Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Planet Green -- Greensburg

I've had Planet Green on quite a bit this summer. Formerly the Discovery Home channel, it went to almost total green-themed programming at the beginning of June this year. My favorite show so far is Greensburg, a documentary about the town in Kansas wiped out by a tornado, produced by Leonardo DiCaprio. In the aftermath of the storm, this little town decides to rebuild to the highest green standards.

This is reality programing that is actually real! There are no exotic sets or challenges other than what the tornado wrought. It is fascinating to watch the community pull together. Key players include the city manager, the mayor, high school students, families and business people who step into the camera's eye and tell their stories in front of a background of utter devastation.

A citizens' committee attends a huge green building and construction expo in Chicago. Three of the high school students are chosen to attend as well, and we get to see their wide eyes and growing enthusiasm as they learn about green building advantages and costs. One young man , Taylor Schmidt, lost his grandfather in the tornado's destruction. His narration is particularly arresting, as he expresses his love for the town and its history. Before the tornado, he could not wait to leave the little town. But as he becomes involved in the political process of incorporating green standards into rebuilding the town, his vision for the future changes dramatically, He wants to stay in Greensburg to eventually raise a family of his own. He gets that the green movement is going to make a world of difference in the quality of his generation's life span.

The show airs a new episode every Sunday night. In Episode four, the town prepared for its first Christmas season after the tornado. Episode five is next, and you can undoubtedly catch up with the series as Planet Green repeats programming a lot. Extra webisodes are available online.

If you haven't checked out Planet Green (Channel 156 in the local Warner Cable scheme of things here in Akron). Greensburg is the place to start. Some enviro-bloggers are heavily down on Planet Green. Check out Crunchy Chicken's post and especially all the comments that follow. Lots of those folks are way ahead in terms of greening their lives, living without plastic bags, shampoo, and television and a whole host of other toxic commodities that infest our world. I'm glad for them, but not nearly as far along on the path.

I look to people like No Impact Man, Beth of Fake Plastic Fish and the guy keeping his garbage in his basement for a whole year to see how much he consumes -- and of course Crunchy Chicken whose every post is a manifesto to try yet another way to reduce, reuse and recycle complete with practical instructions included -- as inspiration. The things they learn on their green quests are invaluable and some of their practices are things I can attempt, but probably not all at once!

Here in the "heart of it all" Ohio, most folks are still mindlessly stuck in old habits. This is how slowly we progress: when I started the Village Green blog, I wrote to the local food market chain, Acme, to see if they would either make their plastic bags blue so they could be used to put recyclables out for the city trash collection or at least provide a place where customers could return the bags for recycling. Researching plastic bags lead me to pictures of dead animals who choked on plastic bags and to sites that promoted using cloth bags for shopping. I began to change a habit, training myself to take cloth bags every time I shop, which lead to all kinds of interesting experiences at the grocery store where clerks looked at me as if I were from another planet.

Three years later and now Acme not only provides a collection bin for recycling plastic bags, they also sell reusable cloth bags to encourage customers to bring their own bags. Progress, you might think, but just stand in line and note how many people are using cloth bags. The only one I ever see using them is me! At least the clerks are no longer astonished by my acts of plastic bag refusal. Giant Eagle and Buehlers also now sell cloth shopping bags. Now if they only gave a discount like Mustard Seed does -- five cents for every reusable shopping bag you bring to checkout -- we might start to change more habits.

The point I'm getting to is this -- Planet Green is a means to reach the unenlightened television viewing masses who were all brought up to seek out convenience regardless of environmental impact. They don't have a clue that we are choking on the fumes of convenience. Planet Green, while not a perfectly pure vision, has some information that is useful and that is presented in entertaining forms. This is a good thing!

I will be reviewing more Planet Green shows as the summer goes on. Stay tuned!


Anita said...

Hi! I live in Greensburg... Thanks for the nice review!
I work for Greensburg GreenTown, check out our website for more info!

Thanks again!

Village Green said...

Hi Anita! Thanks so much for visiting and commenting. Your link to your web site has a typo, so everybody go here:


I know what you had to go through was nothing to be wished for, but I am so envious of what you are all doing now. Keep up the great efforts to achieve your vision. I hope to get a chance to visit Greensburg one day.

Anita said...

Oops! Sorry - thanks for fixing that!
It is so exciting to e a part of all this! I hope you can come see it one day, too... GreenTown is building 12 demo homes, demonstrating different types of green building, most totally off-grid. THese will eventually be B&Bs that people can stay in to learn first hand how these alternative power systems work! Just one of the fabulous things in the works...