J500 Media and the Environment

It’s not a small world after all…

As I look back on the last few months and about this particular class, I can’t help but have a flashback to my childhood. I’m sitting in Disney World on the ride “It’s a small world after all” with little mechanical people from all different parts of the world dancing, singing and playing with one another. A part of me wants to believe that everybody in the world can dance, sing and play with one another…but it is really not so easy.

If anything, this course has taught me to open my eyes just a little more to what is going on in our world. The world is truly a big, big place…with so many opportunities. There is still so much to learn about the environment, about going green, about the polar bears and polar ice caps, the meat industry, landfills and recycling. I have learned that I need to step out of this small shelter that I have had myself in for most of my lifetime and I need to learn about what is happening in and to our world.

Since I am realizing how big this world truly is, I have to wonder where my place is. Where do I fit into this enormous world? This course has taught me that it is okay to not be radical, but to take these small baby steps. I know I don’t need to be a vegetarian to make a world a better place, but I do know that maybe an alternative would be to eat organic, local meats. I have to thank my classmates for accepting me as somewhere in the middle of all of this.

After spending time in this class and working at the Center for Sustainability this semester, I obviously think about what it even means to be sustainable anyway. I thought our class discussion about the definition of sustainability was the perfect way to sum up the reasons for “why are we here?” and “why do we even care?” We’re here and we care because this is about us, the people. It is about ways to make ourselves happy and to make the world happy. It is about compromise and sacrifice of ourselves in order to put someone else’s and the world’s needs first. We really need to ensure our survival and the world’s survival. What better way of doing that then working together?

So now what? I want to thank Simran and the entire class for such an eye opening experience. I am so glad I chose to take this course because I have really learned so much. Thank you for helping me open my eyes to the world. So what do we do with all of this that we have experienced this semester? Educate others and yourself.

I will end this post with a quote from one of my favorite movies, Airplane:

“Just want to let you know, we’re counting on you.”

-Dena Hart

Celebs love the earth, too!
April 23, 2008, 2:01 pm
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags: , , , ,

Happy Belated Earth Day, everyone!

I know this is a day late, but a friend of mine shared with me this website (Huffington Post, for those who have heard of it or are readers themselves) that I thought would intrigue this audience. The site includes fun-filled energy saving ideas and tips that I always enjoy myself in case there is one more thing I can do in my everyday life that is green.

If you scroll down to the bottom of the website, there is a comedic video of the “Green Team”. A few celebs, including Will Ferrell, participated in the video. If anything, it is just a friendly reminder of how much pop culture, celebs and all that good jazz are influencing the green movement.

-Dena Hart

Reality of world opens the eye
April 15, 2008, 10:49 am
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags: , , , ,

I’m going to make a generalization here and say that most people’s eyes are not open as widely as they should be…unless it is something that applies to them. I’m going to continue on this rant of generalizations by saying that most people may not even look up unless it is something that particularly involves them. As some may try to deny it, we, as humans, are pretty selfish and self-absorbed. I know, it sounds harsh, but if you really think about the way that humans interact with the world, one another and the self (I have my psychology major cap on), the majority of humans will put the self first.

I admit to falling under this category at times. Yet, I always enjoy a good eye awakening moment. For example, like this one. It’s about time we step out of this box (or should I say the United States) and think about the world. How is the world doing? Is it hanging in there? Is the world happy?

It seems like the world is suffering a bit. Large populations are being stuffed into these small countries (for example, Japan) and as worldmapper.org claims: “Out of every 100 persons added to the population in the coming decade, 97 will live in developing countries.” -Hania Zlotnik, 2005

Well why did I not know about this? Why is the media picking and choosing what it is telling its viewers? Don’t you think the world has a right to know what is going on its own world!?

How is the world doing on an environmental level? Good, bad? Getting any better? You always hear these large numbers about the amount of waste we are consuming or how many trees are being cut down. Worldometers has an ongoing count of the destruction we are doing to our world. I think on some level some may have an idea of how bad this is, but honestly, even though it’s hard to imagine these large numbers, it still scared me. My eyes widened as I realized, “Look what is happening to our world. Why didn’t I know this before?”

I guess all I’m saying at this point is, why is the media so picky and choosy? Maybe the world wouldn’t be so self-focused if we were aware of what was going on outside our bubble.

