J500 Media and the Environment

Coursework in the Community

Have you ever heard the saying that Lawrence is the next Boulder, Colorado?

Personally, I love Colorado and think that there is just such a great respect for the environment in the state. Every time I land at Denver International Airport and step off of the plane, I can’t help but give a sigh of relief. The feeling is like no other; it’s fresh, crisp and pure air invades your lungs, unlike stepping off of the plane in any other airport. Being the next Boulder is such an amazing complement and I have learned that Lawrence is making an effort to add truth to that saying.

Beautiful Kansas

Kansas, courtesy of flickr.com


This class has opened my eyes to information that I had never taken the time to investigate and has truly changed the way I think about food and the environment. I honestly did not even know that food is such an environmental issue that affected everyone. Before this class food was strictly something that helped sustain me, period. If I was hungry then I’d eat and if I wasn’t hungry then I wouldn’t and it was that simple– until fourteen weeks ago. Now, every time I think about food, I not only think about calories, as any woman does, but I think about what my food is made with and how it was made. I would have never thought that a class, lasting a mere fourteen weeks, could change me and help change the community. I was wrong.

The Douglas County Food Policy Council has been a great addition to this class, giving us the opportunity to help create a change in Lawrence that will last for years to come and positively affect so many people in the community. Creating a local food system is a difficult task, but is more easily attained with the help of students. Engaging one class full of students in the issue of local food and the environment is a step in the right direction. Lawrence is setting the bar in this important matter and soon people will be saying that their town is the next Lawrence, Kansas.

Becca N.

American Consumption Addiction

Growing up, my mom and dad made sure I knew the difference between needs and wants. We would go shopping and when I picked something up to show my mom she would ask, “Now, do you really need that or do you want it?” and I would hesitantly say, “want it” without any argument as to why I should get it. I just knew that it wasn’t going home with me. 

Photo courtesy of flickr.com

Needs v. Wants


As much as I dreaded that question as a kid, I now realize why my mother drilled that concept of needs and wants into my head. In the United States, we account for 5% of the world’s population yet account for 30% of the world’s resources. If everyone consumed like we do, we would need three to five planets to contain all of the waste.

For some strange reason, the idea that when we throw something away it simply disappears into thin air, has been engraved in our minds and is starting to affect our planet. We buy, buy, buy and do not see the damage that is being done or the consequences to our wastefulness. Our ignorance is killing our home and it is going to take a lifestyle overhaul to change it.

Having the newest phone, car, computer, you-name-it, is so important to us as Americans. The stuff that we have determines our social status and that status is so important in the American culture. Just think, when the U.S. was deep in the recession people freaked out, because they were not going to be able to consume mindlessly anymore. It made people crabby, because they couldn’t have all of the new stuff they wanted.

The internet has also made it easier to consume. We do not even have to get out of our chairs to buy new stuff anymore; it is delivered to our doorsteps. Advertisers tell us that to be “cool” in society we need to have the latest gadgets, styles and trends, which means we throw our barely-used stuff in the landfill to replace it with a new version of the same thing. This lifestyle has started to spin out of control. 

 There has been a consistent increase in the amount that Americans waste each year and the question is: can this be stopped or are we too far into our consumption addiction to turn it around? 

Becca N.

Selling Skinny

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.

eat to live or live to eat?

I run my life on a rewards system, it’s strange, but it is how I function. If I tell myself that the only way I can have desert is if I run three miles that day, then I’ll run those three miles. If I tell myself that I can go out for a drink if I finish my essay, then I will finish that essay in no time.

After an interview this week I decided that I had worked hard and should be rewarded, and the prime reward: a Sonic happy hour drink. I went to Sonic for a Shirley Temple and my reasoning for consuming this oversized soda was that I did something productive and I deserved a reward. I’ve noticed that more often than not, some sort of beverage or food serves as my reward. I am starting to realize how this reward system has made my relationship with food one that is not always healthy.

