J500 Media and the Environment


Earth Day: yer doin’ it wrong. by bendcohen

Earth Day is great.  For one day a year, even the non-environmentalists can get together and say “You know what, I kind of like the planet.”  For forty years now, Earth Day has provided people a brief respite from being called tree huggers (at least in a derogatory way).  The problem is, when a lot of people only pay attention to sustainability on special occasions, they can get it wrong.

I first thought about this point a few years ago when the story came out that Sir Paul McCartney, an avid environmentalist when not busy being the guy who wrote “Hey Jude”, had some kind of especially green automobile delivered to him in England from Japan.  Now, no matter how it was transferred, getting a car from east Asia to the (for them) far end of Europe would take a lot of money and a lot of energy.  Apparently the plan was that the car, a Lexus L600H, would be transported by boat.  Sadly, the news broke quickly that this didn’t happen, and it was delivered by airplane. The estimate given for how much this increased the carbon footprint of the car: about 100 times.

"Know what gets great mileage? My yellow subma-" "Don't even start, Ringo."

I roll my eyes when celebrities try to take up a cause and occasionally fail miserably, because no matter how insignificant they are supposed to be to a movement, inevitably the media will focus on them, and the ironic situations that frequently arise from the attempted mixing of two different kinds of green lifestyles.  One of those is the kind of “green” that traditionally gets the label, that of somebody who tries to lead a sustainable life, in The Cute One’s case by buying an awesome, really expensive hybrid car.

I am reminded by the occasional poor attempts at encouraging the right thing on Earth Day this year.  During an Earth Day celebration at KU’s Kansas Union, where different environmental groups passed out literature and hosted educational games, there was one booth that got my attention.  After picking up a reusable water bottle from them, I noticed that they were the source of a t-shirt I had seen with some frequency that day.  It was green, and read on the front “My shirt is green.  Are you?”

While a little condescending, my biggest problem with the shirt wasn’t what it was, but how people acquired it.  You see, the whole Earth Day fair was sponsored by Coca-Cola, which has a corporate partnership with the University.  Needless to say, they liked having their name on something positive, and also wanted a good way to make money off of it, which I don’t begrudge them.  Back to the t-shirts: you got one by buying two bottles of soda.  Buy more of an unhealthy product packaged in a non-biodegradable object, and get a free t-shirt (made of organic cotton!), without even a note to be sure to recycle those bottles.  In related news, authorities still have not located Irony’s body, though have assured us that they will continue searching around the clock.

In fairness, I later asked somebody working at the fair who assured me that the exchange was a mix-up.  The plan was that the t-shirts would be a new line made out of recycled plastic, but this fell through, and they hoped using organic cotton would be sufficient for people.  For me, it wasn’t.  For everyone I mentioned it to, it wasn’t.  There’s a difference between supporting sustainability, and giving it lip-service on a holiday, and this was cleanly the latter.

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2 Comments so far
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I think this was Lauren (because I think it was you who mentioned this in class),

I hate what Coca-Cola is doing with their promotions. I don’t know if you ever watch PBS but they have commercials on there all of the time (because they sponsor a lot on that channel) about “if you drank a coke in the last [however many] years, you helped support [put in a cause that makes coke look good].” It drives me crazy that a company that makes countless lives less healthy and steals water from poor people (as we saw in the documentary Flow) tries to make themselves look good. Pepsi has a similar thing right now with their campaign to give a million dollars to whoever comes up with the “next great idea to change the world.”

Anyway, what do you think needs to happen to make companies realize that we need them to be green more than once a year? -Kristina B.

Comment by kristinabev

As an avid liberal, my answer is “regulate them more”, though I know that won’t go over well. I think that, culturally, we need to reevaluate what gets people interested in “going green” and find a way to capitalize on that. The sad truth is that a large corporation like Coca-Cola will only change when they feel the need to protect their bank account. If we want to see companies change, we need to make it clear that the ones we will be willing to patronize more are the ones who “get it” more thoroughly.

Hope that made sense.
~Ben C.

Comment by Ben




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