-Dena Hart

From environmentalism to homelessness…

I had to put my “going green” thinking cap to the side this week as I had to focus on another issue that is affecting our world: homelessness. This spring break, instead of going to Cancun or the Bahamas, I participated in an “urban plunge“, in which I spent 48 hours homeless on the streets of Washington, D.C. All I had with me was identification, a sleeping bag, and some extra clothing. I panhandled for money, slept on cardboard and newspaper in front of the Martin Luther King, Jr. library and in front of Macy’s, and was looked down upon for not fitting into the norms of society.

How does homelessness connect to the environment? Well one example is that when I was sleeping on the streets, we had to dig through dumpsters to find cardboard and had to use newspaper too as a ‘mattress’. When we woke up in the morning, we stuck all of the cardboard and all of the newspaper in the garbage cans. I remember, with 3 hours of sleep on me, the word “RECYCLING” coming to my mind and the fact that there was no way to recycle any of what we had just used. As we were about to walk away from the garbage, a huge gust of wind came and blew all the newspaper out of the garbage and it all blew into the streets. Nobody attempted to catch the newspaper, including myself.

After glancing over the amount of food various people eat, it really got me thinking about the amount of waste that is consumed in the world. Wealthy families in Japan and the United States spend hundreds of dollars on food a week (which means that more waste is produced through packaging, etc.) as opposed to some countries like Egypt and Ecuador who are spending less than one hundred dollars a week on food. Are these families that are eating less helping the environment?

Does that mean that the homeless are helping the environment? When I panhandled, I picked out a cup from the garbage and used it to collect change. I reused newspaper and cardboard as a mattress. I used cardboard I found on the ground to make a sign about being hungry and needing money for food. So even though the homeless are reusing things that those who have money used, does that help the environment?

Environmentalism and homelessness are both serious issues that our world is facing today. I guess my question is…how much is homelessness impacting our environment and how are they even connected? It makes me exhausted just thinking about it.

-Dena Hart

For more information about the urban plunge, watch this video:

One burrito at a time…

(Here I am about to reference being in a sorority again…)

As a member of a sorority, many philanthropic opportunities from other chapters in the KU Greek community are presented to us to participate in…to help and better our world. Last night, we were offered the opportunity to go to Chipotle and profits made from that evening would help benefit The Gordon Parks Charter School. We sorority girls whom you may not believe actually enjoy eating, but really do, thought, “hey, why not?” So we got on our cute leggings and Ugg boots (okay, that’s sort of a joke) and ended up at the Chipotle on 6th and Monterey.

I’ve always heard about Chipotle’s efforts to serve naturally raised meat that are vegetarian fed with no antibiotics, but I never knew how much effort Chipotle has put in in order to be ‘sustainable‘. Instead of bashing Chipotle on how they can increase their efforts of being green, I am going to applaud them instead because they have made more of an effort than many fast-food (but not fast food) chains in our nation.

I was surprised to hear Chipotle’s call for humane treatment of the animals (cows, chickens and pigs). For example, Chipotle even claims, “Since 2001, all the pork served in our restaurants has been from pig raised in this humane, ecologically sustainable way.” The farms in which the pork comes from even allow the pigs to roam around the pasture and socialize with one another. That really warms my heart.

Chipotle’s efforts towards being green are evident in their “Food for Integrity” mission, which includes doing all these things better from start to finish (especially returning to organic and sustainable farming). Food for Integrity doesn’t just include naturally raised meat, but many other ingredients that you are able to put into that fluffy burrito (or burrito bol in my case). Some of these other ingredients are: organically grown beans, sour cream free of the synthetic growth hormone rBGH, and romaine lettuce instead of iceberg lettuce.

Even though some of Chipotle’s products are shipped from sources across the country, I would still have to applaud them for their organic and sustainable efforts. Isn’t being sustainable about balancing things out, anyway? I know it will be worth it in the end.

So if I’m not in the mood for a natural burger at Local Burger, I know I can go Mexican and eat at Chipotle and still have that same satisfaction that I am helping make this world a better place…one burrito at a time.

-Dena Hart

Dear Journal…

Dear Journal (I choose journal over diary because the word ‘diary’ seems like I am about to write out all of my secrets, when in reality ‘journaling’ seems to be a lot more about reflection),

Today I ate the following:

Breakfast: 1 Bowl of Kashi Go Lean Crunch cereal with skim milk

Lunch: 2 plates of a Mexican fiesta (aka a mish mosh of ground beef, chicken, black beans, lettuce, salsa, sour cream, queso and chips)

Dinner: Beef tips with veggies, potatoes and gravy, corn, salad with good ‘ol ranch dressing.

After dinner until now: 10 peanut butter M&M’s (during my night class) and a bowl of cereal with skim milk

So journal, what does this all mean?

