“Rap about Wrapping”: Environmentalism in the New Era, 1991

By April 22, 2009

I came across this a few months ago, and have been waiting until Earth Day to post it. Since last year’s Earth Day post at the JI looked at a quote from 19th century Mormonism on the environment, I thought it would be appropriate to do something from the 20th century this year.  In July 1991, the New Era included a brief article entitled “Planet Pleasing” in the “FYI: For Your Information” section of the teenage-oriented periodical. In addition to the sound and practical advice of the article, I’m intrigued by the author’s effort to connect with her teenage audience. Such lines as “It’s cool to save fuel” and “Gee … Try a Tree” (such profound poetry) suggest a conscious effort to make environmentalism sound cool to young readers (and check out the name of the fictional letter writer within the article … how clever). I haven’t read the New Era in years, so I’m not sure how common such writing is, but I like that the language reflects the historical era in which it was written (and yes, I think that is the first time I’ve referred to a period in my own life as an “historical era”). I’m also curious as to whether such a topic could (or would) be discussed in a church periodical today, given the politically-charged nature (no pun intended) of the topic at hand. What do you all think? What else stands out to you?

Okay, New Era readers, it’s time to start talking earth sense. Heavenly Father has blessed us with this beautiful planet, and it’s up to us to take good care of it. We all share a responsibility for this green earth, yet sometimes we forget that and abuse its resources. How can you help keep your environment safe and help ensure a decent place for your future children to live? Here are a few suggestions.

Planet Pleasing

by Lisa A. Johnson

Easy Things You Can Do

Walk on. Or carpool, or use public transportation. It’s cool to save fuel. Don’t have your parents drive you everywhere, or take the car to visit a friend down the street.

Bag waste. You can reuse the plastic bags you get at the supermarket. Some stores even take a couple of cents off your grocery bill for reusing your bag. And if you’re doing a lot of shopping in different stores, don’t get a bag from each. Put your purchases in one bag (preferably a reusable one).

Battle burger blight. Be careful when eating fast food. Do you take more napkins, straws, and ketchup packages than you need, then throw the rest away? Try to take only what you’ll use.

Don’t plunder the playgrounds. When you’re involved in recreational activities, try to leave the campsites, picnic spots, etc. cleaner than you found them. If you use snowmobiles, motorcycles, ATVs, etc., make sure you do it in designated areas and that you don’t hurt any plants, wildlife, property, or eardrums.

Sack the pack. Buy products with minimal packaging. Cardboard and foam refuse put a real strain on the environment.

Write away. If the products you like have too much packaging, or if they contain ingredients that are harmful to the environment, write to the companies and express your concern (see sample letter).

Rap about wrapping. Try to get your family not to throw away plastic wrap, freezer bags, and foil. Reuse them or just use resealable containers.

Be careful with cups. Don’t always use paper cups and toss them-that goes for plates, too. It’s better to use the real thing and wash the dishes.

Patrol that paper. Use recycled paper at school, at home, at work, whenever you can.

Reuse refuse. Help your family to sort your garbage-put paper in one place, plastics in another, glass in another, and cans somewhere else. Then take them to the recycling center. About 40 percent of your garbage is recyclable.

Mop-up mail. Write to the people who litter your box with unrequested junk mail and ask them to stop. If 100,000 people did this, we could save about 150,000 trees per year.

Make T.P.ing taboo. Sure, it’s fun to decorate someone’s lawn with toilet paper, but it’s not the most ecologically sound way to play a joke. Nor is spraying shaving cream around. Think of something else.

Turn out the lights! Not only will it make your parents happy by keeping the utility bills low, but it will save power, which can eventually lead to less acid rain, air pollution, and nuclear waste.

Wash wisely. Okay, maybe your best jeans are dirty and you need to wear them in an hour, but it’s a tremendous waste of water and energy to wash and dry just one piece of clothing at a time. Wait till you have a full load, or see if your brothers and sisters might have some things that need to be washed along with yours.

Put plastic in your tank. Your toilet tank, that is. You can save up to 40 percent of the water your toilet uses by putting a “displacement device,” like a plastic bottle filled with water and a few rocks, in the tank. Be careful that it doesn’t interfere with the flushing mechanism, and that it doesn’t displace too much water for an effective flush. But get your parents’ permission first.

Snip Those Rings!

Those plastic rings that hold sixpacks of pop together are an environmental nightmare, no matter where you live. They’re virtually invisible under water, so marine life can’t avoid them. Baby animals can get them caught around their necks and suffocate as they grow. And birds can get them caught around their beaks and starve, or around their necks and get caught on something stationary, never to get free. So after you use them, snip each ring so that it can’t catch on anything. And if you see any discarded anywhere, pick them up and do the same thing to them. Unsnipped plastic can be lethal.

