THEME: Advertisers often overlook the environmental consequences of their product and its packaging.

GOAL: Students will learn that commercials can be promotional and still consider the product's impact on the environment.

METHOD: Revising television or radio ads

SUBJECTS: English, science, social studies

SKILLS: Analyzing, communicating, designing

MATERIALS: A video camera to tape commercials (optional)

TIME: Several class periods


Television and radio ads persuade us to purchase certain items for reasons other than product quality. Many of these products, although useful and desirable, can have far-reaching environmental impacts that are not normally considered by advertisers or purchasers.

Getting Started

What techniques do advertisers use to sell their products? How effective are these techniques? Do certain commercials target specific audiences?


  1. In preparation for making their own TV commercials, have students view one hour of TV, paying special attention to the content and duration of the ads. Ask them to list the various methods advertisers use in commercials (e.g., sex appeal, convenience, status symbol, flashy packaging, famous people). Assign each student a particular time to watch or listen to commercials. This will enable them to decide whether advertisers use specific techniques to reach particular audiences.
  2. As a class, discuss the results. What techniques are used most often? Was product durability or effect on the environment ever mentioned? Are manufacturers concerned with overpackaging or reducing the amount of waste generated by their product?
  3. Have each student select a commercial to revise. The new commercial should present the environmental consequences of making and using the product and should appeal to the consumer. Students may want to create a new package or alter the item to make it less wasteful. For example, an ad for soda could promote the fact that it uses reusable glass bottles instead of plastic and that the energy used to produce the containers was derived from burning trash rather than fossil fuels.
  4. Have the students present their new commercials in front of the class and discuss why and how they changed the original ad. Encourage students to give each other feedback on the effectiveness of the new commercial.


Have students write to the manufacturers of the products whose advertisements they changed, and explain how and why they changed the ad for their product.

Source: Adapted from Washington, A-Way With Waste