Conservation activism may be dramatic, but it has rarely been mined for mainstream films. Green themes typically appear off-screen: think Charlize Theron and Joaquin Phoenix in People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) anti-fur campaigns. Still, a number of provocative environmental movies have slipped through the minefield of corporate censorship and escaped Los Angeles with their agendas intact. If you’re looking for a cheap night at home, a trip down memory lane, or discussion agit-prop for students and kids, then look for the following modern classics, all of which can be rented at a video store near you.
Like many consumers, California businessman George Akers thought that cotton was the "cleanest, best thing in the world," because it was natural. Then, while shopping in a self-described environmental clothing store in London in 1989, he discovered "green" cotton. He learned that conventional cotton doesn’t, in fact, wear so well on the environment, considering the sum total of its environmental impacts. Akers mended his thinking. Last year he started O Wear, a clothing company that from cotton seed to cotton sweater, uses no toxic chemicals.
Over 50 percent of American households are also home to at least one cat or dog. And like little walking tranquilizers, these pets–better yet, companion animals–give us much in return for their bed and breakfast. Not only does their presence go a long way to dissolve our loneliness and raise our spirits, scientific tests have shown that caring for our furring friends may lower blood pressure and lengthen life expectancy.
For most of us, trotting off to the grocery store is an unloved chore donw on automatic pilot. No wonder, then, that how we get those groceries home is the last thing on our minds. But the environmental impact of supermarket bags is daunting. And t he best choice–cloth–is nowhere in sight.
Launched to provide an alternative to chemically treated clothing, the eco-fashion business has been slow to catch on, and was for years linked to potato sacks and oddly styled t-shirts. These days, fine natural fabrics made from organic cotton, wool and linen, tencel (made from wood pulp), hemp, bamboo, Ingeo (made from corn) and silk are used to create sharp, stylish outfits. After much experimentation with these materials over the past 15 years, even such household names as Patagonia, Nike and Timberland have embraced the concept.
Battey makers are all charged up over the future of batteries. Duracell, Everyready and Rayovac, titans in the battery field, are revoluionizing how we power up everything from Walkmans to laptop computers. "Better rechargeables and new alkaline [traditional] batteries with virtually no mercury will save landfill space and address environmental concerns," predicts Duracell’s James Donahue.
The carpet under your feet may look harmless enough, but tell that to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) staffers who suffered breathing problems and flu-like symptoms after new carpet was stretched over the floors of their Washinhton, DC headquarters back in 1987. Some collapsed. Some were rushed to the hospital, dizzy and nauseous. The building was evacuated several times. A University of Arizona study, ironically tucked inside the EPA’s file cabinets, suggested a possible cause: the new carpet smell, caused by 4-phenylcy-clohexene (4-PC) in the glue that holds carpet fibers together. Sure enough, those most effected worked in areas where 4-PC levels were highest. The EPA ripped out the carpet in 1989–and decided that future carpets would be 4-PC-free.
Since flowers and plants are, at their roots, products of nature, conscientious consumers tend to consider them a dependably green buy. Why wouldn’t a floral shop purchase be environmentally benign? After all, florists deal in the currency of nature, sending bits and pieces of it home with flower lovers in arrangements, wreaths, garlands, potted plants and more.
The pages of the Canadian edition of the fifth Harry Potter book destroyed no forest at all–not even one tree. That’s because it was printed on 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper–saving not only trees but also water and energy and reducing pollution.
Making a good point about the environment is a heavy burden to put on a piece of music. The great folk singer Woody Guthrie said, "Music is in all of the sounds of nature and there never was a sound that was not music–the splash of an alligator, the rain dripping on dry leaves [or] a long and lonesome train whistling down." But if music is nature and vice versa, why is it so hard to bring them together? Only a few pop songs succeed at it.