They say that when it comes to environmental sustainability, “every little bit helps.” Well, “they” are full of crap: unplugging your vampire power chargers and buying water bottles made with slightly smaller plastic caps is all about making ourselves feel less guilty, not about actually making a difference. Colin Dunn, a graphic design student at the Maryland Institute College of Art, has created a brand of “culture jamming” faux products called Jupiter which is all about highlighting this inconvenient truth. My favorite? His Jupiter hand wash, which “fights 99.9 percent of guilt.”
The “Jupiter” brand name was inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphosis, according to Dunn: “Jupiter saves the earth from destruction by killing Phaëton, the reckless son of the sun god.” That overdramatic metaphor deftly sends up our collective tolerance for greenwashing, as if simply buying the “right” kind of products (while changing nothing else about our society’s culture of consumption and energy sources) is going to save the earth. It ain’t–a case that the Jupiter line makes painfully clear, with cheerful package designs like “CO2 B-Gone: It Definitely Does Something” (“Instructions: spray twice and hope for the best”) and “Quick Fix Trash Bags: Out of Sight, Out of Mind!”
So are projects like Jupiter simply sowing the seeds of despair? Let’s be honest: No one among us is going to chuck our comfy 21st-century lifestyles and go live off the grid in a solar-powered yurt for the rest of our lives. So what can anyone do? Well, the first step, at least, is to acknowledge the difference between empty platitudes and meaningful information. Jupiter doesn’t offer easy answers–that’s the point. There are none. But by spitting in our collective eye a bit, maybe projects like Jupiter can get some of us to take that first step toward seeing the facts of our environmental impact a bit more clearly.