When we launched Ensia magazine online and in print a year ago this week, we didn’t know exactly what to expect. Would there be an interest in hopeful, solutions-oriented stories in a world filled with environmental doom and gloom? Was there room for thoughtful, original articles and commentaries amidst the flood of click-bait headlines and cotton candy content?

You responded with a resounding “Yes!” and for that we want to say, “Thanks!”

In Ensia’s first year, hundreds of thousands of you from more than 160 countries around the world read our stories, viewed our multimedia and shared our content via social media. Perhaps most important of all, though, you engaged with one another through thoughtful comments and discussions on ensia.com, Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere. If we’ve started to play even a small role in sparking conversations that lead to solutions to our biggest environmental challenges, the late hours and caffeine-fueled editorial deadlines will be worth the effort.

Along the way, we’ve learned quite a bit. And you’ve helped keep us on our toes, too.

We were surprised by the stories that resonated with you: Who knew an article on climate change cuisine would be one of our most popular?

Your views and shares showed us there’s still a place in the world for in-depth reporting on important issues such as a new path for conservation, nature-inspired urban design, the need to reduce groundwater depletion and solar energy solutions for the developing world. Regarding that last piece, the head of a renewable energy company in India commented, “This is the primer that I’ll send to anyone who wants to understand the landscape for clean energy in developing countries.” Feedback like this really tells us we’re on to something.

We were pleasantly surprised by your overwhelming response to the Voices commentaries we invited from some of today’s most influential environmental leaders and writers. We initially planned on a dozen of these essays throughout the year, but in the end we published more than 50. Pieces on changing the global food narrative, the link between pregnancy advice and climate change, how cultural norms play into natural disasters and the death of sustainability were among our most popular throughout the year.

The response to the Ensia Mentor Program for emerging environmental communicators has also been tremendous. Stories by our mentees on mock lion hunts and the importance of funding long-term ecological research show that the future is in good hands as long as opportunities for thoughtful environmental coverage exist.

Something we never expected was to be called upon frequently throughout the year as an advisor. Yet over the past year, we’ve been contacted by media and environmental organizations based in the U.S. and the U.K. looking to expand their focus on “solutions journalism.”

Through email and in person, you also told us that you appreciate Ensia’s commitment to both solid content and smart design. We try to appeal to both the head and the heart, the left and the right brain, and our efforts to do so appear to be paying off.

Ensia was also fortunate to receive a number of professional accolades this past year, including an Eddie editorial award from Folio magazine and a Judge’s Choice Award during AIGA’s (Re)design competition. We were particularly pleased with the comment from one of the AIGA judges, who noted, “By filling the vast void left by the corporate-owned media outlets for environmental reporting, Ensia highlights the myriad of environmental issues and solutions that are happening today… The design itself is clean, functional in modern media, and highly visual when other magazines and websites are text heavy.”

Of course, it hasn’t exactly been a cakewalk. We learned that publishing original, edited and diligently fact-checked content five times a week requires a lot of early mornings and late nights.  We also learned that finding funding for an independent nonprofit magazine is a near full-time job — which makes us more thankful than ever for the support we’ve received from the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and private individuals who’ve stepped forward to help us grow Ensia. If you’re interested in contributing to future environmental reporting or helping us train the next generation of environmental communicators through the Ensia Mentor Program, we’d sure appreciate your support.

Ensia hosted several large, public events during the spring of 2013. We’re now assessing new opportunities in the events space. We strongly believe in the power of targeted, in-person interactions to move the conversation toward environmental solutions, so stay tuned for details in the year ahead.

As we strive to magnify Ensia’s reach and impact, developing meaningful, lasting partnerships with both nonprofit and for-profit media outlets remains a work in progress. We’ve started several exciting new media partnerships during the past year (with a few more high-profile connections to be announced in the months ahead), but reaching out beyond the “choir” to attract new audiences is a constant part of our day-to-day activities — and one of the most important things we can do if we’re really going to move the needle on these issues.

In closing, we’d love to hear from you. What are we doing right? How can we improve? What environmental issues do you think deserve to be in the spotlight over the coming year? You can engage with Ensia on Twitter or Facebook, or if you prefer, send me a message via email.

On behalf of everyone at Ensia, thank you once again for your support throughout our first year!  We look forward to bringing you more stories of inspiring solutions to environmental challenges in the months and years to come.

Todd Reubold | Ensia director and founding editor

Photo by Omer Wazir (Creative Commons | Flickr)