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.

American Consumption Addiction by beccan

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.

Do you love your mother? by marybethw


How much do you love your mother? Enough to set aside a day to celebrate her? Enough to turn out the lights for her? Enough to rethink your food choices for a day? Well, starting in 1970 people across the country have held celebrations for her and, more recently, have started going dark, and looking more closely at their plates. 3393791445_e48e507470_o

Beginning in 1970, when the first Earth Day drew millions, groups and cities have started their own celebrations. When I was in high school, our Earth Club participated in Baton Rouge’s Earth Day activities. Although I have since attended activities, this year I am reprising that participation. As part of Animal Outreach of Kansas (AOK), I am going to participate in Lawrence’s celebration in South Park.

Recently, however, I’ll admit, I forgot to turn my lights off. In 2007, Sydney, Australia went dark; in 2008 others joined in across the globe. The 2009 Earth Hour goal was 1 billion people going dark on 28 March. The point? To both reduce greenhouse emissions by turning out the lights for an hour and to raise awareness of global warming.


Similarly, annually, FARM sponsors Meat Out, which asks people to go meatless for a day. While this event focuses on animal issues, doing as your mother always taught you, eating your veggies, can help the planet. Although this Saturday will be the city’s Earth Day celebration, AOK is also hoping to raise awareness of animal issues and the relation to other earth issues, such as global warming.

I’m looking forward to Saturday (fingers crossed it doesn’t rain!) and getting more vocal. I encourage you all to come out for some good food and good times. Come on, show your mother you care.

~ Mary Beth

Photo from: Flickr via Earth hour site

About Me (again): Lauren Keith by Lauren Keith


I don’t know if this “about me” post can ever kick more ass than my last one (now buried in the archives of yester-semester), but we’ll try.

I took this class last spring, and I was amazed by everything I learned. So I’m back. Finally, a class about the environment where you actually get to discuss the environment? Unheard of.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the Johan Feddema’s and the Shannon O’Lear’s of the EVRN department (those two solidified my environmental studies major), but there’s something unique that is shared through discussion with your classmates and blogs that you don’t get from a big lecture course.

Speaking of Johan, I spent the last semester with him in an atmospheric science class to get a taste of the science instead of the crap you read in newspapers. As a journalism major (too), it tore at my soul a little bit when our final exam was nothing but “Write a page about what’s wrong with these newspaper articles. How could they have done a better job?”

But now I’m happy to say I’ve seen both sides. I’ve written a weekly green living column for Jayplay. I’ve recorded the temperatures from four weather stations (including my own, until it was stolen) for an entire month and have the nasty Excel documents to prove it. I have a newfound appreciation for statistics and temperature data from 600,000 years ago, but most of all those poor souls gathering the data.

I don’t know what I want to do with my life, but thanks for asking. I’d love to be some type of green consultant for businesses, schools, newspapers (cough), or whatever. I’d love to write or edit for Slate and might apply this weekend for a position at its New York office (I love to kid myself).

But if you get to know me any better, I might just show up unexpectedly at your doorstep with a free recycle can. Because every day is Earth Day.


Celebs love the earth, too! by denah
April 23, 2008, 2:01 pm
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags: , , , ,

Happy Belated Earth Day, everyone!

I know this is a day late, but a friend of mine shared with me this website (Huffington Post, for those who have heard of it or are readers themselves) that I thought would intrigue this audience. The site includes fun-filled energy saving ideas and tips that I always enjoy myself in case there is one more thing I can do in my everyday life that is green.

If you scroll down to the bottom of the website, there is a comedic video of the “Green Team”. A few celebs, including Will Ferrell, participated in the video. If anything, it is just a friendly reminder of how much pop culture, celebs and all that good jazz are influencing the green movement.

-Dena Hart

Earth Day: A tribute in song by rarab

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

What better way is there to celebrate than with song? Here are some of my favorite environmental songs…I hope enjoy the “concert”!

