J500 Media and the Environment

Green is the new Blackle by jmuselmann

Last week wasn’t particularly different from any other week. I was on the internet, somewhere in between doing work and wasting time, when I realized how much time I spend on a screen framed in a Web browser. I prefer not to dwell on that. But I did pause to acknowledge just how invariably ugly they’ve all become (Safari, Firefox, Explorer, et al. ). Light gray is apparently the industry standard, with big playschool-like back, refresh and home buttons. It’s insultingly novice, and how dare anyone question my extensive experience online. I was ready for something stylish, something chic, and something, perhaps, that was  dark.

So I tweeted my newfound desire, knowing that if anyone knew about some obscure solution, it would be fellow online junkies, the tweeters. And lo and behold, someone delivered. It was blackle.com, and it was bewildering at first. That’s because it’s using less mega wattage by skipping out on the blaring white screen part. So for all of you who have Google as your homepage, try “Blackling” something instead. It could just catch on, and if the juggernaut Google took note, it could really add up, both in reducing energy and money. No, it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but it is a nifty way to save energy (and perhaps your tired eyes). And who knows? Maybe it will catch on, maybe my dream browser is out there, and maybe we could one day choose to invert any website we come upon into a more seductive and eco-friendly format. Anything could happen—it’s the Internet.

This may seem small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but then again, so does everything else you try to do for the planet. And let’s face it, there are a lot of really bad ideas for going green that are put forth every day. It’s hard to imagine harmful and unintended consequences in changing our homepage.

So when you’re frustrated and wanting something different from what you already have, try looking to see if it’s offered in a shade of green. Or a really, really dark green.

—Jacob Muselmann

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.

eat to live or live to eat? by beccan

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.

It’s Not Easy Being Green by beccan
February 5, 2010, 12:18 pm
Filed under: Fashion + Beauty, J500 Week 3 | Tags: , , , , , ,

I started to notice the “Go Green” trend in high school when I heard the song “3 R’s” by Jack Johnson.  The lyrics send a clear message that it is important to reduce, reuse and recycle. The song is on the soundtrack of Curious George and was sung on Sesame Street, but it became a hit, even to high school students. I remember driving with friends listening to the soundtrack for the first time and thinking it was a joke. Soon enough we were all asking our trend-setting friend to give us a copy of the CD. I continue to listen to the song, but I sing along without really thinking about what I am singing. It isn’t even an environmental song to me anymore, the message faded after listening to it a hundred times.

This brings up the question of whether going green should be a trend. Will going green be another trend that fades, such as LiveStrong bracelets or fanny packs?

courtesy of www.ecorazzi.com

Celebrities sport "Green" t-shirts...and carry plastic bags while doing so.


Personally, I am torn on this question. I think that environmentalism is such a large issue that it shouldn’t be something that comes and goes like a trend, but at the same time is it a bad thing to spark interest by making it a trend and hoping that people will learn from it and continue to change their behaviors? The first step in getting people to change is informing them about what they are doing wrong so they can understand. Maybe a green trend could help with this first step.

 I found this article that includes a quiz of sorts that made me second guess if I was really in it for the long run or if I was another fad-following consumer. I learned a lot from reading these articles about global warming, making me realize I may not be so green at all. The author of the article was accurate in relating going green to dieting; there are some people who won’t break their pact and some that aren’t willing to change bad habits. I hope to be more informed about the green movement so that I am not just another person on the green bandwagon.

 Some green trends are fun and inexpensive, so consumers can try them out without having to spend money, such as green jeans that require no washing machine. I’ll be the first to admit that I have the thought in my head that going green is more expensive, but I am quickly learning that that isn’t all that true.

 Like Kermit the frog says, it’s not easy being green…but at least companies are trying to make it easier for us consumers. 

And the pizza was a hit for two of the five roommates, the others didn’t like the lack of cheese. Maybe we’ll have better luck next time.

Becca N.

Victory In Vogue by mackenzies09

Victory Gardens are a hot topic right now. As Angela Greene, creator of the Salt of the Earth Youth Garden, puts it, “they’re definitely in vogue.”

Vintage Vogue Magazine Cover

Vintage Vogue Magazine Cover

As the days get warmer and the price of everything gets higher, many people decide to do more than just consume. They create. A Victory Garden can provide enough fresh produce, flowers and herbs to feed a family with enough left over to share with neighbors. You can even throw a chic dinner party for your hippest friends. Plus, there are lots of ways to get creative with your garden.

Some growing trends of the moment are tea or dye gardens, wine and beer gardens, cuisine themed gardens and using eco-friendly and recycled gardening products.