It means that what I am capable of eating is actually pretty limited. Since I have payed for my meals at the sorority house already, I choose 97% of the time to eat there whenever possible. Although, when I begin to think about what my sorority house is feeding me, I think about how my sorority house has the mentality of a college student: “Cheaper is obviously the better route in life…[when you're in college]” Buying groceries from discount stores like Checkers and ordering large amounts of packaged food to feed 40 ‘women’ (as we are supposed to call ourselves) from companies like Sysco, it seems that my ability to go organic is rather limited.

So Journal, I read this article about what is put into the Happy Meals I choose to eat on the weekends (since the sorority house only makes meals on weekdays), and I was merely stunned at what I was putting into my body. If anything, I was reminded of the clever, yet horrifying Meatrix videos. My conscious began to feel guilty for the food choices I am making each day. Yet, do I have a choice when in fact my meals for the majority of the time have already been paid for?

I showed my best friend the Happy Meal article and her response was, “So I’m pretty much eating silly putty, breast implants, and detergent.” I responded by saying, “Yes…yes we are.” Then, I got queasy. And then she said, “It’s just so expensive to eat healthy and organic.” I nodded and pondered this idea, Journal, and I’m just so perplexed.

Everybody (I mean the majority of our class and many others out there) wish they could just switch to organic, but there are just so many obstacles lying in our path.

Help me Journal…help me come up with a way to eat healthy and organically without making that tremendous dent in what money I even have. Also, help me have a good, clean conscious that won’t make me feel bad about everything I put into my body.


Dena Hart

Suburb to sorority.
February 25, 2008, 2:53 pm
Filed under: Waste + Recycling | Tags: , , , , ,

I grew up with a freakishly clean, recycle-maniac of a father in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. I consciously was aware of the numbers at the bottom of my yogurt containers at a very young age. Recycling has always been something I was an advocate of. I had to be, or else my dad would make me go through the garbage and pick out what I forgot to put into the recycling bin. Now, I am ‘sort of’ on my own. Instead of taking the apartment route after living in Naismith Hall freshman year, I decided to take the sorority route. There are many perks of joining a sorority. One of the primary ones is living in the chapter’s house. Currently, I live in a house with 35 other girls and a house mother. Not my ideal living situation, either.

Let’s just say… sorority girls + lack of recycling + waste consumption = a large carbon footprint.

Since I live in a communal household, I throw my garbage away wherever I see a trash can (bathroom, hallway, foyer, dining area, etc.) My own personal trash (consisting of food wrappers, used paper, water bottles, dryer sheets, etc.—some things I definitely should recyle) can has been collecting garbage for about 3 weeks now. It is still not completely full. It weighs about 5 pounds. On the other hand, garbage cans everywhere in the house are just piling up. Sorority sisters (myself included) are putting their papers, plastics, etc. into the garbage seemingly non-chalant. There are moments I realize…wow, we really should have a recycling program (other than just stuffing cans into a cardboard box that never gets dropped off anywhere in order to be recycled).


*My own little garbage can in my room.


* The paper towels stacking up in the bathroom. This is less than 24 hours worth of thrown away towels.

I’m putting my psychology major cap on and am thinking about it like this: my sorority sisters (generally) are not consciously aware of their carbon footprints as they place their garbage into the garbage can. Many people out there are intimidated and threatened by the large influence humans have on the planet. Or maybe they just don’t know how to recycle or be “waste smart”. Maybe they are just not educated about their impact.

Even if there was a recycling program at the sorority house…would that even make a difference? Would my sisters even consider these recycling bins before placing their recycleable trash into the garbage? All I can say is this: I’m glad I’m being educated about my carbon footprint. I’m thankful for my freakishly clean, recycle-maniac of a father who told me it was important to recycle because we were saving the world.


*the pitiful “recycling program” we have.

-Dena Hart

I’m just trying to find that bridge…

Paul McCartney once said, “If anyone wants to save the planet, all they have to do is stop eating meat. That’s the single most important thing you can do.” It seems that GoVeg.com is also a key supporter of this statement. The United Nations argues that the meat industry “emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problem at every scale from local to global.”

This is when I start to feel a bit guilty stopping for a quarter pounder at McDonalds on 23rd street last week because I thought it was convenient. In reality, my laziness led to increases in carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide emissions, which is only hurting our planet even more. After taking numerous approaches to become eco-friendly (using a aluminum reusable water bottle, consciously turning off lights when not in use, and turning off the water when I brush my teeth in the morning), I still have not been able to take that step towards vegetarianism. Yet, I want to save the world. I want my children to be able to enjoy beautiful landscapes, just like the KU campus. I have to wonder how I am going to begin to walk across that bridge towards this ultimate goal of saving the planet.