First, no discussion of music and modern environmentalism would be complete without mentioning the great folk troubadour Woody Guthrie and his timeless anthem, This Land is Your Land.” It raised issues of Environmental Justice long before the movement had a name; it reclaimed our connection to our land–and empowered us with the knowledge that we’re all equal stakeholders when it comes to the future of our planet:

Our next act is the incomparable Joni Mitchell. To me, no single line sums up the importance of the environmental movement than her angelic falsetto: Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone……so here she is to perform, Big Yellow Taxi:

There were several artists throughout the 1970s who addressed environmental issues, Jackson Browne’s, Doctor My Eyes,” immediately comes to mind…but since to me the 70s is always about the birth of punk, what better song to showcase than “London Calling” by The Clash? Always the prophet, Joe Strummer painted a clear picture of nuclear holocaust and subsequent climate change: “The ice age is coming, the sun’s zooming in, engines stop running, the wheat is growing thin, a nuclear error, but I have no fear, London is drowning and I live by the river…”

I came of age in the 1980s, and so that’s pretty much my frame of reference. During that otherwise forgettable decade known for parachute pants and acid-washed jeans, R.E.M, more than any other band carried the environmental banner. My favorite environmentally-themed song of theirs is a tune called, Cuyahoga,” which recounts the horrors of a polluted river that once served as the playground for childhood memories. Cant’ beat an opening like: “Let’s put our heads together and start a new country up…” Can I get a whoot-whoot?:

I had intended to include a video of hip-hop artists Public Enemy, but, alas, the song I wanted to showcase, Bedlam 13:13 is not available on YouTube. Still, check out the lyrics: “No more, no more/Mother earth gets treated like a whore…” Preach, Chuck D! Of course, I should also mention the great work of KRS-One, too.

So there you have it, the first half of our Earth Day concert…want an encore? Just add your favorite clips to this discussion!


Plastic Presents In My Mailbox by kimwallace

NOTE: This is a makeup post from one of the weeks when I was gone. Please comment! —Kim

I am a magazine fanatic. I subscribe to seven (7!) lucky magazines that live in neat, organized stacks in my bedroom, bathroom, coffee table and other places around my apartment.

Each month, I squeal with delight when I find my mailbox stuffed with glossy pages of fashion, beauty and other photographic delights. It’s like getting a present each month, even though the present is basically re-gifted (does that count as green?) ideas from the previous month/season/year.

To make this monthly present really seem like a present (that you paid for in advance or keep getting $12 collection notices about, grrr), some publishing houses are taking it upon their marketing genius to encase their glossies in a fine cloud of….plastic packaging.


photo by kim wallace

Yay! So I get see-through wrapping paper, at no additional cost, to put all those annoying blow-in cards (you know, the millions of rectangular subscription cards that magazines pepper themselves with each month) inside.

Wrong. The additional cost is huge. Of the seven magazines I subscribe to, five of them are delivered to me in plastic each month. That’s 60 pieces of plastic packaging that ends up in the landfill from me, via these publishing companies, each year.

The publishing company’s only legitimate reason to send shrinkwrapped magazines, I think, is to save on postage. Most times, there’s always something extra in that packaging—a bill (ahem), a renewal notice (which leads to another bill), a solicitation from a sister magazine, or some other little “bonus” booklet from the magazine. (FYI, my “little bonuses” this month were renewal notices.)

In an effort to combat this waste that overtakes my bathroom trash can, I have devised a greening plan for the magazine industry that includes other areas of the publishing process.

Don’t use plastic packaging! If you really want me to feel like I’m getting a present each month, pay for a subscription for me (and offer me a job when I move to New York in a couple of years.)

Quit sending me renewal notices (and bills!). Switch to an all electronic system for notices, or if you must, offer switch incentives to people who receive paper notices.

Stop going crazy green only for your March/April issues just because Earth Day is April 22. Incorporate green, even if it’s just a column, every month, because face it: every day is Earth Day. Challenge your readers to try new green things, even if they are of the light green shade.

Consider soy or vegetable ink for your printing needs. Soy ink has low VOC (volatile organic compound) levels, which keep your book from smelling like death. And, soy ink produces just as rich and vibrant colors as conventional, toxic ink produces.

Promote the reuse and recycle aspect of the 3R’s with your publication. Encourage pass-along to your subscribers (this increases readership and will likely gain you Web traffic from curious newbies) and be more courageous with your recycling campaign than the “Please Recycle This Magazine” symbol on your masthead. Realize your power.

Incorporate that slogan at the end of each editor’s note (some readers idolize particular editors—if you can convince me to *buy $300 shoes, you can convince me to recycle a magazine!).

And, of course, do all the necessary office revisions (things us readers usually don’t see, unless of course, you’re in the magazine world): Use CFLs, stock your vending machines/kitchens with local/organic food, dim the lights (it makes for easier vision when your glamorous editors are hunched over their Macs) or try to use natural/New York City streetlights when possible.

Let us know what you’re doing to be green! We love hearing this positive stuff, and it encourages us, the readers, to be more like you—trend or no trend, light or dark green. Your power is ENORMOUS and what you do influences us all. Make sound, thoroughly researched choices.


*I have never actually been swayed into buying $300 shoes, though I’m sure millions of women, with the power of Visa, have!