Why Kids Should Watch More T.V.: It’s Good for the Environment!

30 Rock during Green Week on NBCThe American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children watch no television at all until after they turn two and urges parents to limit television after that.  We had no trouble sticking with these recommendations during the last few months.  With the writers on strike, there wasn’t much to watch, anyway.  I wonder if the AAP will rethink their position now that the writers are back and networks are showing so much concern for the environment.  Before the strike, youngsters could watch Leonardo di Caprio on Oprah praising adjustable thermostats and Ty on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition tearing down a perfectly good house and building an eco-friendly house in its place.  Surely all this media coverage will influence young minds everywhere, changing the world one Nielsen point at a time.

An Earth Day special sometime in the early 1990s was pivotal in my development as a young environmentalist.  Who knows why I found it so inspiring–one day I was living my selfish teenage existence, the next I was banning Styrofoam and collecting glass bottles for recycling (bottles that my dad, who unfortunately must not have watched that Earth Day special, threw in the trash because he didn’t want to drive around town looking for a recycling center).

At the beginning of the fall season, when I should have been out composting table scraps or harvesting rainwater, I was once again riveted to the television set during NBC’s “Green Week.”  That was months ago now, and I have to wonder if it’s begun to have the same effect on our collective eco-consciousness as that Earth Day special years ago. 

Important Environmental Lessons I Learned Watching NBC:

Recycle.  On Law and Order SVU, a mystery pizza was delivered to the precinct.  No one was hungry, so they were going to toss it, but then someone piped up with the unforgettable line, “Don’t forget to recycle the box!”  (Never mind that you can’t recycle greasy pizza boxes.)  Then the box blew up.  Hidden message: don’t recycle, because it’s dangerous.

Don’t Use Electricity.  The Biggest Loser made the grandest attempt to go green, weaving in other significant messages such as “Eating a Lot of Take-Out is Bad for the Planet” and “Drinking Lots of Soft Drinks Creates Piles of Waste.”  Contestants exercised without electricity (Bob let his contestants out into the mountains to hike, whereas Kim made her trainees work out in a dark gym).  As a reward for trudging up a ramp and dumping cans in a recycling bin, two contestants won what looked like Hummers, but were actually Hybrid SUVs.  On The Biggest Loser: Couples, which aired during the writers’ strike, the show is advertising their use of refillable water bottles rather than bottled water.Bag of Chips on The Biggest LoserBag of Chips on The Biggest Loser

Bag of Chips on The Biggest Loser
A bag of chips on The Biggest Loser

Use Solar Power.  On Life, Damien Lewis’s character had a dream about solar panels, proving that hearing about someone else’s dreams on T.V. is just as boring as hearing about someone else’s dreams in real life.

Drive a Fuel-Efficient CarE.R. tacked on a sub-plot involving a Smart car, which I surmised was their nod to Green Week.

30 Rock during Green Week on NBC

30 Rock Particpates in Green Week

Don’t Open the Refrigerator (You’ll Kill a Penguin).  I learned this thanks to Green-zo, a beautifully realized character played by David Schwimmer on 30 Rock.

Now that the strike is over, we may be in for some more valuable lessons on ecology.  What better way to teach my toddler about environmental stewardship than to plop her in front of a T.V. set for hours on end?  I am sure somewhere, a gullible teenager is off collecting glass bottles for the recycling bin.  And with any luck, she’ll have curbside recycling.

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