J500 Media and the Environment

Curbing Disposable Coffee Cup Waste by micolea

When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I look forward to is having a cup of coffee. Over the past year, coffee has become one of my indulgences; I consume an average of three cups a day. Surprisingly, what makes drinking coffee so delectable for me is sipping it from my favorite red, reusable coffee mug.

By scrufus/Courtesy Flickr

I was astounded to learn that 58 billion disposable coffee cups are thrown away each year, according to Betacup. What is even more staggering is The Coalition for Resource Recovery tells us that “if all paper cups in the US were recycled, 645,000 tons of waste would be diverted from the landfill.”

Photo by Toban Black/Courtesy Flickr  

Yes, I have contributed to this waste. In the past, I’ve purchased my grande cup of joe from coffee shops whose only option is serving coffee in a paper cup. I didn’t think twice about tossing those paper cups into the trash nor did I consider the abundant amount of trees, time and energy used to make and manufacture disposable coffee cups.

However, now that I am aware, I can no longer turn a blind-eye to this predicament. This is why I choose to drink my coffee out of a reusable coffee mug. In some small way I feel as though I am giving back to Mother Earth and making up for all of those paper cups I threw away.  

We live in a society where convenience is highly valued. It is more convenient to carry a light weight paper cup than it is to lug around a heavy reusable mug. Betacup is an organization aiming to curb the amount of waste generated by paper cup usage. They are calling on coffee drinkers and non coffee drinkers alike to submit their ideas and designs for a more desirable option to the reusable coffee mug. Through this contest, Betacup hopes it will result in a collaborative effort from people all over the globe sharing and giving feedback on ideas to come up with a supreme alternative.  

Habits are hard to break. Though, we can learn to embrace new ones. Generating conversations and ideas about how to conserve our environment and its resources is a great first step.

After all, the solution is in our hands.

Micole Aronowitz

Healthy Food for the Poor by jackiemcc

Before I took my Media and the Environment journalism class here at KU, I had a very strong opinion that poor people couldn’t have access to healthy foods because of their limited income. Over the course of the semester, we have studied the impact food has on our society, and how the media is portraying that. Throughout the course, I began to think more critically about food than I ever have before.

This analysis has opened me to see new perspectives and opinions. From this, I have come to realize that there might be more than one side to an issue. And this is certainly true about the common debate of healthy food access for the poor. Since the beginning of the course, my view on this has slightly changed. While I’m still not completely convinced, I have become more supportive of the idea that poor people can and should eat healthier foods at a low cost. I also think society should help support this idea, instead of dismissing it all together, like I did.

After doing some research, I found that there are plenty of tips out there to guide poor people on how to eat healthy. Some of the main suggestions, among others, include: utilizing coupons, sales and bulk shopping, making larger portions so you can have leftovers for other meals, avoiding processed foods, shopping with a grocery list so you only buy the foods you need, and buying more herbs and spices, and seasonal foods, which are generally less expensive, to spice up simple foods.

In addition to grocery stores, many farmers' markets are now accepting food stamps so poor people have easier access to healthy foods. Photo Courtesy of: http://www.igougo.com.

I think this was what modified my thinking the most. Before this point, many classmates had disagreed with my earlier opinions, but no one was telling me how or why poor people could eat healthy foods. It wasn’t until I saw this article that I started to look at the situation in a whole new light.

Even though this proposal will only affect the poor people directly, I think society can play a role in it as well. I think the government is doing a good job with their involvement in it already, with programs like SNAP, which provides healthy food to low-income families, but I think they could play an even larger role in the process.

Some ways in which society and the government could play a larger role in the process could include: placing taxes on foods with low nutritional value to subsidize foods with high nutritional value, link the purchasing power of food stamps with the nutritional value of the food (such as, one dollar of junk food could be worth two dollars of fruits and vegetables), and educate more people on how to eat healthier foods for a lower price. I don’t think many people know if, and how, they can eat healthy foods for a low price. If we educate them on how they could do that, I believe more people would take part in healthy eating.

Although I am not completely convinced that this idea is feasible, I am willing to give it more consideration. I think there is a possibility that poor people can eat healthy foods, and I don’t think society should dismiss the idea altogether.

-Jackie McClellan

Selling Skinny by beccan

I sat down for lunch a couple of days ago with a plate of veggies, peanut butter, and a bread stick sitting on the plate in front of me. On my left was a magazine with Kelly Osborn on the cover in a pink dress, with the caption, “How I got Thin”. I began to think to myself that I probably should not eat the breadstick, because it was filled with cheese and was far too delicious to have any nutritional value. I indulged anyway, and it was good, but it would’ve been better if my company at lunch wouldn’t have been a tabloid magazine.

