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Environmental Group Tries Slick Approach to Attracting Attention

September 26, 2003|David Reyes | Times Staff Writer

Taking a page from the publicity playbook of larger and older environmental organizations, a new Orange County group is launching a glossy magazine to boost its image and attract public attention to coastal issues.

At a cost of $150,000 for each run, Newport Beach-based Orange County Coastkeeper will launch Coast Keeper next month, a 64-page full-color magazine with articles on urban runoff, grease traps and underwater photography of Coastkeeper's kelp reforestation project.

"No foldouts -- but we do have a scratch-and-sniff," said Garry Brown, Coastkeeper's executive director. The feature will not highlight pricey perfumes like those in Vanity Fair, but things environmental: In the inaugural issue it will be the scent of coastal sage-scrub, which provides important habitat for animals.

The quarterly magazine will be free and initially mailed to Coastkeeper's members and friends. It also will be sent to hospital and doctor offices where each issue can reach a number of readers, Brown said.

The group hopes the magazine will be an improvement on brochures, direct mail and the Internet in educating the public about environmental issues.

"You can't talk to an environmentalist without someone talking about education, and that's No. 1 for us," said Terry Tamminen, executive director for Environment Now in Santa Monica and a Coastkeeper board member. "When a magazine stays in a doctor's office and people can thumb through it and learn about coastal issues, that's a powerful tool."

Brown and Tamminen believe the magazine is a perfect way to help the organization take its activism to a higher level. "We're not the Sierra Club or Greenpeace.... We're like a lot of other smaller nonprofits toiling in obscurity," Tamminen said. "The magazine provides a way for people to know and be reminded that groups like ours exist."

Brown said the magazine will not be a "banner for environmentalism," but instead will have stories on environmental problems that include solutions.

It's got a little of the offbeat, such as the first issue's article on restaurant grease from the point of view of a waiter who wrote the piece.

Though expensive to publish, the group believes the magazine's time has come. Brown has already lined up enough sponsors and advertisers to pay for the first issue's run of 10,000. They hope to increase the press run for the second issue.

Started just four years ago, Coastkeeper has become a major player in the Orange County environmental community, said Jan Vandersloot, a prominent activist who is not affiliated with the group.

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