J500 Media and the Environment

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.

Virtue is in the Green by carrieshoptaw
June 26, 2009, 3:57 pm
Filed under: J840 Week 2 | Tags:

 Virtue is in the Green 

Being Green is genuinely making the best choices for the environment as can be managed in everyday action as its own reward. The action of being green is not just the means to an end, but an end unto itself : I feel better carrying my reusable bags or buying local just because I know I should. environmentalethics

The motivation for ecological choices, individual or corporate, must be simply to lead an honorable life, company, society or country, with the only reward being the knowledge that future generations of  all the earth’s resources and species will benefit, perhaps even after no one here now is around to prove it. 

The individual can only be satisfied with his or her choices because the best choice, for its own sake as it relates to conservation, has been made with the best information at hand: The company can not act to simply to improve corporate standing and the individual can not act based only on a need to define themselves to others, around the subject of environmentalism. Those actions are helpful, but not authentically Green. 

If outside perception is relied on for validation, there are too many ways in which the will to continue can be interrupted. And though to act environmentally for the wrong reasons is better than not acting at all, surly once the shine has worn off the attention, so will the behavior diminish. In a 2005 article, David Roberts at Grist disagreed, stating that personal virtue isn’t enough to sustain environmentalism, because there aren’t enough virtuous people. He believes the structures of government and society are the means to environmental success. But those governments must be lead by individuals who will act justly around the topic of environmentalism. Classes on Environmental Ethics have wrestled with the concept for decades. 

To me, Green is thoughtful behavior that is its own reward. Green is not being driven to act environmentally by law, popularity or financial gain, but by choosing to do it. There are longer definitions, but this one seems like the best way to get started.

Carrie K. Shoptaw

To be green, or not to be green…. by bethd
June 26, 2009, 12:15 pm
Filed under: J840 Week 2

To be green, or not to be green….

You know I never thought of myself as a “green” person, but I do believe I have conservative behavior which could be considered behavior.  I only wash my clothes in cold water and only when I have a full load of laundry. I use high-efficiency light bulbs. I reuse newspaper for numerous purposes. I always turnout my lights and my power strips off. I’m pretty tolerant regarding the temperature at my house. I take short showers (most because I am always in a hurry). But to be honest I never had, or still have, any environmental motivation for these behaviors, I just try not being wasteful. And to that point, I belief this behavior has fiscal benefits in addition to environmental ones which is probably a greater motivator for me.

With that stated, I don’t believe I do a very good job at categorizing people as “green” or “not green”, which could be part of my struggle with “being green.” It shouldn’t be a label; it should be a lifestyle and a commitment, and furthermore the responsibility of the masses, not just these “green” people. On the Brian Lehrer Show from April 2007, guest Thomas Friedman was very adamant about this “green thing” not being a right-wing or left-wing issue, it’s going to take liberals, conservatives and everything in between.

So in a moment of self-reflection I asked myself, “Why don’t I do more to be ‘greener’?” It occurred to me I only do “green” stuff when it saved me money and/or caused me little to no inconvenience. So I guess I am what Jeff McIntire-Strasberg, editor and founder of Sustainablog, would categorize as “light green.” I don’t know if I’m content with that or not, but I do know I am not willing to pay double for organic food or purchase eco-friendly products not comparable to available counterparts. Why? For one thing—I am cheap when it comes to food and cosmetics and eating all USDA organic-food would really cut into my travel budget. Also, apparently I’m vain—because non-toxic hairspray just doesn’t work as well as the aerosol pollutants to which I became accustomed. 

Kermit the Frog says, “It’s not easy being green….”


I know, I am a bad person, but for whatever it’s worth I am honest and real, and hopefully that can be appreciated. And although many people would have trouble admitting it, they are probably much like me when it comes to “being green.” I thought I would do a couple Google searches to see what information is available to make “green” easier for me and those like me. I found some decent information I wanted to share with my readers.

