J500 Media and the Environment

Eating better, thinking better by Lauren Cunningham

When I first started this class in January, I couldn’t really define “organic”. Like many others, I’ve always been told by my mother to eat always eat my veggies and try to eat healthy in general. But until I took this class, I never really stopped to look at the food I was putting in my body.

— from flickr.com

I certainly had no idea what “local food” meant either, but the idea never really seemed that foreign of a concept. Growing up I’ve eaten vegetables grown in my grandpa’s garden or meat from family’s friend’s farms. I think, in general, Kansans don’t see local food so much as a food movement as they see it as common sense because of the agricultural setting in which we live. Yet despite where we live and the food-growing opportunities surrounding us, we still don’t know where most of the food we eat comes from. This idea is what I liked learning about and exploring most in class.

Because both of my parents are teachers, I can appreciate when what I learn in the classroom is applied to the “real world.” And especially in a service learning class, I was able to apply information to what we’ve been working on in our group projects.

I think it comes naturally as a journalism student to enjoy meeting and interviewing people in the community in which I live. But it was particularly rewarding to listen to people like Rick Martin, the executive chef at Free State Brewing Co., or Patty Metzler, a medical dietitian at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, talk about and confirm the importance of local food in Lawrence. I’m most inspired by others who are passionate and love what they do, and by being able to talk to people who get what it means to grow food and to know where food comes from, it really has influenced me to ask more questions about my food. It also felt really good to help the Douglas County Food Policy Council learn more ways in which they can evolve within Lawrence and hopefully develop a local food system.

This class more than anything has really helped me to mature both as a consumer and as a writer. Writing a blog post each week has shown me how to truly invite others to conversations rather than shutting them out of talking about important issues. With all of the information that has been thrown at us, I also tend to question things more and look at where certain information comes from. I’m definitely not completely eco-friendly or “green” all of the time, but I’m constantly thinking about these things each time I buy something.

Most importantly, I’m not as afraid to really examine why I do what I do or why I spend my money on certain things and not others. I now take a harsher look at what I do, which at first, was hard to do. But I’ve grown to like being more critical of my decision-making. By continually looking at what I choose to spend my time, money and energy on, I can keep myself in check with how I want others to see me.

— Lauren Cunningham

Greenwashing Frustration by beccan

We’ve all done it. While walking through Target we see two products in the same aisle, one with “natural” written across the label and the other well, without. Of course we pick the one that says natural to place in our basket, because natural is better, right? Maybe not…

Greenwashing is when companies mislead consumers into buying a product because it claims to be environmentally-friendly, natural or organic when in reality it probably isn’t. The seven greenwashing sins explains the details and “sins” of greenwashing. I was curious and wanted to know the products that were greenwashed so I did more research and came across this article with the top-ten greenwashed campaigns of 2009. I was shocked. It included leading companies like Audi, Coca-Cola and Microsoft. I was interested in the Audi campaign because of my post last week about the Audi Green Police commercial that aired during the Superbowl. This Audi advertisement, though, compares driving an Audi A3 to riding a bike. I thought Audi was doing a good job in making their vehicles more eco-friendly, but maybe I was just too naïve.

The car that eliminates any need for foreign oil is foreign made. Audi may need to re-think how eco-friendly it really is.


Researching this made me so angry. Why are advertisers getting away with this? The morals of these companies are plummeting and nobody seems to care. I felt mistrust in the very companies and brands that I have been loyal to my whole life. My frustration fizzled slightly at least when I found this article that said the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is revamping its environmental marketing guidelines for the first time in twelve years. It’s about time that this deception comes to an end.

Until the FTC updates its greenwashing guidelines, I wanted some sort of set of rules to follow to help decipher between fraud and true eco-friendly products. The FTC recommends following these guidelines while shopping and attempting to distinguish between eco-friendly and eco-fraud.

Being a strategic communications major, I am embarrassed that companies are advertising like this and knowingly selling products that make false claims.It is everything that I have been taught not to do in my past four years in the school of journalism at the Universtiy of Kansas. We put trust in the companies we buy from and if these companies are lying to us about being eco-friendly, are they lying to us about other aspects of the company? This has become a huge problem and it is about time that it is fixed.

Becca N.

Minty fresh and green by lizhawks
October 24, 2008, 3:11 pm
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags: , , , ,

The last thing I expected at the national marketing-to-moms conference in Chicago this week was to key in to more “green” marketing to moms, but there, thanks to an insightful panel presentation, I was introduced to Preserve, a brand of parent company Recycline. Preserve is not only doing amazing, leading edge sustainability work with its products, but also aligning itself with strategic partners, like one of my favorite organics, Stonyfield Farm, maker of YoBaby and YoKids yogurt. Together, they are turning yogurt containers into toothbrushes. Yes, you read that right. And, Preserve toothbrushes are available at Target, making it even easier for time-strapped moms to go green by inserting green options into the mass channel!


