Publisher’s Corner: (B) Earth Day 1997

Hard to believe that Earth Day 2018, on April 21-22 at Forest Park, will mark the beginning of our 22nd year of publishing. Our first edition became available to the public at the 1997 Earth Day Festival in Tower Grove Park. I had a booth next to a tie-dyed tee shirt stand so I had a good crowd passing by. It was not like the Earth Days of the 1970s. Not as much sitting around and playing guitar with flowers in your hair. But there was a counter culture feeling to the event. A giant puppet strolled around the festival protesting chemical companies. There was the All-Species parade which included a brother and sisterhood of humans dressed like butterflies and banging drums. There were flashbacks to the 70s as those who participated in the early years were now organizing the festival. The things that have remained constant over the years at all the Earth Day Festivals, are concern for the planet, social injustice and creating eco-awareness. So many young people have taken the baton of sustainability and are driving the conversation in difficult times for Mother Earth. One thing you can count on, the tide will turn, power will shift. We can only hope that the current tsunami of environmental ignorance will not leave too much damage in its wake. There is always clean-up after the storm, fears and tears and then rebuilding. In 1997, at The Healthy Planet’s first Earth Day Festival, my heart was warmed as the crowd was indeed pleased to see such a publication as ours in St. Louis. I remember what one young man from California said to me, “Wow, I just moved here from San Francisco and I never thought St. Louis would have something like this.” He picked up our first edition, nodded and walked off smiling. It made my day. Those early days were tough. Plenty of love from readers but selling a new concept to advertisers was a challenge. With the help of my friend, mentor and uncle, we managed to make it through that first year. There were plenty of anxiety and feelings of desperation mixed with moments of joy and exhilaration. Anyone who has started a new business, knows what I am talking about. Our new magazine was controversial. Words such as “wellness”, “alternative” and “eco-friendly” were a tough sell in St. Louis in 1997. But the environmental and wellness movement was sweeping the country. We knew we were onto something. After 17 years as co-publisher of The Webster-Kirkwood Times, I knew how to build a publication, but could I sustain the sales? Well, many sales associates later we have managed to weather the storm of recession, serious health concerns and plenty of advertising competition. One thing that has not changed is our love for publishing, our love for green and healthy living, and our love for owning and operating our own small business. So much has changed since that first Earth Day in 1997, where I handed out our first edition of The Healthy Planet. And yet much has stayed the same. I owe our longevity to so many who have become Planeteers along the way. I am always happy to come to work, knowing that something we publish in that next edition will help someone improve the quality of their lives and the life of the planet. For us, Earth Day is a special day for so many reasons. We too, have a torch to pass to the next generation. Who will take the challenge?

Happy Earth Day, J.B. Lester