The first article I found titled “Top 5 Green Products Not to Buy”comes from smartmoney.com (click for complete article). It outlines a few items in the electronics, food/wine and construction categories that have become victim to greenwashing marketing strategies. For example, “Organic” seafood: The “organic” label on fish at supermarkets and restaurants, is misleading because there’s no such thing. There is no USDA certification for seafood due to the number of uncontrollable variables, like water quality. Even farmed fish, like salmon, may require wild food sources — another disqualifier because that feed may have been exposed to pesticides and other pollutants.

The second article I found informative was “Buy Organic Without Breaking the Bank” (click for complete article). This is a great read because it points out some helpful, cost-saving tips. For example, many generics are beginning to offer organic products and grocery stores often have sales on organic produce because of the short shelf life—two things that make complete sense, but I never would have sought out.

I hope this information is as helpful for you as it was for me!

Beth Davis

Green Enough Should Be Good Enough by hollyee
June 26, 2009, 12:05 pm
Filed under: J840 Week 2, Society + Media | Tags: , , , ,

leo carillo state beach
My Walden Pond was the Pacific Ocean. Its salty imprint branded me for life as an environmentalist, but lately I have wondered if I pass muster in today’s definition of green.

A BBC World News America/The Harris Poll conducted just after Earth Day this year (http://www.harrisinteractive.com/harris_poll/pubs/Harris_Poll_BBC_2009_04_24.pdf) showed good news. More than half of Americans are paying attention to environmental issues. The report talked positively about increases in recycling, buying locally and a myriad of small changes. Interestingly though, less than half of the people surveyed thought they were making sustainable changes in their lifestyle. This was down from last year’s survey by five percentage points.

“It might also be that the little everyday things people are doing are making a difference – but Americans don’t think they are enough to say they are making lifestyle changes,” reported the Harris poll press release.

I think this survey and New York Times article (“That Buzz in Your Ear Might Be Green Noise,” http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/15/fashion/15green.html?_r=2) got it right. It is confusing to be green these days. Our hypercompetitive society has made a win-lose game out of walking gently on our planet.

My definition of being green harkens back to when I spent adolescent hours learning about the beach and the ocean. Green meant watching where you walked so you didn’t crush a habitat, packing out your litter, bringing your own water and eating as low as possible on the food chain.

My life is more complicated now, yet I think in the battle for our planet, it is the little steps that will add up to giant leaps. Robert Richardson did a good job of applying Thoreau in a Smithsonian magazine article. (http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/Waldens_Ripple_Effect.html)

“Walden is a self-help book, perhaps the ultimate self-help book, urging us to show up for our own lives, to have the courage to find our own convictions and to try to live them out,” Richardson wrote.

I think allowing “green” to be different things to different people  is essential.
–Holly Eitel

Reflections on “green” by Victor Vijayakirthi
June 26, 2009, 2:28 am
Filed under: J840 Week 2 | Tags: , , , , ,

As I grappled with the question of what is green, I read about Silver Spring, Barbie and listened to Friedman. Everyone was saying something, but what was it? Walden encouraged me to look at my own roots in India.

As I thought about how we lived then, it struck me that life was much simpler. We bathed from a 5-gallon bucket of water. Soap came wrapped in a piece of paper. Dinners at large festivals were served on plantain leaves. We walked or bicycled everywhere, and played outside. Battery-powered toys were unaffordable. Recyclable containers and shopping bags were the norm. Grocers and vendors wrapped condiments and food in old newspapers. Relatives brought provisions from their farms when they came to visit. We bought less, threw away even less.

I visited the same town, about 25 years later, in 2006. Nostalgia aside, I could tell there really was a big change, and not all of it for the better. Cars everywhere. Restaurants took pride in serving bottled water. Plastic shopping bags were the norm.

What was missing were the recycling and cleanup efforts I have to come to expect from municipalities here. Evidently, every society has to make and learn from the same mistakes.

