Y U NO Environmental Meme?

Posted on June 20, 2013



I was excited to receive an invitation by Earth Team to do a workshop for their annual LEAF conference. The target for the conference is to provide middle school and high school students opportunities for the development of leadership skills for environmental change.

I always appreciate the opportunity to work with students in this age range because of the ingenuity and creativity many of them bring. They often can present a refreshing challenge and consideration of various viewpoints—or at least in how to present them.

The theme of the institute was “Making Ripples”. With that in mind I decided go with “making digital ripples” by seeing how students were receiving environmental messaging online, and particularly how they could use text overlay (photo caption) memes to push environmental messaging with humor.

I wanted to present some ideas, but more importantly, see what they were thinking about what I was sharing, and what they could with it.

The main ideas I wanted the students to consider were:

  • How do you consume environmental messaging online?
  • Who creates this information? 
  • How they could interpret some of it and contribute to it with some humor—especially with the use and creation of memes?

Overall impressions were that they were used to seeing information from organizations online like Sierra Club ads, or videos shown in class from YouTube. The students in the workshop (by virtue of being in this conference) were pretty keen and aware of main environmental issues and they could identify them online.

I shared some general examples of environmental messaging online, from standard advertising images, to unique video projects that involved teens just like them. But as a good “hands-on” activity, I wanted to finish with them making some memes that could be shared with others. I shared some examples of those too (including some I made some time ago)—but in keeping the focus on environmental messages, what was unique here was that most students noted that environmental memes were not as prevalent online, especially from a teen point of view.

That was the point I was trying to target—that they could take a role in providing these memes, or at least test them out since they can be so easily disseminated online with their friends.

We had three computer stations set up for them to work on. At one point a student took out his phone and asked if he could just make them on his phone—a perfect example of using the tools at hand.

Below are the curious and wonderful results. I note the sense of humor they bring—and the visuals they selected, hinting at the type of environmental information they are aware of, and the memes that come across their screens. Some took me a minute to fully understand, others are pretty ingenious, and there’s one or two that I think it helps if you have a teen brain…


What do you think?

How do you use or share environmental memes in the work you do?

How do you think environmental memes could be useful–across different age levels?

Do we see or use enough of them?


bad luck brian brace yourselves green movement interesting man meme


Meme obvious meme serial killer meme skeptical spongebob suburban meme teaching meme Trashy Selfie weed meme


Credit was not attributed to individual students. Class of 2013 LEAF Conference.