Agent of Green

Heather Lose is guiding The Tennessee Conservationist to 21st century sustainability

Heather Lose gets pretty excited about paper and ink, especially as she thumbs through the most recent issue of The Tennessee Conservationist, one of the state’s oldest and most important environmental publications.

“We’re not just talking about trees here. We’re not just talking about electricity,” says Lose, the publication’s editor-in-chief.  “All these other resources, this is what we save every time we go to press,” she observes, describing some recent production changes at the magazine that have made it more environmentally sustainable.

If you subscribe to The Tennessee Conservationist, you may have noticed that your January/February issue looks and feels a bit different from any in recent years. Gone are the slick, glossy cover and formal-looking serif typeface of the old school magazine. A contemporary banner now incorporates a new logo with a clean, modern typeface, and matte paper melds a touch of design elegance into a substantive and beautiful print artifact. These are just a few of the important changes Lose brought after she joined the Department of Environment and Conservation Division of Tennessee State Parks, which publishes the magazine.

“Here’s a magazine that’s been publishing in one way or another since 1937,” says Lose. “I think they were looking for someone who has extensive experience in the publications world, building things, being a change agent, who had deep ties with the people here in the media environment in Middle Tennessee, and who also had that background in understanding environmental concerns. And that’s my dream job. That’s all the things I love right there.”

Lose, who took over as editor-in-chief in early 2018, earned her design credentials through academic training and professional practice — including work for the Nashville Scene, but love for the natural world came from her biologist mother and landscape architect father. “We were always on the water; we were always fishing; we were always camping,” she says.

Her father, David Lose, specialized in designs for parks and outdoor recreational areas, many in Tennessee. Now his eldest daughter supervises a publication dedicated to promoting and conserving some of the very places her father helped shape. In this way, she has become a steward of his legacy, and she wants other people to enjoy those spaces.

“Tennessee is one of only seven states that has managed to keep our park system free to all comers. We don’t charge admission, so there is no income barrier to someone wanting to go out to the park and throw the Frisbee with the kids, or to go out with a pair of binoculars and look at some owls or go hike around Radnor Lake at the end of the day, every day, any day, and de-stress. These are resources anyone can use.”

The Tennessee Conservationist, which has around 10,000 print subscribers and was just recently brought under the management of the State Parks division, is a must-read for anyone who cares about the state’s natural resources. Providing readers with well-researched, skillfully reported stories about Tennesseans and their relationship with the environment, the magazine is part ecology, part cultural history, and now, part go-see-do guide.

Recognizing the unique skill-set and life experience she brings to bear, the publication tasked Lose with re-visioning the print publication and creating a more robust web presence.

“We did a deep dive into the internal workings, along with a reader survey, to find out from the readers how they felt about the publication, maybe where we could do better, and looked at all the various pieces and aspects of the magazine, took it apart and put it all back together again,” explains Lose. “This includes the digital publication, which is brand new.”

Ever the collaborator, she’s quick to credit her team with bringing considerable expertise and knowledge to shaping the look and feel of the re-design, especially long-time editor Louise Zepp and art director Jeff Law. Law, in fact, designed the new logo. “They are the heart and soul of this magazine and great, dedicated, talented people who have over 20 years invested in this publication’s success,” Lose says.

Many of the design changes came in response to reader suggestions, including the move to a new, environmentally sustainable paper. “Here’s the philosophy in everything I do,” Lose says. “Form follows function, right? So, what is the function of this publication, what is our message, how can we walk the walk? Luckily for me some of the comments that we got [from the readers survey] were echoing my thoughts, and that was a question: How can we build the most sustainable magazine on the planet?”

Walking the walk meant leaving a smaller footprint. Hence the switch to Rolland brand recycled paper, which she discovered through a friend at Athens Paper.

“It is 100 percent post-consumer, recycled paper,” explains Lose. “What that means is that this paper has already had at least one lifetime as a phone bill, as a phone book, as a magazine insert, as something. … I mean, I like to think about that; where has this paper already been?” The magazine had been printing on 50 percent recycled paper with only 15 percent post-consumer content, but if it could go greener, why not?

Perhaps what thrills Lose most is how — and where — Rolland paper is made. “The paper mill is located eight miles away from a landfill,” she says. “They gather the methane from this landfill; they pipe it in, keep it out of our air, and they get 93 percent of the power for the paper mill from the methane that they harvest from the landfill. That’s what we need to be doing. That’s what everybody needs to be doing. We take a byproduct that we don’t want out of the air and put it where we want it.”