This reflection leads me to believe that green is a measure of how little adverse impact we have on nature. Looking at it that way, every little thing that I do to reduce impact counts as a step towards becoming greener. Do I really need that new product, even if it’s marketed as “green”? Should I throw away something or will someone else be able to use it? Does it really make sense to talk about the environment using a “market metaphor“?

As we have seen, there’s no single way to becoming “green”. We started down the path of a consumerist society a long time ago and we’re not going to go back to the cabin at Walden any time soon. Nor should we have to. Surely we can find a middle ground between agonizing about the environment and being callous about destroying it.

Victor V

Green…It’s more than just a word. by jennibro

Green. What once was only a word to describe the color of the grass, has quickly become a revolutionary word that has garnered the worlds attention. People are working hard to educate themselves on what is and isn’t green, but the fine line between the two often gets blurred.

Paper for example, is more than recycling, or using recycled paper. A Kansas City blogger for Thekitchn.com recently wrote a blog about this very issue titled, “Why Being “Paper Towel Free” is Overrated”. In the blog she discussed the times when paper towels were the right tool for the job and when they aren’t needed. The response came in floods with people either thanking her for alleviating their guilt, or completely reprimanding her and calling her a “poser”. Most of the negative comments addressed the build-up of paper towels in landfills, or the idea of bleaching.
An article from the North Star chapter of the Sierra Club states that the bleaching of paper releases harmful chemicals called dioxins which can end up in streams and water sources and accumulate in the sediment.

While it is wonderful that many people are taking the time to educate themselves and work toward helping the environment, most people are stopping halfway through the education process. They hear that they should only use unbleached papers and begin a personal campaign to get others to do the same. But, do they know how far that unbleached paper had to be shipped from the manufacturer to their home?

How exactly is a person to be green when they don’t know where to start? With so many conflicting thoughts it can be very overwhelming. However, if a person makes an effort to educate themselves and make the right personal choices when it comes to chemicals, recycling and paper use they will be on the path to being green.
Being green won’t happen overnight but with knowledge comes innovation, and innovation is what is needed to make being green more than just recycling paper.

To learn more about the paper controversy visit The North Star chapter of the Sierra Club.

-Jenni Brown

Conscious effort needed to be green by jenniferedw
June 25, 2009, 6:25 pm
Filed under: J840 Week 2, Waste + Recycling | Tags: , , ,

While many people want to consider themselves green, after attending last weekend’s class and reviewing this week’s readings, I think it’s extremely difficult to define exactly what that means. In addition, being completely green in today’s world is very difficult and requires a concentrated effort.

A screen shot of the simplesteps.org link where visitors can sign a petition to make pet products safer.

A screen shot of the simplesteps.org link where visitors can sign a petition to make pet products safer.

I think someone who has the intent to make a conscious effort to help the environment, and takes action to built on that intent, can be considered green. Several readings and video/audio from this week mentioned that the environment is such a big issue that is seems overwhelming for people to try and fix. A google.com search of “green” produced more than 812 million results, and many of those sites contain information and tips for living a more environmentally-friendly life. While it’s great to have some much information at your fingertips, this can be overwhelming, as we discussed last week in class.

Another complication is media reports make it seem that if individuals or families don’t make huge life changes, they’re not really making an impact — for example, the man that appeared on The Colbert Report clip we viewed. That could turn people off and make them think there’s no point in even bothering. However, if individuals can do some simple things that work for their family — switching to all-natural cleaning products, changing light bulbs, using less plastic, etc., they will be making an impact. Even if it’s a small impact, they’re still taking some sort of action.

I really liked the simple, incremental steps presented on the Simple Steps site (which I accessed through the link in our reading from The New York Times). I signed up for their daily e-mail tips, so I’m interested to see how they’re presented in the coming days. I also liked the way this site was organized and the ease with which I could sign a petition about chemicals in pet products (I signed up right away).

Overall, I think that someone who has made a concerted effort on environmental issues can consider themselves green — as long as they recognize that they have to continue taking action and being aware in order to do so.

-Jennifer E.