Sonic Drink, courtesy of flickr.com



I think that the media has some responsibility for the way in which society sees food.  It seems that everywhere I look there is some reminder of health and the idea that we need to be skinny to be accepted. People who are overweight are looked down upon and deemed lazy. Therefore, I fear being overweight. I tell myself that I am eating healthy and exercising so I can live a long and happy life and that’s true, but in reality it’s partially because I don’t want to be deemed a fat, lazy American.

There is definitely a gender difference in the way we think about weight as well. I find that women have a difficult time with feeling pretty and accepted by society more than men. The well-known Dove True Beauty campaign was one that really brought attention to the fact that women can be beautiful even if they don’t have a model bone structure and aren’t a size 2 like most of the women we see in advertisements. It has been shown that 80% of American women are dissatisfied with their appearance and that is due in part to the way that the media portrays women. 

Food is so complex. It is something that we form a relationship with, whether that be a healthy or unhealthy one. As Socrates said “Thou shouldst eat to live; not live to eat” and it’s true, but it is also easier said than done. Eating has become a part of our social life and as social beings we thrive on relationships with other people and food, too. Food and friends go hand-in-hand in the United States and that could be contributing to our obesity epidemic.

Just a little food for thought. 

Becca N.

Finding Truth Behind the American Obesity Problem Can be Trying

Feeling a little under the weather, I rented the movie “The Invention of Lying”, which portrays a world with people who do not know how to tell a lie.

I pictured myself pushing my cart through the grocery store in this mythical town, with these mythical people.

Do the boxes of cookies lining the snack aisle claim to be “the most fattening cookie” and the “cookie that has no fat, and no taste either”? How many items on the shelves of that grocery store would have boxes with “organic” or “all natural” written on them? My guess is very few.

Advertisers would have it easy, they would only have to be honest

I consider myself to be healthy; I take vitamins, workout consistently and watch what I eat, but this doesn’t even seem like enough after learning that what I think I am eating isn’t really what I am eating. If I only lived in a world without lies…

These “what-if” questions also led me to wonder if consumers would change their eating habits even if they knew the truth. It seems that in the American culture, taste trumps health benefits. I know how bad an Oreo is for me and I even know from experience that eating just one is nearly impossible, but that doesn’t stop me from my Oreo indulgence. The combination of deceitful advertising and Americans’ unhealthy relationship with food may just be the culpret in the growing obesity problem in our country.

Courtesy of flickr.com


            Studies show that obesity-related diseases account for ten percent of medical spending in the United States (an estimated $147 billion a year). The problem is directly related to the foods we, as Americans, eat. We have adapted to an on-the-go lifestyle and it is killing us faster than ever. The United States is one of the most progressive and wealthy countries in the world, but you would never know from looking at our diet. We have technologically advanced to a point where we can produce foods that last longer and can be produced in mass quantities, but with these advances come a loss of nutritional benefits of food, or the food part of food.

The scary part is that it is affecting our children. Children are exposed to approximately 10,000 food advertisements a day, most of which are advertising unhealthy foods.

I recently saw a commercial for Smart Balance margarine that warned consumers that sometimes 0g of fat does not mean 0. If zero doesn’t mean zero, then I don’t know what consumers are supposed to think. The commercial seems like honest advertising, but who can tell anymore? It is certainly difficult to tell. I guess I realized that a person has to inform themselves about what they are eating, because we really cannot rely on marketing and advertising.

Smart Balance

Smart Balance courtesy of flickr images


I am not feeling any better after this, maybe I’ll go have some chicken broth…after investigating the label for an hour or so and then researching the unpronounceable words on the label.

At least we can trust ourselves. 

Becca N.

