J500 Media and the Environment

Discerning service learning by jmuselmann

Sula Teller, food manager at The Merc, just after our interview.

Up until recently, it was difficult to put the scope of my involvement with the Douglas County Food Policy Council in perspective. Our class, Media & the Environment, has been a fusion of journalism and environmental studies departments, and each week we have been blogging about food as a way of getting our feet wet  with both these issues.

But a big part of our class was also to work for the newly formed food council as an interlocutor, surveying different stakeholders in the community as well as Lawrence residents to report back our findings — along with some research — to the council. The goal was to the “What,” the “Why” and the “How” of a local food system for Lawrence. Our group tackled the “Why” aspect.

In going out and interviewing local stakeholders as well as residents, I really started to realize how much of an impact the DCFPC could have, and how important these issues are to everyone, whether they take the time to think about it or not. Simply the act of putting everything else on hold and sitting down to talk about everyday things that most people don’t pay much attention to made me realize the pervasiveness of food attitudes that permeate other aspects of life. Calling attention to these seemingly mundane details about their work, food, and sustainability helped me see the importance of the DCFPC, and also why I had initially written it off as something bureaucratic whose goals I already had the gist of.

Wrong! It’s now apparent to me that the DCFPC is striving to be as vital as the issues it is fighting for. It really hit home when I spent a day in the Section 8 affordable housing district in north Lawrence. There I got to see and hear about how food accessibility (or rather the lack thereof) is directly affecting the lives of entire families. Hearing about families’ struggles made abstract goals of the DCFPC become very real, pertinent and necessary.

All in all, I’ve loved working for the Douglas County Food Policy Council. Working in small groups with a specific goal was rewarding. It felt good to know that we were making a difference and doing work for a task force that really needed our help. That kind of learning and satisfaction transcends earning grades in a grade book — it is immersive, substantial and can meaningfully affect the lives of many people for the better.

—Jacob Muselmann

Learning Through Service by micolea
April 30, 2010, 1:53 am
Filed under: J500 Week 14, Society + Media | Tags: , ,

I am astounded by the vast amount of knowledge I have acquired from this course. When I enrolled in this class, I expected to come away having learned about various ways to be environmentally conscious and knowing definitions of environmental terms. What I didn’t expect to happen was to gain valuable insight on issues ranging from factory farms to food labels to the cleanliness of water.    

From day one of this class, I discovered that environmental issues are also human issues. Before, I thought of it as completely separate concerns-one having nothing to do with the other. I was under the impression that environmental issues didn’t affect me; which made me, in part, disconnected from my surroundings. I assumed that my daily routines and practices were too minuscule to have an effect on others or the world around me.  

I was mistaken.  

Throughout the course I started to see and understand the importance of the connection between people and the planet. My point of view began to change. By using food and agriculture as our lenses through which we viewed environmental matters, it brought about the realization that environmental issues are also day-to-day concerns such as, purchasing produce sprayed with pesticides, pumping gasoline into our cars and discovering the by products in drinking water.   

Photo by Only Sequel/Courtesy Flickr


This class was made all the more rewarding by getting the opportunity to give back to our community through service learning with the Douglas County Food Policy Council. The aim of the DCFPC is to attain a local, sustainable food system for Douglas County. To me, the best way to learn is through active learning. Getting the chance to speak with people in our community and to be an influential part of creating a local food system for our county, for this generation and future generations, took learning to an extraordinary level.  

All in all, this class gave me a new-found respect for the world which I inhabit. I learned life lessons that I will carry with my throughout my existence. This four-month journey has taught me that even though change takes time, it is forthcoming. To be a part of that change towards a more sustainable environment is breathtaking. 

Micole Aronowitz

My Environmental Awakening by micolea

Photo by paul david/Courtesy Flickr

When it comes to helping conserve the environment, my mom practices what she preaches. Long before I was even aware of our planet’s perils, my mom was doing her part and setting an admirable example for me to follow.   

Conserving water: It is a part of my mother’s daily routine to always turns off the faucet when she is brushing her teeth, and when showering she also turns off the water in between shampooing and conditioning her hair. Plus, when washing the dishes, instead of letting a constant stream of water run, she just fills the sink with the water needed. To understand why my mom is stringent about the issue of water is to acknowledge her childhood. My mom came from a country where water was often rationed. In some of the provinces in the Philippines water was only available for certain times during the day. After those hours, the water companies would simply turn the water off. This was a normal, everyday occurence.

