J500 Media and the Environment

Celebrities Going Green…Or Are They? by jackiemcc

Last week, I was browsing the Internet, and came across one of ABC’s Stars Go Green videos. In these videos, they feature celebrities in their own homes who are going green.

These days so many stars are claiming to go green. However, after viewing the above video, I started to rethink the concept of celebrities going green. I began to wonder how many of them are actual leading green lives themselves.

It’s easy for someone to say they’re going green, but the truth is, that not all of them practice what they preach. There are many stars out there who say they support protecting the environment, but when you look at their personal lives, they are not following through with their word. All these stars are contributing to ‘greenwashing.’

Celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, John Travolta, Natalie Portman, and Madonna are all among the culprits. Many of them preach for a greener environment, but when they’re off flying their own private jets and “using synthetic materials in [their] vegan line of footwear,” it’s hard to believe them. All of their practices are not supporting the environment.

But what is prompting these stars to greenwash? Last semester I took a “Current Issues in Journalism” course at KU. In this course, we discussed a lot of these same issues. We talked about how celebrities are used to promote popularity of certain products. Because consumers idolize certain celebrities, they may be tempted to buy a certain product if their favorite celebrity is using it.

As a result, celebrities might catch on to this, and take their popularity for advantage. They may think that because they’re popular, people will believe whatever they say. And this is what is happening with the “going green” trend. It is quite popular now, so the celebrities want say they support the cause, even if their actions don’t confirm it. Bottom line, they want to make themselves look good, so they can maintain public approval.

Whatever their reason, I would ask these celebrities who are not following through with their words, to please step aside and make room for those who are going green. There is no need for those who aren’t contributing to the issue; you’re not positively impacting the environment. I would rather hear from the celebrities who are, even if that means fewer.

-Jackie McClellan

Localizing Frito-Lays Chips by tesshedrick
February 19, 2010, 4:05 pm
Filed under: J500 Week 5 | Tags: , , ,

I found the article about Frito Lays Chips being locally made by Bruce Horovitz to be very interesting. Frito-Lay is such a huge industry; it is hard to believe that they are trying to “localize” their industry. I stress the quotation marks because I laughed when I read that they were coming out with this new campaign about how their chips are “local.”

The article points out that the brand has always been an American brand. However, because the current trend is to go “local,” I believe Frito-Lay wants to jump on the bandwagon. The article states that Frito-Lay chips have always been produced in the United States. Now, Frito-Lay wants to make it blatant to its consumers that this is so by starting this campaign.

The article talked about a chip tracker on the Frito-Lay website, so I thought I would check it out. The chip tracker is a tech-device that tells what state a person’s specific bag of chips is from.

Currently, consumers want to know where their food is coming from. From a business standpoint, Frito-Lay did an excellent job. I checked out the chip tracker and found that a bag of chips I bought in Kansas could potentially be made in, say, Florida.

I mean, I think it is interesting to know where the chips were made, but then again, Florida is thousands of miles away! When I think of “local” food, I think foods that are produced no farther away than one’s state.

This leads me to believe that Frito-Lay may be trying to “local-wash” its consumers. To me, it seems like the company is tricking its consumers into believing that the chips are indeed local, even though they may actually have been produced across the country.

I believe this is where the ambiguous term of “local” comes into play. It seems like Frito-Lay’s definition of local may be “made in the United States.”

“Going green” has often been thought of as growing crops without any chemicals. However, on the Frito-Lays website, it stresses how many tens of millions of pounds of potatoes are grown in various states. If you click here, you will be able to see a map of the United States and be able to scroll over every state that produces Lays. Personally, this sounds a little fishy to me and too industrialized to be “green.”

I found this video of a farmer for Frito-Lay from Maine on the Frito-Lay website. The farmer appears quite personable in the video and it actually made me sigh with happiness. Then, it occurred to me that this family’s farm is most likely very industrialized and not environmentally friendly.

-Tess H.