Food Waste Doesn’t Have to be Wasted

Studying food and the environment lately makes mealtime a bit different than in my past 21 years of life. My thoughts have been consumed by where my food comes from and what it does for my body. I feel like a can’t even enjoy food anymore at times, because I have been so worried about the harmful pesticides and damage that the environment has been through just so I can eat my dinner- I feel guilty. After breakfast I poured the remains of my oatmeal in the drain, turned on the faucet and pushed the disposal button to make my leftovers disappear. I do this at least once daily without even thinking about it, but for some reason this morning I started to think about where that food was going; down the drain and into the sewer system- it was not just disappearing. Nothing about this process ever seemed wrong to me until today; why waste food that has enough nutrients to support even the human body?

Leftover oatmeal as I dump it down the drain to "disappear".


My mind wandered for a while, questioning the amount of waste my roommates and I, the University of Kansas campus, the Lawrence area, the U.S., the world produces. That is when I found an article explaining that food waste and other organic waste take up almost half of the landfill space in the U.S. and release an unruly amount of methane, which is 34 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. This article also explains a law that was passed in California in 2009 requiring businesses and residents to compost food scraps.

I looked further into composting to find out what exactly could be composted and what it takes to compost food waste, in residences and in businesses. This website walked me through the basics of composting. I was surprised to find that composting really is not that expensive or difficult, but for some reason I still cannot see myself composting- at least not at my own home. I think part of my reasoning is the fact that I don’t want a smelly bin or pile of waste in my yard. Yeah, I realize that my reasoning is shallow in some sense, but I’m kind of a “neat-freak”.

If I wasn’t going to compost on my own, maybe KU would. I looked at the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Environmental Center to see what one of the most environmental-friendly universities is doing. CU hosts a “Scrape Your Plate Day” each year and in 2008 collected 1,760 pounds of food for compost from 5,887 people in the dining halls. That got me to thinking what KU could do to help and the answer to that is a lot. Individually, people like myself do not want to take the time and deal with the smells of composting, but a University could make a huge difference, like CU has done. 

Becca N.

An Apple a Day May Not Keep The Doctor Away

My stove and oven are both broken, so I was left with two options: go out for something to eat or use the microwave. I chose the microwave, because I am a college student and therefore used to it by now. I had a bowl of oatmeal with raisins and a banana along with a juicy and absolutely delicious Fuji apple. Then I went to write this post and thought, you are what you eat. I was feeling pretty good about what I had just eaten.

But after finishing my delicious meal that seemed nutritious at the time, I read an article that informed me that the apple I had just consumed could have had up to thirty pesticides in it. My curiosity grew and I found another article, which listed apples as one of the most commonly contaminated fruits. I looked at my apple and my banana- each had a barcode. The apple had a sticker with “4131” and the banana had a sticker with “4011” on it. I found that these numbers are actually codes. I looked into the code guidelines to find out that both my apple and banana were conventionally grown. These guidelines are simple to follow, but many people, like myself, are not familiar with the codes. I simply look for the most colorful produce, but it seems like I can’t trust that method anymore.

A seemingly healthy dinner may be deceiving.

Considering that what I thought was healthy eating turned out to be unhealthy eating, I was beginning to think that my body was doomed if it was true that “you are what you eat”, because I have definitely eaten meals worse than this, that’s for sure. I grabbed the box of oatmeal and began to read, but didn’t have to read much to find that the only ingredient listed on the box was “organic rolled oats” (sigh of relief). Even though my oatmeal was one of the few organic items in my pantry, I felt a little better knowing that my body did not need to start preparing for destruction at the age of 21.

Have you ever heard that you are not supposed to go to the grocery store on an empty stomach? Well, I have made a new rule; do not read what is in your food after you’ve eaten it. Inform yourself before you contaminate your body.

Plain and simple, the foods we eat affect our mood, energy, sex drive, ability to think, sleep and so much more. I have been living this seemingly healthy life based on the fact that I exercise and eat fruits and vegetables, but that’s not where it ends. There is so much more I can do to live a healthier life, I just didn’t know.

Becca N.