Upon leaving the Pixar animated movie, Wall-E, my girlfriend’s nine year-old cousin and I were each given a rubber wrist watch featuring a picture of the adorable robot left behind on the ruined planet Earth to sort out the mess. This prompted my cousin to comment on the irony of distributing cheap, plastic wares to promote a film which so obviously encouraged viewers to break free from the chains of consumerism.
Well, OK, so Tyler’s actual words were: “Why’d they give us a watch? They should have given us a plant or something,” and then, “Can we go to Burger King and get a toy?” Maybe he missed the finer points of the robot movie, but his comment made me think about the role that popular media is playing in influencing our nation’s recent conservation efforts.
It seems that everyone is jumping on the soy-bean fueled, solar-powered bandwagon and realizing that we have literally run out of space to pile our trash. But far from flinging off all worldly possessions, we have instead culturally embraced environmentalism and coupled it with fashion and style. This should surely make any artist delighted, as new forms of artistic expression are cropping up everywhere: commercials, billboards, and even shopping bags.
In case you missed the memo, it is no longer enough to merely bring a cloth bag to the grocery store to avoid using petroleum-based bags of doom; now every store seems to carry their own line of eco-bags. Some are printed plainly with the name of the store. Others, like Target, offer convenient zipper pouches and an assortment of bag sizes. And still others, like Whole Foods Market, have taken the next step in unifying the arts, consumerism and conservation by offering a wide variety of designer grocery bags to match any personality, or as I like to call it, “the Degree of Green.”
A true granola-loving green freak will love the hemp line, while the hipsters among us might go for the drawing of a thin, pale blue bird sitting sadly in the branches of a struggling tree. (Wait, would that appeal to hipsters or emo-teens?) And if you are truly inspired, you’ll bring along a canvas tote that you’ve designed yourself with iron-on words arranged in haiku and transferable photos of the mountains you’ve climbed.
It’s about time the United States cleans up its act and actively asserts itself as the most eco-friendly, green guys around. The green movement certainly wouldn’t have caught on without some gritty grassroots publicity. That’s what the fashion and design industry have succeeded at thus far. And if that ultimately means youngsters will carry around few more reusable shopping bags featuring polar bears, that’s even better.