Courtesy of google images

A tabloid magazine may not be the best lunch date.


That is when I started to realize that food had so much power over me. It controlled the way I lived day-to-day, it controlled my mood, and my body. I hated that it was so powerful, but I loved that it was so powerful (a true love-hate relationship). I was in awe that one picture on one magazine with one caption made me feel guilty about eating a breadstick. It sickened me that I could be so influenced my the media. 

 Confused, I decided to take a look at my complex relationship with food more carefully. I noticed that I treat food as a reward or punishment, not a way of sustaining my body. I reward myself with certain foods when I eat healthy all day and on the flip side, I make myself hit the gym for hours if I eat unhealthy one day. To be honest, as I say this right now I am eating my words. Putting my strange relationship with food into words makes it seem crazy. I guess I find it hard to find the fine line between living healthfully and having a bad relationship with food.

I wondered why these thoughts run through my head when I am and always have been healthy, according to the doctor. Why do I feel like if I do not look like the models and actresses I see on television and in magazines, then I will never be accepted by society? The media has done so much damage to how women view themselves. There are constant and persistent reminders everywhere to be skinny. Everywhere I go, there is some reminder that if I want to be accepted by society I must look a certain way.

This made me think about a commercial that a journalism teacher showed is a class i took last semester. Dove is well known for its True Beauty campaign, which is one of the only campaigns that sends the message to women that beauty lies in different sizes and shapes. But Dove’s hard to work show women that they are accepted at any size, doesn’t do too much when every other company selling something tells consumers otherwise. I watch the Dove campaign advertisements and am moved and touched, as a woman, but it really does not change the way that I think about being accepted by society.I just see Dove’s campaign as a way of trying to make Dove look good, as a public relations step. It is shown that 80% of American women are dissatisfied with their appearance. That number is so unsettling, but I do not see it changing anytime soon, unless more companies do what Dove is doing. One company cannot make the change that it will take to change the media’s portrayal of women. 

What could the media do? Advertisers know what skinny, good looking, and tall are appealing to consumers what incentive is there to take a risk on advertising with unlikely models? Probably none. Sex appeal sells. And although Dove made a huge public relations risk, it may not have been worth it if other companies do not follow the same method. 

Becca N.

Zoos: Sources of wonderment or “Pitiful Prisons”? by bendcohen

I open myself to teasing sometimes, and I’m perfectly fine with that.  When I received an onslaught of jabs from friends about a month ago over Facebook for my fascination with the application/game Zoo World.  For the uninitiated, Zoo World is like Farmville, but for cool people, but I digress.

I and most kids I knew growing up loved the real life zoo.  When you are nine years old, a zoo seems like a magical place with strange creatures that you don’t get to see anywhere else.  With that sense of juvenile wonderment, you don’t really consider that the place with the animals is still run by people who are prone to mistakes and bad habits.

Even I tended not to consider this fact, having not been to my hometown’s self-proclaimed “World Famous” Topeka Zoo in several years. The zoo had clearly lost its luster some time ago, having lost national accreditation almost  a decade ago due to mistreatment of animals, something which was supposedly rectified a few  years later.  Sadly, one of my occasional trips to the Topeka-Capital Journal’s website (nostalgia, I suppose) revealed this to  not be true.  A few offenses listed include poor safety procedures to both keep people protected from dangerous animals, and vice versa; elephants not having their feet examined on a regular basis; and a hippopotamus not being allowed in its pool for periods of up to eight hours, extremely difficult for an animal that has no sweat glands and is accustomed to spending most of its time in or near water to keep cool.

I thought this picture, purportedly from a zoo in China, was awesome at first. Lately, it's occurred to me that it's rather sad.

Environmental stewardship can mean a lot of things.  We tend to think about recycling, energy use, land conservation, etc. as ways of protecting our planet, but we all have to learn the value of it sometime.  To give somebody, a child or otherwise, some sense of a connection to the world outside of their hometown, it is well and good to stir their imagination with examples of the wondrous things they can find hidden in the trees.  This is why I still believe in zoos as valuable to communities, and why I would like to see the one I used to love as a kid hold a higher standing than it apparently does now.  It infuriates me to no end that PETA might be on to something when they refer to zoos as “pitiful prisons“, partially because PETA in general annoys me, but if we can’t maintain the wildlife (a term I suppose I’m using loosely here) we use to exemplify the more amazing aspects of nature, we really can’t expect people to understand the value of protecting it.

~Ben C.