Green in the Mainstream by micolea

What’s red, pink, includes a bevy of celebrities and is being hailed as the first in its industry to “go green?”

The answer is the movie ” Valentine’s Day.”

Photo by CarbonNYC/Courtesy Flickr

Though Hollywood movie production sets are known for lavishness and excess (big budget special effects, private jets and exorbitant food waste) this time around producers acted out of character and made a conscious effort to shrink their carbon footprint. Environmentally sound practices implemented on the Valentine’s Day movie set included: providing the actors with hybrid vehicles, reusable stainless steel beverage containers, composting of food waste and thorough use of solar-powered and biodiesel generators. The pinnacle of these ecological operations resulted in the composting of 25 tons of food waste, “eliminating 21,000 plastic bottles and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 67 metric tons, according to a ‘carbon audit’ by Warner Bros,” as mentioned in this Los Angeles Times article.

When I heard about this, I thought, “if only every film, music and commercial set would follow suit.” Which lead me to contemplate, “in what other ways is Hollywood reaching out and raising social awareness about environmental issues?”

The Environmental Media Association is a non-profit organization with a long-standing reputation of encouraging people across the globe to make environmental changes through the channels of television, music and film. Its Young Hollywood Board includes celebs such as, Amy Smart, Nicole Richie and Lance Bass. The organization’s web site features a green lifestyle guide that includes information ranging from which fruits and vegetables contain the most pesticides  to suggestions on where to shop for organic foods and which restaurants highlight organic dishes on its menus. 

Taking a more behind-the-scenes approach is the consulting media agency, Reel Green Media. It is increasing sustainability processes and lessening the environmental burdens left by media productions. Coincidentally, Reel Green Media has worked with media giants Warner Bros and Fox.

It seems as if Hollywood is taking green strides for our environment. I give the directors, producers, actors and organizations a standing ovation for taking part in helping to preserve and protect our Mother Earth. But I can’t help but wonder, is this a spark that will spur an honest transformation in people to make changes and redefine their relationship with the environment, or will these well-intentioned efforts no sooner be placed on the “going green” bandwagon?

Micole Aronowitz

Composting: Getting the Young Folk to Try by bendcohen
February 11, 2010, 10:10 pm
Filed under: J500 Week 4, Society + Media | Tags: , , ,

I had an unusual experience last year after volunteering to help with a green fair at KU.  Having attended several early planning meetings for From Blue to Green: Conserve KU, I thought I would have free reign to set up whatever sort of thing I wanted at the green fair which would serve as one of the committee’s main programs.  While attempting to throw together a guide to holding “green events”, I was told that I was expected all along to put together a small set-up about the values of compost.

Yes, compost, the delicate art of putting degradable trash into a large pile for later uses.  It was about two weeks before the green fair that I found out that I and my friends would be putting together something about this compelling subject.  As it turned out, I had somebody make a tri-board with pictures of and factoids about compost.  It would have been a bigger hit at the green fair, but we were situated next to a thing about local agriculture, and they were giving out free apples.  Free food always gets more love.

I was reminded of this recently, as I caught up with a friend who, by some circumstance or another, has found herself teaching a class about composting in Kansas City.  While discussing the actual curriculum of the class (it covers both the benefits of composting and how to properly do it), she lamented to me that her students tend to be at retirement age.  “Composting”, I observed to her, “does not play well with the young people.”

Courtesy of the Washington Department of Ecology

As beneficial as this practice could be, both as a means of disposing of certain bits of refuse, and for replenishing topsoil (there are a lot of avid gardeners out there who care about this), it’s one of the least sexy things one can do to go green.  Composting takes sorting through garbage, piling garbage somewhere, and, um… waiting for garbage to degrade into dirt.  Yes, there are practical benefits and applications to this, but on paper, it’s hard to get excited for it.

I considered joking to my friend that her students could spread the lessons they learned to their grandchildren, but it felt kind of mean.  I learned about compost when I was in grade school, from karate teachers and field trips to conservation centers, and I still don’t do it.

