Reading between Grid’s lines

Editors of the new local sustainability magazine are confident despite the bad economy. Are they crazy?

With the crumbling economy, the rising price of utilities and the growing distrust in big government, Grid magazine, one of the city’s newest print publications, is encouraging Philadelphians to work together in spreading the word on community sustainability.

Publisher Alex Mulcahy and Director of Communications Dana Henry have received community support for their new magazine, which will be released publicly in February 2009. The prototype, dubbed the “Bike Issue,” is available now for all your two-wheeled needs (Il Cho/TTN).

What is sustainability, and how is it going to be implemented in Philadelphia?

That’s just the kind of question publisher Alex Mulcahy hopes to answer with the public release of Grid magazine.

“Sustainability is so much about living locally, that people need to key in where they are. There’s a lot of unused land that’s going to be up for grabs [that] could potentially help us with the emerging energy and food issues we have,” Mulcahy said. “We really have the workings for a sustainable city.”

Dana Henry, director of communications and staff writer, has helped the magazine reach out to regional organizations like Sustainable Business Network, Energy Coordinating Agency and the Academy of Natural Sciences.

“The most common response I’ve gotten from people is, ‘This should’ve happened sooner,’” Henry said.

It’s a tough time for magazines and print media in general. With most media outlets migrating to the Internet, it may seem like a bad time to start a magazine. Mulcahy doesn’t seem to think so.

“What’s nice is that we have an infrastructure in place already. I’ve been publishing for 15 years. We are keeping our overhead very low,” Mulcahy said. “I found some people who are very devoted to this and want to make it work, and we can grow it organically.”

One of those people is Will Dean, who will be taking over as the magazine’s editor for the publicly released issue.
Mulcahy said this may be the best time for a magazine like Grid to come out.

“Obviously, I didn’t think we’d be in these terrible straights that we’re in right now,” he said. “That said, I think that people are going to be very receptive – more receptive of this message – than maybe ever before.”

For now, Mulcahy and his small but loyal staff have released a free prototype, which provides a general schedule for future issues that will focus on topics such as energy, food, shelter, ecology, recycling and culture.

The prototype is known as the “Bike Issue,” which provides information for anyone who is a cyclist or interested in biking. Whether you’re a pro or just beginning, Grid fills you in on different types of bikes and where to buy them in your neighborhood. It also discusses the city’s politics in adopting new programs and has even engaged Mayor Michael Nutter’s Office of Transportation.

Grid is helping to promote local businesses and put money back into Philadelphia. It is also teaching people how to live a more healthy and sustainable life.

When asked what the city’s biggest concern should be, Mulcahy said basic utilities like water and electricity are major issues for residents.

“Last year, 40,000 people had their utilities shut off. In April 2008, [there were] 60,000. That’s before the sky started falling. Things were bad, but the sky’s falling now,” he said.

“More and more people are going to be vulnerable, and even those who are not at the very bottom are going to feel a real pinch.”

Tiffany Yoon can be reached at

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