Curtailing food waste: In my mom’s eyes the only thing worst than wasting water is wasting food. At dinner time, I was reminded regularly to only take the amount I could eat. Likewise, we would always eat leftovers. My mom was determined not to throw away any food that was “still perfectly fine,” as she would say. I recall one of the first and most astonishing cultural experiences I had regarding food waste. I was nine years old and my mom, aunt and myself were dining at a buffet in Manila, Philippines. Being young, and considering that my eyes were often bigger than my stomach, I was unable to finish all of the food on my plate. When the waiter came to collect our plates and he saw the remnants of uneaten food still left on mine, he sternly informed my mom that there would be an extra charge for the wasted food. At that age, I did not understand the gravity of wasted food, but now, in retrospect, I realize the relevance of that experience.   

My mom grew up in a country where water was scarce and access to food was, at times, limited. Her upbringing and her surroundings are what engrained in her an appreciation and respect for the environment and its natural resources. We all come from different walks of life and our cultures and the society’s we live in shape our experiences and attitudes about the environment.   

It was and still is my mom’s continuous example of being aware and caring about the world around her that inspired me to reevaluate my daily routines. I began to incorporate my mom’s environmental habits into my collegiate lifestyle. It wasn’t an overnight change, but a gradual adjustment in recognizing that in order to make tomorrow better, I have to start today. We are all in this together. Each action we make, no matter how big or small, affects us all. Each of us, as individuals, can take small steps to improve the health of our planet.   

Micole Aronowitz

Greenwashed and Ready! by KaylaReg
February 19, 2010, 3:58 am
Filed under: J500 Week 5 | Tags: , , , ,

I spent $30 on a limited edition Radiohead 2008 tour Sigg water bottle. Not because I really cared that it would reduce my carbon footprint, but because that’s what they had at the merch booth.

Of course, If Thom Yorke, Radiohead’s lead singer, cared enough about the environment to make a point of it on a Sigg bottle, I knew that I should probably care about it too. So, I went home, googled ‘environmentalism’ and low and behold, I was enlightened.

I became that annoying kid who nagged her parents for not recycling enough and looked down on people who ate meat. I traded candy bars for granola bars, soda for pomegranate juice and Cheetos for Natural Cheetos.

Thom Yorke didn’t tell me the lining of my Sigg contained bisphenol-A, the hormone-disrupting chemical found in many other plastic bottles.

I was so consumed with looking like I was environmentally aware though, that I forgot to understand what it was I was actually trying to do.

I had no idea my granola bar contained high fructose corn syrup, the cheaply produced and widely used sweetener banned in Canada and European countries. I also didn’t know  that the makers of my pomegranate juice funded animal testing or that Natural Cheetos had disodium phosphate, found on two federal regulatory lists.

Was I the victim of greenwashing, when companies market products as environmentally friendly despite business practices that are less than so? Certainly, but only because I allowed it. I was just lazy to trust the packaging or what the label said. I never thought I’d get a boyfriend if I bought a particular shampoo or pair of jeans. I don’t know why I thought I could be eco-friendly from buying an aluminum water bottle.

With the organic market explosion, countless companies jumped on the green bandwagon, advertising their products as ‘natural’ or ‘sustainable,’ without having to back up their claim. Fortunately, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is adopting stricter guidelines for its Green Guide, which defines how businesses should support environmental assertions. The FTC filed six complaints regarding environmental claims since the Obama administration, up from zero during George W. Bush’s eight years.

While the FTC can’t change a company’s business practices, it can change the way it markets a product. Yes, more businesses are getting away with greenwashing than not, but at least it’s a start. In the meantime, consumers who really want to buy environmentally friendly products can do a little independent research or check sites like greenwashingindex.org and corpwatch.org to make better purchasing decisions.

Yes, I started buying organic and sustainable products because it was the cool thing to do. Yes, like in this South Park episode, I was completely obnoxious about it. Now, though, I don’t care what Thom Yorke does. Buying organic is still important to me.  So, whenever I find out I’m not getting what I pay for, I probably won’t be spending a dollar of my part-time salary on that item again.

-Kayla R.

Translating definitions by Lauren Cunningham

Recently while eating at Angler’s in Lawrence, I saw something on the menu I hadn’t noticed before. 

On the back side of the menu, it was noted at the bottom that the restaurant was a sustainable seafood restaurant. I pointed it out to my boyfriend, feeling better about our decision to eat there, but I also wanted to know more about exactly what that meant. Below the headline, there was some information that kind of explained what the term “sustainable seafood” meant, but the two short paragraphs on the menu didn’t really inform me completely.