So what now?  I’m interested in knowing what people think about not just about the practice of composting, but what can be done to get younger people more interested in it.  My idea: a movie where Ellen Page and Jack Black  run a compost class (I’ll contact my friend to see if she knows anybody who can be played by Black), and somehow teach us lessons about togetherness.  Hollywood, I’m waiting for the call.

But really, throw some ideas out.

Ben C.

A little Black & Blue makes Green by Dave Dunn
June 26, 2009, 4:04 pm
Filed under: Energy + Climate, J840 Week 2, Society + Media | Tags: , ,

I slightly wince at my computer screen as I type in the darkness of my lower level.  My lights are off in an effort to conserve energy and I’m downstairs because it’s the coolest place in the house.  A bead of sweat nearly develops on my brow as my thermostat’s set higher in another eco-friendly effort.  I believe a little “Black & Blue”, like a bruise, to your daily living habits and/or to your wallet are necessary for considering oneself as being “Green”.no pain no gain

Becoming “Green” may be like the old saying, “No pain, no gain.”  Rather than environmental efforts that are simply a by-product of convenience or saving money in the short-term, real environmental action must include sacrifices both financially and socially.

As an example of sacrifices, in a radio interview on the “Brian Lehrer Show” (4/20/2007), NY Times Columnist Thomas Freedman talked about rising the price of oil for 5 years. He said while it would produce short-term financial pain for consumers, it would force the development of energy alternatives, which would eventually drive down the price of oil for good.  Freedman’s key to Environmentalism on a larger scale is higher governmental standards.  And he said higher standards will drive innovation, and innovation will drive green (and green will drive to long-term financial savings and more jobs).

On an individual level, I think being green is holding oneself to higher standards, and to do that includes lowering ones “standard” of living.   With all the confusing and contradictory messages on living green as reported in the New York Times article (“That Buzz in Your Ear Might Be Green Noise”), I believe sacrifice is a big part of determining what is, and what is not, green.

-Dave D.

Good as Green by TreyW

As the term “Going Green” is thrown around, I find it increasingly difficult to seperate the environmentalist moniker from the color itself. With this in mind, I always think of the other ways that we label individuals with color and how these labels are all too often negative.

As children, we ask “What’s wrong? Are you yellow?” to coerce the neighborhood scaredy-cat into something everyone knows is dangerous. Later, we ask “Why so blue?” to a downtrodden friend. Even as adults, we gossip about our family’s “black sheep” after he loses his shirt on a wild night in Vegas and moves back in with mom.

Considering the other uses of color as a label, it is not at all surprising to hear Stephen Colbert mockingly use the term “Reduce, Reuse, Re-Psychos” to refer to individuals that I would consider “green.” When the color green is already being used to describe the envious and inexperienced, it only follows that going green would be seen as over-the-top, radical environmentalism.

However, I think the green movement is slowly breaking the green mold. If the views of Silent Spring author, Rachel Carson, can go from being seen as hysterical to revolutionary, I think it is only a matter of time before people who insist that guests in there home recycle the bottled water they just finished go from being “green nuts” to just positively “green.” The term greem in an environmental sense just means doing the right thing.

Whether Carson was correct or not in her assertion that nature is central to the survival of man rather than the inverse, I believe human beings should (whether out of gratitude or responsibility to nature) take the necessary steps to ensure its long-run survival. This to me is the essence of being green. Everything we do, no matter how slight, should be done in a way that keeps our surroundings intact.

*Trey Williams*

Business-Jolly Green Giants by jenjenku
October 29, 2008, 6:03 pm
Filed under: Business + Politics, Energy + Climate | Tags: , , ,

Balance! Isn’t that what we always here? Live a more balanced life. Eat a more balanced diet. Learn to balance your workload and school work. Well, when it comes to business and the going green approach, balance continues to be king.