Letters Work

If you’re concerned about the amount of packaging used in one of your favorite products or think that it might be environmentally harmful, let the manufacturers know! A short, well-written letter can have a lot of influence. You might try saying something like:


I’m writing to let you know that I love your product, but I’m very concerned about its effect on the environment. Isn’t there some way you can package (or produce) it in a more ecologically sound way?
Thanks for your consideration.

R. Stewart Shipp


It’s more difficult to recycle plastic than just about anything else, so it’s wise to cut down on its use. Here are a few suggestions for precycling plastics before they have to be recycled.

? Buy eggs in cardboard, rather than Styrofoam containers.

? Use washable mugs rather than plastic cups.

? Buy things in recycled cardboard packages rather than in plastic ones.

? Ask that your fast food not be served to you in Styrofoam containers.

? Avoid disposable plastic containers altogether, especially squeezable ones. They’re made out of layered plastic that is particularly nonbiodegradable.

? Instead of putting plastic wrap around everything, try wax paper or reusable containers.

? Talk your parents into buying in bulk. It’s cheaper and uses less packaging.

? If you can’t get around buying things in plastic containers, make sure you reuse the containers.

Gee … Try a Tree

Never underestimate the worth of a tree. In fact, try planting some, and take care of the ones around you. It’s one of the most ecologically minded things you can do, for these simple reasons. People require oxygen and give off carbon dioxide. Trees give off oxygen and require carbon dioxide. It’s estimated that a tree consumes about 13 pounds of carbon dioxide per year, reducing the greenhouse effect. Trees also provide shade and evaporative cooling-they can cool the surrounding air temperature by ten degrees, reducing the need for air conditioning. Unfortunately, for every tree planted in most areas, four are chopped down. In forested areas, those numbers are even worse. So do everyone a favor-plant a tree.

What’s the Greenhouse Effect?

The greenhouse effect is what keeps our planet warm. Natural gases in the atmosphere form a sort of blanket over the earth’s surface that lets sunlight in and prevents heat from escaping (like the glass in a greenhouse). There’s a problem, however, when we add too many gases to that natural blanket. Then lifegiving sunlight is blocked out (as you’ve seen on a smoggy day), and temperatures can rise to ecologically harmful levels. How do we add gases? By burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas; by using aerosol cans; and by filling landfills, which release gases into the air as the garbage degrades. We can’t cut those activities out altogether, but we can be more careful about how we do them.

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. Great, Chris. I have no doubt that environmental issues come up among possible New Era article topics, but you raise a good question. I think environmentalism could potentially appear in a church magazine, and I think it will eventually. We just don’t have a very robust popular or pulpit notion of environmental theology these days. Perhaps the topic might appear disguised as “provident living”?

    An article in the April ’09 New Era is for job preparation (no doubt partially in response to the current economic downturn), and isn’t presented in theological terms, so maybe it is just the politically charged nature of environmental discussions that prevent them from publication. What Kristine said in her talk about the need for a change from indoctrination to providing good information may hold true here, as well. You should consider updating this for the youth of today and submitting it. If you don’t, maybe I will. 🙂

    Comment by Elizabeth — April 22, 2009 @ 1:42 pm

  2. I?m also curious as to whether such a topic could (or would) be discussed in a church periodical today, given the politically-charged nature (no pun intended) of the topic at hand.

    Probably. It was a mere two years ago that the New Era published the eyebrow-raising article entitled “This is Ace.”

    Comment by Justin — April 22, 2009 @ 4:44 pm

  3. I remember 20 years or more ago when I was researching my sister-in-law’s family history and I mentioned to my nieces what I thought was a fascinatingly different flavor in their background. I told them that several generations of men in one of their lines were Connecticut whalers, settling there from the Azores. They didn’t find it fascinating. They were horrified. You’d have thought I had just told them their grandfather had been in charge at Mountain Meadows and had lived long enough to serve both as Stalin’s chief executioner and as a Nazi prison camp guard.

    I’m more than a little surprised to see either Chris’s article or the one Justin links to. I’d have thought anything having to do with environmentalism would be so heavily politicized that they couldn’t write about it except masked behind terms like “stewardship” or “kindness to animals.”

    Any report of responses to either article? How was the eyebrow-raising expressed?

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — April 22, 2009 @ 5:37 pm

  4. I poked through the archives of the New Era and found several items (articles, letters) on ecology and related topics (see result nos. 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, and 11; also no. 1 for a strip-mining analogy). Something must have been in the water during the 70s.

    I also noticed that the New Era published a letter disputing “Planet Pleasing”‘s point about the difficulty of recycling plastics and suggesting that “[t]he key to success as stewards of the earth is the wise use of all resources.” The editor responded to the letter by stating, “We encourage New Era readers to develop a balanced perspective in regard to environmental issues. There are obviously many sides to the discussion.”

    Comment by Justin — April 23, 2009 @ 9:29 am

  5. Regarding responses, at least one reader adopted “Planet Pleasing”‘s suggestion to write a letter environmental concerns.

    Ardis, the eyebrow-raising was mine.

    Comment by Justin — April 23, 2009 @ 9:41 am


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