Happy Earth Day! The Greatest Environmental Magazine Covers

Happy Earth Day! The Greatest Environmental Magazine Covers April 22 is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, which was first held in 1970. Earth Day was conceived and organized by Wisconsin US Senator Gaylord Nelson. We've collected 11 of the greatest Earth Day and environmental action magazine covers, from 1970-present.

(Above): Ramparts, April 1970. Art director: Jerelle Kraus; illustrator: Jerelle Kraus. This was one of the very first magazine covers with an environmental activist image. It was published to coincide with the first Earth Day.

More information on current Earth Day activities here.

This story was co-produced by Linda Rubes.

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(Left): Earth First!, May-June 2006. Earth First! is the journal of the radical activist direct action Earth First! movement. "We put our bodies on the line to stop the destruction" is how they describe their activities. Back issues and covers from Earth First!, and more info, available here.

(Right): The New York Times Magazine, April 15, 2007. "The Greening of Geopolitics." Art director: Arem Duplessis; photographer/artist: Vik Muniz; floral designer: Julian Calderon; photo editors: Kathy Ryan, Kira Pollack.

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(Left): Mother Jones, July 1981. Art director: Louise Kollenbaum; illustrator: Ron Giacomaro. Noted Esquire cover designer George Lois commented about this cover in a subsequent letter to the editor, calling it "the best I've seen in years. It's...everything a great cover should be."

(Right): Time, February 2, 1970. Illustrator: Mati Klarwein. Artist Klarwein is better know for his imaginative, psychedelic paintings that were featured on memorable LP covers like Santana Abraxas and Miles Davis Bitches Brew. Barry Commoner, who is featured on this cover, ran for President in 1980 on the Citizens Party ticket.

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(Left): Green Guide, Spring 2008. Art director: Chalkley Calderwood. Published by National Geographic, Green Guide was a Real Simple-style magazine promoting a simple, green lifestyle. It was a beautifully-designed magazine that unfortunately folded during the Great Magazine Crisis of 2009. The Green Guide website is still up and publishing.

(Right): Newsweek, April 16, 2007. Art directors: Bruce Ramsey and Amid Capeci; photographer: Nigel Parry.

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(Left): PW (Philadelphia Weekly), September 26, 2007. Art director: Sara Green; illustrator: Sara Green. The cover was a recycled copy of the alternative weekly newspaper, with the type and logo spray painted on top.

(Right): The New Yorker, April 23, 1990. Illustrator: Robert Mankoff.

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(Left): Billboard, June 23, 2007. Art director: Josh Klenert. One of the many "green" covers that popped up over the past few years, from a wide variety of magazines. Favorite headline on this one:"Biodegradable Shrink-Wrap--You Can Smoke It!"

(Right): Mad, October 2008. Art director: Sam Viviano; illustrator: Mark Frederickson. Thanks to Madcoversite.com for the scan.

See a gallery of 20 Earth Day and environmental covers here.

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  • Roberto

    Late to this post, but perhaps of historic interest was the heyday of Garbage Magazine, The Practical Journal for the Environment. As AD I got the chance to redesign it and capitalize on our "No Cover Lines" (well... one eyebrow) policy.

    Here's a sample from 1991: http://i159.photobucket.com/albums/t125/rjgeorgex/Garbage_cover_Recycle_web.jpg

  • Andrea Dunham

    Sucks we can't post images as responses. but here's what i'm talking about:


    Sure, it's admittedly a BARELY green cover of VF's Madonna, but it constitutes attractive design, if not simply strong photo direction from I assume Annie L that i think trumps Newsweek's attempt at it by a long yard.

    To Bob's point about magazine editors having little fluency in environmental issues, I think it's fair to say that they went about as far as they could in this case, to meet green issues still sell the damn thing. That's fair and wise, in my opinion; pick your hottest seller and tether her subtly to an unpalatable topic. Rather like the way American Idol held me hostage to images of starving dying children while waiting to hear which singer was about to be dumped last night.

    Another Annie L VF green cover i liked and yes, bought on newstand...


  • Robert Newman

    The bench is pretty thin for environmental covers. There aren't nearly as many as you would think. And if you're looking for covers that specifically reference some kind of environmental activism, it's even thinner. I think the reasons for that are twofold. 1) As Andrea points out, all those green issues generally did not sell well, and environmental issues in general have not been blockbusters on the newsstand. 2) I'm going out on a limb here, but I think it's true that most magazine editors have little passion or fluency in environmental issues. It's just not something that is a priority for them, and it's not something they either know much about or are comfortable discussing. That said, I challenge the haters to come up with greater covers! I don't consider generic "green" issues with run-of-the-mill models or celebrities part of this equation, but I'm open to anything.

  • Alex Nabaum

    Besides the Billboard and NY Times covers which are great, I'm not so sure about the "greatest" either.

  • Andrea Dunham

    Cool! Not sure i agree with "greatest" on some of these but I get it. VF did a cool cover a ways back with tons of celebrities gathered on the cover for it's "green" issue which they no longer do according to Graydon who felt the money spent wasn't worth it and cut that issue from the budget. Elle does a 'green" cover every year too... i think Elle's subscription covers are always elegant and well composed, i'l have to hunt down their last "green" one to see if it's good for this collection!

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