 Since then, I’ve checked out their Web site to see exactly what the restaurant meant by their sustainable seafood statement. They give some good explanations as to what they mean by sustainable seafood, but I wonder how the term translates to other restaurants and to those restaurants’ consumers.

The term “sustainability” has been thrown into a lot of media coverage about environmental or political issues. Often the word is defined as a balance between people, planet and profit. But I think it’s interesting that the word at one point didn’t include anything about the environment. 

I looked up “sustainablility” in the Oxford English Dictionary  through the KU Libraries Web site and found that up until December 2001, no definitions included anything about the environment. The definitions before 2001 did include descriptions of maintenance and the ability to be upheld or stand alone, which I am realizing is essential for others to understand in order to apply it to the environment.

I agree that it’s important to include the planet in the discussion when people take on sustainable projects or talk about making things more sustainable, but I’m not so sure that sustainability — the word itself — fully encompasses the aspect of the environment within its definition. It is nice to have a go-to word that can be used when discussing green or environmental issues, but I don’t think a single word cannot possibly sum up the planet, profit or people.

Instead of just labeling some project or item as “sustainable,” I believe meaningful discussions and definite definitions should be given to the public. Honestly, I don’t have a great answer as to who should give that definition, but I see more news outlets and blogs who are trying to offer some guidance. But of course, there’s always the question of who, if anyone, will actually take the time to educate themselves? My hope is that the term won’t try to define or take on too many aspects, and I hope more people begin to understand that research should be done in order to truly have a meaningful discussion about the environment and the food we get from it.

— Lauren Cunningham

About Me: Jacob M. by jmuselmann
January 22, 2010, 12:53 pm
Filed under: About Us, Society + Media | Tags: , , , ,

My name is Jacob Muselmann (pronounced like the applesauce, but sadly without the relation). I am from Tulsa, Okla. and have been to many different schools before landing in Kansas: Tulsa, Tulsa Community College, Haskell Indian Nations, and Belgrano (in Argentina). I’ve settled down on journalism with a minor in sociocultural anthropology.

I am currently a news designer for the Kansan, a restaurant reviewer for Jayplay magazine, and a copy editing intern at the Lawrence Journal-World. That doesn’t leave me with much free time, but I remember once enjoying drawing, riding my bicycle, exercising, and eating (especially cookies).

The premise of this class got me thinking about my own views on environmentalism: What does it look like? What should I expect from myself and from others? What are the feasible ways to be more sustainable? In addition to answering these questions, I hope to effectively convey what I have learned, because, as you could guess, I have never written about any of these issues.

“Going green” has always been a vague, trendy phrase that made environmentalism seem to me at once lofty and cheapened. I would like to demystify it, engage it, and be able to add something the next time the conversation comes up. To do this, I reckon honesty and a raw approach is the only way to get anywhere. So I’ll start by saying this journey could be a scary undertaking—but a beneficial one, too.

Fact: Mollie, one of my three, younger sisters, and I can feel trapped in even the most freeing of places whenever our parents require family photos. And it shows.

—Jacob Muselmann

About Me: Bre M. by breannam
January 18, 2010, 12:20 pm
Filed under: J500 Week 1 | Tags: , ,


My name is Breanna Main, but I prefer to be called Bre. I am a senior in journalism on the strategic communications side. I will be graduating in May with a Bachelor of Science degree and a minor in History. I would eventually like to work in sales or promotions after I graduate.

Last summer I studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain. I traveled all over the country in a period of six weeks, and it was amazing. I also visited Paris while I was there. It was  beautiful and full of history, and I would strongly recommend everyone to experience traveling abroad. After graduation, I would love to get an internship abroad, and eventually work internationally. Traveling abroad changed my outlook on my career. I would love to work internationally, traveling is my new passion!

I took this class because I don’t think I know enough about the environment or sustainability. I am interested in becoming more aware of my environment, and what I can do to help save it. It seems that the country has become aware of our environmental problems, but not everyone is doing something to fix it.  I know that everyone is “going green” these days, and I would like to find out how to get involved in this movement.

I recently did a mini campaign in one of my journalism research classes about sustainable and natural food, so I have a little insight on that topic. I am aware of all the benefits natural and organic foods offer and how expensive they are. However, I would love to learn more about these topics!

I also took this class because it is a service learning class. I have already taken one service learning class, and I am working on getting certified before graduation.

I work as a part-time preschool teacher at Century Preschool when I am not in class. It’s a great part-time job, and it keeps me extremely busy. Whenever I have free time, which isn’t often, I like to watch TV with my roommates, read, or work out. I also enjoy traveling, especially if there is a beach near by!

Bre M