Lose points to the infographic on page three of the January/February 2019 edition of The Tennessee Conservationist, which shows the environmental savings created by the switch to Rolland: 57 trees, 7,705 gallons of water, 75 pounds of garbage waste, 7,384 pounds of CO₂, 15-million BTU’s (the equivalent of 71,040 60-watt light bulbs burning for one hour), and 36 pounds of NOx indirect greenhouse gasses (equal to the output of an average car traveling 10,235 miles). That’s for just one issue. “This is what we can do,” she says. “This is the way that we can be The Tennessee Conservationist.”

But Lose and her staff weren’t just making a decision about sustainability; they were making a design choice. “The icing on the cake for me is that this is a beautiful sheet of paper. It feels good to your fingers; you want to touch it. It has really given the magazine a presence and, I think, a modernity when you stack it up against what else is on the market right now.”

The magazine also switched to an environmentally sustainable ink, one cured by ultra-violet light, so it doesn’t release VOC (volatile organic compound) gases into the air. Lose is happy with the new look and believes the photos are truer to the real, non-glossy world.

Some would argue that a truly green publication wouldn’t appear in print at all, publishing solely online instead. Some readers agreed but Lose says the majority were of a different mind. “A lot of our readers said they worked at computer screens all day long and didn’t want to come home to another screen to read us. I get that. I am a print girl, myself; I love printed material, and I think a lot of other people do too, and they appreciate a thoughtful, beautiful design.”

That said, Lose and her team are mindful of the opportunities having a web presence in the form of a digital edition of the magazine can provide. In addition to a digital archive, she wants to use the website to do more outreach and have more conversations with readers. “It’s hard to have a conversation with your readers when you only publish six times a year. I want to hear more from our readers and to create a platform where they can participate. I want their comments; I want their photos; I want to post the latest environmental news and happenings between print issues.”

Lose is taking the same community-building, collaborative approach to re-visioning The Tennessee Conservationist that she demonstrated as a cofounder of Nashville Community Darkroom and community radio station WXNA. She credits her civic-mindedness, environmentalism, and builder impulses to her parents, Betti and the aforementioned David Lose.

“My mom’s the biologist. She loves the natural world. She collects rocks, and she loves bugs, and she loves birds. She was a barrel racer, a horsewoman. She’s a helper, she’s a doer, she made me learn how to change my own oil and taught me ‘you can do anything a boy can do, honey,’ including going out there and mowing the whole yard. She was the one who had the corncob yellow Volvo with the ecology sticker on it.”

While working as a landscape architect for Miller, Wihry & Lee, David Lose created construction drawings for Fannie Mae Dees Park (better known as Dragon Park) before the dragon was added, and then helped bring artist Pedro Silva to Nashville to create the famous sculpture. Young Heather Lose got to help make some of the mosaic tile designs on the dragon. “I got to do a lion’s face and an iris,” she says. “That whole project was about the community participation, so I learned young that was important.”

One day David Lose came home from work and announced that he was opening his own landscape architecture firm, Lose & Associates. “My mom asked, ‘Who are your associates?’ and my dad said, ‘Well, Betti, you and the girls.’” says Lose with a laugh. Betti quickly learned bookkeeping, and daughters Heather and Shelley helped out around the office, which at first was part of the Lose living room and, later, over Mosko’s Muncheonette on Elliston Place. The list of federal, Tennessee State, and Metro Nashville parks for which David Lose created master plans and designed trails, open spaces, and park structures is long, with examples extending from East to West Tennessee. They include, for example, the master plans for Stones River National Battlefield, Edgar Evins State Park, and Nashville’s Beaman Park, not to mention designs for the Stones River and Lytle Creek Greenways.

Sadly, David Lose died suddenly in June of 2017, and his daughter still tears up when she talks about him. But, when she wants to feel close to him, Heather Lose walks out of her downtown office and heads over to Riverfront Park, which he also designed. “That was his gift to our city,” she says. “I think how many people have enjoyed that space, just walking there, or sitting there near the water, or going to a concert. He left that for us, and that’s huge to me.”

There’s no doubt in her mind that watching her parents build her father’s practice and seeing the lasting impact of their work set her on the path leading to The Tennessee Conservationist. “It’s amazing,” Lose says. “These gifts you are given, without even really knowing it at the time, how they carry forward.”

The Tennessee Conservationist is published bimothly by the State of Tennessee, Department of Environment and Conservation.
To subscribe, visit: tnconservationist.orgor call: 615.532.0060