April 22, 2012

For Earth Day, pledge to turn off your TV

There are really very few "must-haves".

Food & water, shelter, your loved ones nearby, and a few other things. But an trade-in to the latest version of your cellphone? One more shirt to join the two hundred already jostling for space in your closet? "Sport" wheels on your car: the ones that really only make a difference if you actually took the car out on a race track? A particular brand of car?

Think about it carefully: where did you pick up the idea that you "must have" those things? Often you will find that it was planted in your brain (and the brains of your friends) by advertising. Advertising is companies' direct access to that button in your psyche that makes you open your wallet for even the most dubious purchases. It is relentless. And a lot of it comes through television.

So by turning off the TV you block the continual assault on your senses, and your common sense, by that endless string of commercials.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not into "minimalist" living, with one pair of jeans, one sleeping bag and one bowl and spoon. I like my comfort, thanks, and I like a good product. I just prefer to decide on my own just what is a good product, and when (and whether) I need it. I don't need to be told that by a company that makes the product. Besides, in my opinion these days companies are not out to make a product: they're out to make a profit. On us.

Going TV-free does get easier as you get used to it and make a new routine, but it can be tough at first. Especially for children, for whom it is especially important that they get peeled off their screens and booted outside. There is medical research that shows that children who play outside, even just an hour a day, are significantly less near-sighted than children who stay inside. Just for that it's worth it. And there are all the other benefits. Try the Campaign for a Commercial-free Childhood for some ideas on how to start, even if you don't have children.

Every fish-themed picnic bowl you don't buy, every cellphone upgrade that you skip, every short-lived plastic toy you pass by, is a win for the planet. I will contain myself and say nothing about 400HP throbbing gas guzzlers.

Happy Earth Day! Let's make something of it, today, tomorrow, and all the tomorrows.


  1. This is really a good post! I found your blog through Reduce Footprints and am glad I did!!

    1. Thanks! and I missed her TV/Computer Turnoff challenge completely - we were indeed screen free over spring break. There's also ScreenFree Week coming up: 30 April - 6 May. I'm ready: writing a few posts ahead of next week.

  2. Oh I love this! It's true ... advertisements are all about convincing us that we NEED that newest & greatest gizmo and their bottom line. It's almost never about what is right and good (for us & the planet). My hubby & I decided, a year or so ago, to give up our cable service. We can still rent movies or watch programing thru the Internet. We've discovered a couple of things ... 1) we have way more time to do more important things (like talking to each other) and 2) we watch only the content that we're interested in and programs streamed through the Internet seem to contain far fewer commercials. Oh ... and I should a 3) ... we save money which can be used for things like Eco-friendly products that we really do need!

    As for missing the No TV challenge ... not a problem ... a green activity is green whenever it's done! I'm looking forward to your ScreenFree Week.

    1. To tell the truth, we don't have a TV either. We used to have one, but it lived in the closet and got rolled out when we watched a movie on dvd. We gave it away once Netflix came on the scene. Life is peaceful without the TV, and I agree with you: you get a clearer view of your life.

  3. I don't have a TV...unfortunately, I still spend way too much of my life with a screen. This weekend I turned off my computer and stayed away until Sunday evening rolled around and I needed to check my email before the work week. It was wonderful. I think the internet has a numbing effect, and I use it to procrastinate on doing more worthwhile, if more difficult things.

    I think we're all less immune to advertising than we think we are. Being exposed to constant messages about how buying more stuff will make us feel better about ourselves ends up being pretty toxic for both ourselves and the planet.

    1. TV free is easy; but screen-free altogether! It's okay to be unplugged on a trip, but we'll see how I do next week at home. I lean on the internet for things like weather, recipes, train schedules....

      There is still a difference between the level of intrusiveness of advertising on TV and on the internet. But it's blurring now that more websites have video ads embedded in them.

      I like your idea of going screen-free on the weekends, I think I'll make that a long-term goal. Gives my children the right message, too. In fact, maybe I'll kidnap the modem and hide it. Hmmm.

  4. We do not have cable. We watch one show during the week survivor on the internet. I don't even know why we have a TV sometimes....

  5. Yeah. So true. Tv is all about what we need. It feeds our addictions. Today, I have learned that dandruff shampoo will make me happy.

    Bud too!

    Well, neither of these things makes me happy - and I choose not to partake in the ipad/iphone madness. It's about making solid choices - just as you said. If i am going to buy a camera, it's going to be good, take good pictures, and last years. I would rather invest, then buy something shotty and have to replace it 6 months down the road.

    I think people have to learn that just because they see it on TV, doesn't mean it's true.


    1. Ha ha! wait: you mean, Bud and dandruff shampoo is not my path to happiness? Whoa. :-)
      I'm with you on the good investment strategy: it also ends up being more frugal in the long run!


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