for candid, smartphone-style photography and unapologetically intellectual prose.

But the indie mag scene is most remarkable for its diversity and innovation in approaches to sustainability, and not just in the range of subject matter (titles in this review cover art, cooking, politics, sports and more).

As more brands increase investment in their environmental creds, it’s worth examining how these mags have harnessed sustainability as creative pivot, and uncovering ideas which may be useful print inspiration for businesses in every industry.

We investigated 10 magazines currently tackling sustainability, from America and the UK.

Thanks to Jeremy Leslie of MagCulture for providing the mags.

1. It’s Freezing in LA

I’m in Los Angeles and it’s freezing. Global warming is a total and very expensive hoax!’

Donald Trump, 2013

With its psychedelic colour palette, and a title borrowed from America’s President, your first assumption is that It’s Freezing in LA! is a direct product of America’s west coast.

Actually, the organisation is a UK-registered non-profit, and the mag is a superb example of how it’s possible to harness a tight budget as a source of creative inspiration.

IFLA screams counter-culture.

Many features, which might be rejected by higher-end mags, are deployed by IFLA as a clear part of its identity.

A bargain at £7, with its handy compact dimensions, and running to only 60 recycled, uncoated pages, the mag feels half-way between magazine and political pamphlet.

Our copy isn’t quite fully folded, springing slightly open along the saddle-stitched spine. Whether that’s intentional or a consequence of the mag’s promise to ‘sell all misprinted copies’ doesn’t really matter; it only contributes to IFLA’s hipster identity.

Inside, margins are so left so thin, that the shouty, oversize type of the editor’s note appears to protest being confined to the page.

The choice of content is right in step.

In ‘The Future of Freshness’ (pp. 35-38), the correspondent delves into our perceived dependence on carbon-hungry refrigeration as a means of food preservation.

“This cold chain has completely altered our collective conception of freshness and, more importantly, our perceived right to consume fresh goods.’

A fitting observation from a magazine which, perhaps not inadvertently, alters our conception of what constitutes ‘quality’ in print…

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