Environmental writing is becoming more mainstream, and it’s a great way to expand a freelance article writing career, but it’s also fraught with risks.
If you’re a novice ‘green’ writer, start with stories that are local rather than national or international and check and double-check the credentials of your sources, whether they are interviewees or publications. Just Google ‘Glacier Gate’ to find out how even the biggest organisations in the world can get it wrong! Building skills in environmental writing is important if you’re to establish a credible profile that allows you to move into the lucrative assignments offered by the top tier publications.
Similarly, while there are subjects that are uncontroversial: food waste, recycling old clothes and toys, simpler ‘greener’ living, watch out for those that are highly contested: climate change, bio-fuels and genetic modification. Most of us would like to waste less, recycle more and live more simply and if you cover those topics you’ll find that readers respond positively. The other set of subjects can inspire furious debates and arguments and if you don’t want to start your environmental career defending your position against disgruntled readers, it may be best to stay away from them until you have developed your green writing skills.
It’s a good idea to start with what you currently know, and add green credentials to it. So if you’re a garden writer, you can branch out into organic gardening. A cookery writer can start by including food miles for proposed ingredients, and hints on how to use up leftovers from the recipes, and a fashion writer can talk about how to revamp old clothes to work with newly purchased items. These ‘green shoots’ can then be developed into a stronger environmental profile.
Top Environmental Publications
Orion – Pays between $300 – $2000 and has very narrow submission windows for unsolicited work, which can be found at: http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/mag/guidelines_for_article_submissions
Earth Island Journal – This is a journal that likes stories that are still on the horizon, and prefers to be queried before a writer submits – pay rates seem variable but start at .20 cents a word. More information at: http://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/guidelines/
The Sierra Club has certain sections open to freelancers and pays a minimum of $50 per piece – it’s considered an excellent clip to get under your belt. Find out more at: http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/guidelines/writers.aspx
Northern Woodlands – has a very localised geographic focus and offers a minimum payment of 10 cents a word – although, if you send poetry, you’ll only get $25 regardless of poem length. A good market with which to launch an environmental writing attempt, you can explore their requirements at: http://northernwoodlands.org/issues/writers-photographers/
E Magazine is sponsored by the Earth Action Network – it offers a pay rate of 30 cents a word and has both a national and international focus.
Mother Earth News covers USA and Canada – their first person stories are often about living sustainable lives and can bring in up to $150 per article. More information can be found at: http://www.ogdenpubs.com/writers/men.html
As well as writing fiction, Kay Sexton interviews sustainable entrepreneurs for Green Futures magazine and has blogged about green issues for Red Green and Blue as well as having print and online columns on growing your own food and sustainable living.