So, what was the trigger point at which the mom consumer developed her big green bullseye? Are moms more interested in going green today than ever before, or are emerging green brands savvy enough to know that their marketing techniques can get moms to become greener, even if by merely changing their toothbrushes?


Delving into this chicken-and-egg issue a little deeper, I found insightful 2007 research published by Cone that showed consumers are looking to advertisements to help educate them on their favorite brands’ environmental efforts, and not surprisingly, these messages are most effective beyond “doing the right thing” to saving the consumer money and benefiting his or her health. Moms respond to green consumer product marketing for the same reasons farmers in South Central Kansas respond to wind power – they’re asking “what’s in it for me?” The value-add key messages that a toothbrush can not only benefit the environment but also save you money versus competitors while eliminating plaque and tartar build up to boot is a pretty persuasive package.


Bonus: Giveaway opportunity! The first person to post a response will win a free Preserve toothbrush! You don’t want to miss this green swag!


Inspired by the next generation to go green. Photo: Flickr

 –Liz Hawks






One man’s trash is another man’s…trash by rarab

I realize we were assigned the task of photographing and weighing our trash as a way of shedding light on the amount of waste we generate on an average day. I did give this an honest attempt, but, quite frankly, it was a slow trash day (not that that’s a bad thing).

I could easily supply photos of my own garbage (although first I’d remove the bloody gloves and the chloroform bottles), but instead I thought I’d take this opportunity to put some of the focus back on the bigger picture.

That is, in my two-person household, my wife and I make a conscious effort to keep trash to a minimum. Like Jen mentioned in her post, we consistently are the house on our block with the least amount of trash come pick-up day. Every Thursday morning, I experience the same level of outrage as I drive by the houses that have placed stacks of reusable materials to be dumped in the landfill: old toys that kids have outgrown, ripped up carpets, old book cases, outdated clothing, old sofas…it’s all left out for the garbage men to retrieve and make magically disappear.

Of course, a big reason why we’re doing a better job with personal waste management is because we’re only a two-person household; another reason (as Jen can attest to) is that we work for the university and so we can’t afford to buy stuff worth wasting! But those points are moot (because I say so).

The purpose of mentioning my neighbors was not to provide a “holier than thou” attitude, but simply to point out just how commonplace wastefulness has become to the average American.

It all reminds me of the passage in one of my all-time favorite books, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Surely you were forced to read it at some point in your educational experience. If so, you’ll recall the scene where young children are being conditioned into the ways of a consumerist society:

“But old clothes are beastly,” continued the untiring whisper. “We always throw away old clothes. Ending is better than mending, ending is better than mending, ending is better …
Every man, woman and child compelled to consume so much a year. In the interests of industry. The sole result …
Ending is better than mending. The more stitches, the less riches; the more stitches …”

As was the case with most of Huxley’s predictions, this one has definitely come true.

In fact, our transition from the Great Depression generation (waste not, want not) to our current state of disposable goods is really a troubling shift–but one that has been so subtle that most of us don’t even realize it. Take, for instance, this infomercial I saw on TV the other day for a product that helps us cut through all the plastic crap that covers practically every newly purchased household product:

Here’s an idea: Instead of creating more products to deal with our wastefulness (which eventually also end up in our landfills), why not stop coating everything in a layer of form-fitting plastic?!! Also, were you like me and did you screech when you saw them using the product to open the eco-friendly light bulbs? (Sorta cancels out the benefits, doesn’t it)…or how about the scene where they use the tool to open a package of bottled water! Arrrgh! I GIVE UP!

Actually, I don’t give up (I had my fingers crossed behind my back the whole time).

Instead, I think we need a little religion to set us back on course, and there’s no one better to supply that than Rev. Billy and His Church of Stop Shopping. If you’re unfamiliar with the Reverend, he’s part performance artist, part political activist, and part hilarious entertainment. I first caught wind of him in a documentary where he went through the Times Square Disney store preaching the evils of unnecessary consumption; I’ve been a disciple ever since. Check out this clip and pay close attention to the way host (*cough* dork *cough*) Glenn Beck tries to laugh off the Rev’s very important points. Sure, it’s easy to laugh at the Rev., but then again, we’ve been told to make our messages humorous and entertaining, and the good Reverend has certainly mastered that…can I get an AMEN (or at the very least a Woot-Woot)!