Fortunately, the city of Lawrence is two steps ahead of me. Lawrencesustainability.net has shown me multiple ways to begin my trek on that bridge towards saving our planet. Food joints like Local Burger support Lawrence’s local farmers by advocating the humane treatment of animals. Local Burger also recycles and composts their organic waste. The Community Mercantile’semphasis on natural and organic foods, as well as local foods exhibits their attempts to save the world, too. Amy’s Meats is also a prime example of efforts to save the world and be able to eat delicious meats. I understand where Paul McCartney and the United Nations are coming from in their attempts to show awareness about the benefits of being a vegetarian. At the same time, some unique food establishments in Lawrence speak in a way that I agree with: enjoying meat with this ideal of saving Mother Nature at the same time. What do you think? Is it better to support these innovative approaches of saving our planet by eating organic, hormone-free meat? Or is it just easier to become a vegetarian?

picture taken from


This right here is the one of the largest and significant contributors to today’s environmental problem. But they look so innocent!

Dena Hart

Hi Dena! Dena Hart


(that’s me at the Mediterranean Sea in Tel Aviv, Israel last January)

I come from a northwest suburb of Chicago (Buffalo Grove) of about 40,000 people. My graduating class in high school had over 1,000 people. Let’s just say there was never a dull moment. I am the daughter of a Rabbi (which I try to tell myself doesn’t mean anything…but it really does.) My father’s congregation has almost 1000 families (so our family motto is “You can run…but you can’t hide.”) If anyone likes bad television like myself and has seen the show 7th Heaven (which is no longer on TV, but has re-runs on ABC family)…that is my life in a nutshell (except for the fact that we don’t have random homeless, abandoned, or run-away people living in our house). Having my father be a local celeb, life has certainly been made for the public eye (which during my early teenage years I had to learn the hard way.)

I came to KU because I did not get into my top 2 schools (let’s just say KU was my safety.) It ended up being one of the best decisions I have ever made. I wanted to get away from home to start a new life. If anything, I have realized what is important. In the end, being Jewish has been apart of my everyday life and apart of everything that I believe. Being Jewish is how I got interested in the environment. The whole ‘environmenalist’ thing is still very new to me, and that is why I am taking this class. To learn and to be inspired. I am a junior majoring in Psychology with a minor in Judaic Studies. I am currently working at KU Hillel (a Jewish student organization on campus) as a cook. (I cook for Shabbat meals, events, etc.) Who knows where life will take me…

Likes: Days of Our Lives (I told you, I love bad TV), kitties, steak, my family, the colors green and purple, being Jewish, friends, laughing, being original, camp, coffee, Israel, traveling, deep discussions about the meaning of life, etc.

-Dena Hart

Environmentalism…you sexy thing.
February 12, 2008, 10:50 pm
Filed under: Fashion + Beauty, Society + Media

Hmm…making environmentalism sexy…is it possible? I have to wonder what Arnold actually meant by this statement. I actually laughed out loud when he compared environmentalism to body building. There are moments like this when it is so difficult to take him seriously (because all I can think of is him killing terrorists in his movie “True Lies”.) On the contrary, Arnold brings up a valid point about the necessity for environmental activism. One approach of getting attention is through SEX.

When I think of making environmentalism sexy, my mind quickly runs back to this article on “How to Green your Sex Life” that I had found on Treehugger.com after our discussion in class last Thursday. I think about how appealing, attractive, and desirable this truly is to consumers. Well of course environmentalism is going sell when you relate it to SEX!

You know what else sells…celebrities. The use of celebrities to promote environmentalism is so smart. Why? Because it so works! Celebrities are motivational. Everybody (when I use the term ‘everybody’…I really mean ‘generally’) wants to be like celebs in one way or another. For example, Oprah. When Oprah helps promote environmentalism and the need to be more enviornmentally conscious to American middle-aged mothers, it sells in a snap. It’s inspiring.

Well that is the first step. The second step is making it possible for consumers to even obtain these products to be able to promote environmentalism. The cost of organic clothing, cleaning products, and cars are wild. How can I, a college student, be able to even promote the cause without having any money?

Although some of us out there are financially challenged, Arnold was onto something. Right? His humorous approach to environmentalism helps the release of this certain anxiety that is held about the notion that our world is literally crumbling into pieces. Humor is contagious, therefore spreading word about needing to help our enviornment will hopefully be contagious too.

What do you think??

-Dena Hart


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