“It’s Not Warming, It’s Dying” Finds New Life as Designer Bags

An advertising billboard becomes a space for socially-conscious art and then transforms into sustainable bags and accessories.

This is the story of a three-way collaboration between Lamar Advertising Company, the largest out-of-home advertising company in the United States,RAREFORM, a Santa Monica-based producer of bags and accessories repurposed from billboards, and Milton Glaser, the legendary artist and designer famous for creating the I ❤ NY logo.

Last year, Glaser launched the “It’s Not Warming, It’s Dying” campaign to create new urgency around the issue of climate change and to shift the language and narrative away from benign terms like “global warming.”


This year, Lamar Advertising has provided a billboard in Los Angeles at Crenshaw Boulevard and West 59th Place to showcase Glaser’s “It’s Dying” campaign. The billboard with Glaser’s artwork will remain on display until the end of October. After the billboard comes down, RAREFORM will repurpose Glaser’s artwork into approximately 300 limited-edition backpacks and accessories.


Designers and artists like Glaser looking to make a statement about environmental sustainability have the challenge of walking the walk as well as talking the talk. Campaign collateral like buttons, stickers, posters, and billboards all require natural resources to produce and often turn into waste after they have served their purpose. This collaboration between Glaser, RAREFORM, and Lamar provides a system for the sustainable reuse of these materials.

For designers working to be more sustainable, the lesson here is to think beyond creating collections for a single season, and instead design systems for reuse and transformation across the lifecycle of a product.

At the end of November, RAREFORM will host a gallery show in Los Angeles. The exhibit will feature exclusive videos, photos, and products from the collaboration, as well as some of Glaser’s other work.

Learn more at igg.me/at/art-lives.

Hello Electric

Hello Electric is a new global movement for electric cars, dedicated to bringing people together online to take meaningful action to get these clean, new cars onto our streets faster, ending our addiction to oil and the damage it causes to the environment.

I just joined Hello Electric in an urgent campaign. BP’s CEO Tony Hayward is about to resign over the oil spill that has devastated the Gulf of Mexico, so we decided to give him a gift that will help him lead the way “Beyond Petroleum” (and never, ever have to go to a gas station again).

If 25,000 people sign the goodbye card to Tony in the next few weeks, Hello Electric will GIVE him his own electric car and demand that he help us end our global addiction to oil. Tony is appearing before UK Parliament TODAY; together we can send a huge challenge to him and the media.

Will you sign Tony’s card and ask your friends and family to do the same? It only takes a moment and could make a huge difference:

Commentary on Billions to Be Served: Meeting the Needs of the People and the Planet

Panel discussion from the the Aspen Ideas Festival.  Thanks to the Breakaway Cook Eric Gower for the tip.

Billions to Be Served: Meeting the Needs of the People and the Planet
The United Nations has determined that, in the next 40 years, we must double crop production to feed, fuel and clothe nine billion people. How do we meet this challenge with converting every forest and savannah into agricultural land? What are the unexpected alliances that can lead the way forward?

My thoughts:

Panelist Jason Clay mentions that one of the ways to increase agricultural yields is to open up patents and other research information to foster innovation and increase equality of access of food production technologies.  Controversy over genetic engineering aside, I can agree in principle with that strategy.  He makes the unfortunate use of the words “intellectual property,” an overreaching and unhelpful term.  What is at stake here is patents specifically, as well as research data (scientific facts, whose protection as “intellectual property” under copyright is questionable).  Patents and copyrights are temporary monopolies designed to promote innovation.  “Intellectual property,” is a confusing and problematic umbrella term that conflates this kind of monopoly with actual physical property.  (See Richard Stallman’s article for more)
Continue reading Commentary on Billions to Be Served: Meeting the Needs of the People and the Planet

Cut the Corny Crap

I’ve recently seen this ad on TV and YouTube:

The ad was made by Americans Against Food Taxes, an interest group that includes some big agro-businesses and industrial fast food producers who are opposed to a proposed tax on soft drinks and juice drinks, in other words, beverages that contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

Pardon the pun, but this ad, like HFCS found in soft drinks and juice drinks, is pretty corny stuff.  Let’s cut through the saccharine images of an All-American family and the folksy populist spin.  First, “juice drinks,” as defined by the USDA is different from “100% juice.”  Juice drinks only constitute a small percentage of actual fruit juice, and can contain added water, sugar/HFCS, coloring, and vitamins.  In these USDA health guidelines (PDF), the example juice drink only contains 5% juice.  The proposed tax is on soda and juice drinks, NOT on 100% juice or fresh fruit.  Last time I checked, soda and juice drinks were not essential foundations in the food pyramid.

I’m no fan of big agro-business lobbies or a Federal nanny state, but guaranteeing all Americans basic access to health care is an important issue that needs funding.  So where do we go from here? Well, if we follow the money (and the trail of corn kernels), we find that soft drinks and juice drinks are able to be sold relatively cheaply because of existing government intervention in the form of subsidies.  These government subsides—our taxpayer money— artificially lower the price of corn and corn derivatives like high fructose corn syrup.  When we buy a soda, we aren’t paying the REAL market price because the cost of producing corn syrup, a major ingredient, is subsidized by our tax dollars.  Hey, isn’t that soda socialism or something?

Now here’s the part where I might even get mistaken for a conservative:  Instead of levying taxes on soda and juice drinks to fund health care, why not just cut costs by reducing or even eliminating the corn subsidies, and use the savings to fund health care reform?  These subsidies are taxes that we have already paid that are a standing government bailout that props up an essentially non-market-based business model.

Insert folksy Fox News-worthy soundbite:  “Calm down about socialized medicine ’cause corn subsidies ain’t so capitalist either!

The Environmental Working Group’s Farm Subsidy Database shows that there were $21.6 billion in corn subsidies in the four-year period from 2003-2006 (inclusive).  The Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University found that HFCS producers received an implicit $234 million dollar a year subsidy derived from overall corn subsidies.  Meanwhile, the WSJ reports that the Congressional Budget Office estimates that “adding a tax of three cents per 12-ounce serving to these types of sweetened drinks would generate $24 billion over the next four years.”  If the amount of money spent on four years of corn subsidies were redirected towards health care, we would already be 90% of the way to the potential $24 billion that could be raised by new taxes on soda and juice drinks.

Why bother with new taxes on struggling American families when the government can just stop using our taxpayer money to subsidize artificially-cheap corn, the staple of the industrial agro-businesses, and use it as a down payment on health care reform?