Rebecca, Stacey and my field work has been shaped around businesses. It’s been interesting to learn the viewpoints of companies from small business to large and to non-for-profits. Through our outreach to various companies in the Kansas City area, we’ve certainly identified key trends. Now we don’t want to give away all the secrets so I’ll share just one. One of the key trends that stood out in my field work stems from conversations with Burns and McDonnell. Roger Dick, Burns & McDonnell’s spokesperson for Green Initiatives says “businesses can foster a culture that achieves a cleaner environment without undue economic hardship, if we take a balanced approach”. Sure this balancing act may not stand out from the crowd, but they really have no interest in taking a radical potion on something this important. Important? Yes, businesses see going green, sustainability and protecting the environment in which each of us individually and collectively are a part of, as IMPORTANT.

See what NBC says about Burns & McDonnell’s sustainability initiatives”.

How can we take the messages from this proven successful Burns & McDonnell balancing act and re-skin it to be actionably attractive to other companies? Well, if we give you the answer now it would spoil all the fun wouldn’t it? Tune back in on Saturday, Nov 7thJ!

Jennifer W.


Obama says Oceans will disappear in 2011 by jenjenku
October 24, 2008, 4:56 pm
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags: , ,

True or False? FALSE thank goodness! But who can we believe when it comes to topics about energy and the environment, such as the future of our beautiful oceans? John McCain and Barack Obama have both laid out energy plans that overlap in places and blatantly differ in others. Information is clearly distorted by politicians’ agendas.  As communicators, we need to shape our messages to overcome hidden agendas and false understandings in order to be heard. 

The conversation has narrowed so much that the main concern is missing. According to George Lakoff’s interview on the Sierra Club Web site, Americans’ think of the environment as something separate. We need to think of it as wanting our communities and life on Earth to survive infinitely into the future. All talks should roll up into this central communication.

Why? Because the enviroment is an important piece of each of us that effects us all equally.  Energy and climate change have become a household concern; therefore it is our window of opportunity to fill in the blanks with solutions. We need to use terms like health and safety that resonate with everyone.   

Climate change is one of the most challenging conversations we face and actions to address it will involve everything from how we produce energy, drive cars, construct our communities, etc. Think about it! Excited about your new Ford Focus or hot new Mercedes-Benz E63. Simply something to spin around the neighborhood in, right? Wrong!  You need to think in terms of the central message about how every single action affects our life, health and safety on Earth now. Both cars are among the 10 worst nominees on the “greenest list“.  You want to talk about climate change John and Barack? The conversation starts now! 

Jennifer W.



Green Speak by jenjenku
October 17, 2008, 1:22 pm
Filed under: Business + Politics | Tags: , ,

What’s the difference between sustainability and environmentalism? Even more, how can I communicate this to my company and get them to pay attention to what customers are asking for?

I recently spoke with David Clark who is a sustainability consultant, so I was excited to hear his thoughts on how I could communicate this “green fad” to my company. Of course sustainability and environmentalism all mean different things to everyone. David Clark considered this in his suggestions.  He shared three considerations including being authentic, curious and listening. So listen up!

Now we have suggestions to frame a conversation, but how do I get my company to start the chatter? Clark reminded us to recall our own paths of awareness with green initiatives. Sure, but how do we then translate that to business talk? Well, we need to get our companies attention and keep it! With this in mind, I think we lay out a marketing plan that captures the strategy, tactics and “what’s in it for them?”  Ask questions, determine needs and develop solutions. It’s simple, if the company is concerned with cutting costs, then focus on savings with lower energy costs. Or, if it needs to increase its bottom line, show how “going green” will resonate with its customer base and drive sales. Whatever the need is, we all know the company will need data. So the great news is there are many companies “going green,” we can look at them to create a killer case study. Check them out!

 Live Green

Companies Going Green



Apple customers asked for “green” and Apple listened!



Jennifer W.


It’s not a small world after all… by denah

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


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