Student PSAs highlight environmental concerns

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Drive less, consume less and stop polluting waterways. Students in a class on environmental communication are teaching the public about protecting the environment with public service announcements (PSAs).

The City of Tacoma recently posted links on its website to the student-produced videos, and several other agencies and non-profit organizations are considering using them as well.

The brief PSAs were created in a UW Tacoma class called Contemporary Issues in Environmental Communications, taught by communications lecturer Ellen Moore. Students learned video production skills while working in teams with local government and nonprofit organizations to produce an environmental message.

Moore explained that the assignment was beneficial for both students and their communities. “It’s service learning,” said Moore. “We tie ourselves into the community and [the message] they want.”

One video, produced with the help of Truman Middle School in Tacoma, features idling cars spewing exhaust. Children talk about the impact of poor air quality on their health. A boy holding an inhaler says to the camera: “Because of you, I always have an inhaler with me.”

Kristi Lynett, sustainability manager with the City of Tacoma, worked with students to produce the anti-idling PSA. She posted links to the videos on the city’s sustainability page at

UW Tacoma seniors Chelsi Harrell and Scott Ross were on the team that produced a video showing the environmental hazards of washing cars in driveways or streets.

As part of the region’s “Puget Sound Starts Here” campaign, Pierce County is trying to show residents that using a commercial car wash or washing your car on the lawn is better for water quality than washing cars in the driveway, said Teresa Lewis, education and outreach coordinator with the county’s surface water division.

The PSA follows the path of polluted water in reverse order, starting with water flowing backwards from Commencement Bay into a culvert.

The footage continues with the water snaking back from a street storm drain, sliding up a soapy pickup and, finally, seeping into the washing mitt of a man lathering the truck in a driveway. Lewis said the PSA will probably be used for educational outreach.

Coming up with the vision for the video required many group meetings and discussions, Harrell noted.

“Even though it took a lot of time and effort to make the final video, it was exciting to see it all unfold in front of us,” she said.

Besides gaining video production skills, Ross said, “I learned ... about the water table in the Puget Sound area, how runoff in storm drains pollutes the Sound, and the issues that are dealt with on a daily basis by organizations like Citizens for a Healthy Bay.”

Citizens for a Healthy Bay is considering posting the videos on its website, said Bill Anderson, executive director of the nonprofit organization that promotes restoration of Commencement Bay. TV Tacoma, the city’s television channel, is also looking into broadcasting the videos.

“I think it is a great project and hopefully we will get lots of folks to view them,” said City of Tacoma’s Lynett. “It will help me accomplish my job of educating residents on sustainability issues.”

Pierce County’s Lewis said, “Using video is a really good way to educate.”

You can watch the videos here:

Written by: 
Debby Abe / September 12, 2011
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, Associate Director of Communications, or 253-692-4536