Ecotopia
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Is it just summer or is life really getting greener?

From do-good video games as far back as SimEarth to World Without Oil, movies such as Wall-E to An Inconvenient Truth, and toy recycling trucks, we've been putting forth the message that green is good and waste is bad. But in newly subtle ways, the toy and media industries are stepping up to the plate.
July 20, 2011

My town just passed a new recycling ordinance. Although I groan at the thought of having to differentiate old pizza boxes from piles of junk mail, the rational (liberal, selfless, going-to-heaven) side of me says, “it’s about time.”  We have one Earth. And we want to pass it on to our kids in good condition. As purveyors of culture, we have more ways than most to influence others to go green.  From do-good video games as far back as SimEarth to World Without Oil, movies such as Wall-E to An Inconvenient Truth, and toy recycling trucks, we’ve been putting forth the message that green is good and waste is bad. But in newly subtle ways, the toy and media industries are stepping up to the plate. Because play is how kids—of all ages—learn, getting the message across in playful ways is always more effective than shoving it in our faces.

Ecotopia, a Harrison Ford-backed project from Talkie, which launched in beta this spring, is similar to SimEarth in that it’s a city-building game that requires players to clean up the world. But in order to earn virtual points for in-game advancement, players need to complete off-line green initiatives. And, yeah, it’s on Facebook.

In the same way that sexy silver-screen smokers used to influence us to light up, in the movies, sexy green cars make the point. A snazzy Prius shares the screen with Kevin Spacey, Colin Farrell and Jennifer Aniston in Horrible Bosses. A loaded BMW i8 hybrid shows up in the trailer for Mission Impossible 4. (With a $160,000 price tag, I wonder if Tom Cruise will cruise off in it.)

On TV, Alphas, a new action drama premiering this week on Syfy, is not about ecology, but the production was so green that dailies and scripts were all read on iPads. Which brings us to the greening of the publishing industry and rise of ebooks (and enough content for another blog). No matter what your feelings are about eBooks, they save trees, space, and energy. And they are gaining traction.

In the toy industry, companies such as Hape, Plan, and Green Toys have always been overt about their sustainable products and packaging, but others are gradually changing their priorities. I recently previewed a great new board game from Wonder Forge called Richard Scarry’s Busytown Busy Busy Airport Game. When I opened the box, the pieces were floating in the space without typical cardboard compartments to separate. This was a conscious green decision. Less packaging doesn’t change the game. But it does effect the environment.

These are just a few of the green sightings on the horizon. A car here, an eBook there, a half-empty box and paperless production. They all add up.

Maybe our kids will inherit a green Earth after all.

Let me know what great green properties or products you’ve seen lately. Email: Wendy@sandboxsummit.org

In Ecotopia, players earn in-game points by completing ecology-minded projects offline

 

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