Green Lessons: What Corporations Are Telling Kids and What Kids Are Saying about Environmental Issues

We may all be children of Mother Earth, but when it comes to environmental messaging, a lot of people are fighting for our wee ones' hearts and minds and as it turns out, some of the world’s youths have quite a bit to say, too. This Earth Day, the Ecocentric team decided to take a look at two ways children are involved in the environmental movement.

First, we poked around to see how corporations are talking to kids about issues like bottled water, fracking and fast food. Not surprisingly, this turned up some interesting examples of corporate greenwashing, from fun-shaped water bottles to a coloring book starring a fracking dinosaur. Then, we checked out some frontrunners of the green movement—all of who are under 15 !

Here, the most egregious examples of greenwashing we found, and the most impressive kid-generated environmental media.

Food

From the Golden Arches: Burgers are good for kids (pun intended). McDonalds' new health-washing campaign takes a not-so-subtle jab at home cooking through an animated ad in which a child’s pet goat is taught that a “better diet” involves a trip to McDonalds.

From a teenage poultry producer: Raise 'em right. After a summer spent raising chickens, 14-year-old Sam Reed decided to write a paper on genetically engineered foods. What he learned about our industrial agriculture system inspired him to create this online video that -- we should warn you -- starts out with some disturbing images from factory farms, but ends on a hopeful note, presenting an alternative in small, sustainable farms.

Water

From Nestlé Waters North America: No bottled water= no fun. Hey, moms! If you aren’t buying bottled water for your kids, then you – and they – are the target of Nestlé Waters' 11-ounce Aquapod. The advertising campaign features an online game to help the Aquapod Squad beat the “Baron” who hates fun and hates kids having fun. (Unless you live in an area that lacks access to potable water, the bottled stuff is no safer than tap, boasts a giant carbon footprint and is more expensive. How fun is that?)

From an eight-year-old fundraiser: Give so that others may drink. Ella Salerno has put her money where her mouth is by raising thousands of dollars for drinking water well drilling projects in water-scarce African villages through the charity:water campaign. The eight-year-old first asked for $8 donations from family and friends on her birthday, which then led to fundraising projects like bake sales and business outreach throughout the local community. Overall, Ella was able to successfully meet the $5,000 goal. She’s now getting 100 kids to raise $100 to reach the $10,000 goal, demonstrating a commitment to helping others that should be emulated by her elders.

Energy

Talisman Energy: Fracking makes rural areas extra pastoral. Barney he is not. Meet Talisman Terry, “your friendly Fracosaurus” and the main character of the coloring book (PDF) produced by natural gas company, Talisman Energy. The message for the kiddies is clear:  Hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking) for natural gas is not only clean, but the process is entirely benign. Hmmm. Wonder what Stephen Colbert says?

From a bunch of Irish kids: Not so fast, Terry. Instead of listening to Terry the Fracosaurus, three Irish kids gave an account of the problems associated with fracking in this cleverly animated video produced for the Talk about Fracking project. Ay,the brogues!

By the way, according to the American Psychological Association, children under the age of seven are can’t tell the difference between TV shows and commercials? (That’s stating it a little plainly -- more concisely, kids as young as four and five can typically distinguish an ad from a show, but don’t understand the intent behindthe advertisements, i.e, that someone is trying to convince them to buy something.) Public relations materials like Terry the fracking dinosaur coloring book, it might follow, would be even more difficult for kids to sniff out, which is all the more reason for parents to pay attention to the media their kids are consuming, and teach them about nature, and good food, and the value of these things.

They might not be hip to the profit motive, but if this sampling is any indication, kids of all ages are getting super savvy when it comes to getting their own messages out. From the mouths of babes...

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