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TurfMutt, the caped dog crusader, is here to teach your kids – what?

Turfmuttscreen
According to a press release, this turf-loving mutt "has partnered with a new Discovery Education program to teach kids about their green surroundings," on a mission to "Make the World a Greener Place, One Blade at a Time."  The reference to "one blade" is your cue to what's behind this campaign (as is the name "TurfMutt") because this "educational" program is financed by:

TurfMuttPowerEquipment
OPEI, which is, according to its website, "the major international trade association representing the manufacturers and their suppliers of consumer and commercial outdoor power equipment such as lawnmowers, garden tractors, utility vehicles, trimmers, edgers, chain saws, snow throwers, tillers, leaf blowers and other related products."

So, parents and educators, having any doubts yet? 

But wait – it's somehow connected with the Discovery Channel, so what's up with that?  The educational materials were indeed produced by Discovery Education, which their website tells is what they do for their clients, most prominently Ford, Clorox, PepsiCo, and FreddieMac.  Not exactly the Sierra Club.

Moving on, let's look at the content. From the TurfMutt website we learn that he advises fertilizing naturally (good start), choosing "grass or plants" for your climate, watering early – and then it gets a little weird:

Prune Regularly. A single grass plant can have 300 miles of roots. Roots grow strong with appropriate watering and proper pruning. Mowing your lawn regularly, similar to pruning perennial plants and flower gardens, keeps grass healthier and thicker.

And finally to the main point, which is to promote lawn: 

Create More Green Space. Lawns and other green spaces lessen the “heat island” effect, especially in urban areas, keeping surrounding areas cooler. Is there an area in your neighborhood that could benefit from some green space?  If so, plant a garden for tasty veggies or a lawn area for play and relaxation. 

And elsewhere on the website you'll find more specific pro-lawn pitches about how it boosts your oxygen footprint, and

Compared to bare ground, non-green areas, and lawn substitutes, such as painted concrete or even artificial turf, actual grass and green areas generate oxygen. For example, a turf area 50′ x 50′ produces enough oxygen to meet the everyday needs of a family of four and each acre of grass produces enough oxygen for 64 people a day.
(Source: http://www.turfgrasssod.org)

As a big promoter of lawn substitutes myself, what a hoot to see them identified as "painted concrete and artificial turf"!  Actually, it's not such a hoot; it's marketing.  

It would be easy to write off the whole campaign as corporate brainwashing of our children, but hey, at least they recommend natural fertilizers, right?  I'm trying to find something redeemable here but most of the educational content is just SO lame (like their descriptions of various climates, which erroneously includes Maryland in the Southeast and recommends two turfgrasses that don't grow here.)

But readers, what do YOU think of TurfMutt and what the power tool lobby is trying to teach your kids? 

Posted by on April 5, 2011 at 4:43 am, in the category Uncategorized.
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17 responses to “TurfMutt, the caped dog crusader, is here to teach your kids – what?”

  1. Well, brown is the new green out here on the prairie, since that’s how grass is _supposed_ to look during drought conditions. I hope someone sent TurfMutt the memo.

  2. trey says:

    It seems some organization’s and associations are always looking for way’s to spend their money. If they are not spending it they feel their “message” isn’t getting out. The only winner in this TurfMutt campaign in the PR company that came up with and get’s paid for this lame campaign.

  3. Susan says:

    Bite me, TurfMutt!

  4. The whole concept of this campaign annoys me, but the most insidious part (in my mind) is that Discover Education – which produced this campaign – exists primarily to drive consumer branding into school classrooms.

    If you have kids, a letter to your school’s science coordinator requesting they avoid this “educational campaign” might be in order.

  5. naomi says:

    I have problems with a dog’s idea of fertilizing – just saying.

  6. Susan says:

    I was thinking just the other day about a coloring book put out by Scott’s Liquid Gold, distributed by a 5th grade teacher with Spring fever. It was a snowy Friday in April, and I’m sure it seemed like a great alternative to teaching…Turfmutt looks terrible, in a similar way. Maybe people will use it to teach about propaganda.

  7. Donna B. says:

    … This is hilarious. I wonder if my “constant pruning” of ripping OUT my grass qualifies to their literature? Pfft.
    Additionally, I am not a fan of the use of an [adorable!] Bully Breed to be the “mascot” for this campaign… Mine own prefers to roll around on dry dirt than the lawn…

    I ♥ Naomi’s comment above, too.

  8. Laurel says:

    Glad you have a discerning eye and caught this…and its creepy when folks use marketing on children…

  9. Robin says:

    My turfmutt loves to fertilize her “lawn” using her own homebrewed liquid fertilizer. Then the grass dies. Then she works hard to prune it out, with her teeth no less, by ripping it out of the ground & tossing it skyward like confetti. I wonder if she should have auditioned for the job? If nothing else, she’d add a little clowniness to this lawn circus.

  10. As always, “Follow the money…” is a good axiom.

  11. Can't wait for the movie says:

    I love Turf Mutt and his lovable gang of friends:
    Salty, the ferti-squirrel who poops perfectly round little balls of NPK.

    Shoe-bee-do, who kills every insect he sees, no matter what it is doing.

    Tilly the Tiller, who grinds up the soil so that none of those pesky “microbes” (Eww!) will get a chance to bother us.

    and Super Scott who spreads his magic dust, which all living things now depend on to live and be perfectly green. No more relying on cruel Mother Nature!

    I have all of their action figures if anyone wants to trade.

  12. Laura Bell says:

    What the – ? Not only is Maryland erroneously included in the Southeast ecosystem, North Carolina & the Virginias are not in any ecosystem !

    And when someone mentions “pruning” grass I think of gardeners kneeling on the lawn, clippers in one hand, ruler in the other, trimming each blade to perfection. I do not think of a riding mower as a massive motorized lawn pruner !

    I do like Susan’s (above) idea to use some of this material as classroom examples of propaganda. Will certainly mention that to my kids’ teachers.

  13. john says:

    I wonder if they factored in the exhaust from the LawnPrunerTurboTM in the oxgen footprint equation. Maybe a lawn will also increase O2 because the fertilizer run off will end up feeding algae in the Chesapeake, which will inturn make more O2?

  14. what a sneaky use of a pup.

  15. Tami says:

    I dunno – I do think MD should be in the ‘southeast.’ It’s climate and topography is totally unlike the real ‘northeast’ states where I grew up and, as a result, its plant communities differ too.

    What’s really appalling about their ‘ecosystems’ is how they lump the upper quarter of the lower 48 into one huge ‘west ecosystem.’ It’s clear that whoever put this crap together has no concept of anything beyond, say, Chicago. Reading the ‘Lucky’ story, I’m not surprised to see it’s based in DC – the nation’s home of navel-gazing and self-absorbtion.

    Yech. Any halfway competent teacher or parent will see through this hype for the junk it is.

  16. Marla says:

    This could be educational IF the teacher used it to teach critical thinking skills and assessing the source of data for possible bias. Given how much of what we and our kids hear and read comes from biased sources, I wish more schools had been teaching critical assessment skills for the last 40 years.

    Let’s just say TuffMutt is no Smokey the Bear.

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