Cuisine gardens offer growers a steady supply of just the right ingredients for a series of delicious meals. For Chinese meals you‘ll want mung beans, bok choy, water chestnuts, Chinese parsley, snow peas, and ginger. For Mexican inspired dishes try tomatoes, jalapenos, bell peppers, onion, and cilantro. And a Thai palette will require kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, chives, ginger, and cilantro.

A wine-pairing garden is a popular choice for enthusiasts of spirits. Red wine enthusiasts will want to grow tomatoes, eggplant, sage and olives. Melons, citrus fruits and apples are delicious options for white wine lovers.

But before you begin planning your home-grown meals, you’ll need some tools. One of the most convenient and cost effective ways to begin is by looking at what you already own. Look through your kitchen, garage and basement for items that can be recycled as garden pots, raised beds, stakes, forks, trowels and spades. Try planting in an  old Red Flyer Wagon or roller-skates. And an old head board works great as a garden gate or a trellis. Get creative!

This is one fashionable band-wagon you won’t regret joining.

-Mackenzie Steffen, Group 1 – blog post

image cred

The Beauty Cult by mackenzies09

Argan fruit & Moroccan landscape

Argan fruit & Moroccan landscape

It seems every couple of months the beauty industry reveals a new “it” component and an answer to our vainest prayers. The most popular of which hail straight from nature, of course.

Recent stars and some has-beens, in no particular order, include the acai berry, jojoba, lemongrass, baobab and goji berries. These quirky ingredients have been added to smoothies, energy drinks, hair treatments, lip balm and wrinkle remedies. All have made the beauty industry a lot of money (in 2006, sales of  skin care products topped $60 billion) and all have been ousted by the next, like an old dog competing with a new puppy.

Argan oil appears to be the latest hot commodity in the skin care world (as well as culinary). Argan oil is derived from the fruit seed of the Aragania Spinosa tree indigenous to Morocco. The oil contains high levels of antioxidants and essential fatty acids, and may lower cholesterol. Boasting claims of miraculous healing powers for skin, hair and finger nails, it is destined to change the lives of many women.

It is the women of Moroccan who gather, dry, hand-crack, and press the seeds to extract their oil. With a literacy rate of only 39 percent, Moroccan women don’t have a lot options. In 2006, there were nine cooperatives that employed roughly 2,000 women to produce the lucrative oil. They were paid four euros per day. There are no real numbers for how many women may be working outside of these cooperatives, which are said to pay as little as one euro per day. The average yearly income is roughly 1,015 euro.

Moroccan women hand-cracking argan seeds

Moroccan women hand-cracking argan seeds

Shiny hair and glowing skin may sound wonderful but at what cost are we achieving such aesthetic pleasures? Before I pick up another miracle serum I’m going to find out whose hands extracted the spoils of my fountain of youth.


photo cred 1

photo cred 2

A (Non-)Leather Shoe to the Path by marybethw

I have a confession to make: I have worn sandals in the snow (and even at times, gasp, with socks) — but, it was Boston, and they were my Birks…and what do leather sandals have to do with food or, for that matter, veganism? A lot, actually. Okay, let’s do word association for a moment. What comes to mind when I say vegan? Is it just issues of dairy, meat, honey, and other animal-derived food ingredients? What if I said that it also includes clothing? And, what if I said that one aspect of clothing, leather, is tied directly to the meat industry? I couldn’t stop wearing my sandals, though, so it meant finding an alternative…and, in the process, finding out more about turning animals into shoes, sweaters, and other items.

Quite early after setting my foot on a vegan path, I found many vendors of humane options — including Birks without leather or suede! But where did the leather in my “other” Birks come from? Well, that milk you’re drinking and the burger you’re eating? It may possibly have come from those “spent” cows; it may also have come from young calves or downer cattle. As meat industry commodities, these creatures face the same inhumane, environmentally damaging conditions as I learned about in my reading that focused on animals as food. But, while eating animals has an impact environmentally, so, too, does wearing them, what with all the chemicals that are part of leather processing. These angles made it very easy to change the admittedly small number of leather goods I used to more humane options. But….I found that not all synthetic leathers are created equal.

A common leather substitute is made from Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), which create dioxins and are toxic to both the environment and humans. Therefore, just like with food, you have to read the labels. But, never fear! There are many different options that are healthy and sustainable; I’ve switched to a hemp purse and belt.

And, yes, I have worn my microfibre Birks in the snow and my feet (the animals and the environment) are quite happy!

(Just a warning that this includes some great info, especially on the human/environmental cost of leather, but it does include some graphic images.)

~ Mary Beth

Image from: change.org Animal Rights