TV Eye

If Kermit Could See This

Majora Carter hosts Sundance's eco-block.
Majora Carter hosts Sundance's eco-block.

It's not easy being green, but it might be easier than you think. After watching Big Ideas for a Small Planet on the Sundance Channel, you might find yourself being inspired, impressed, and surprised at the small efforts it takes to make a big difference in how resources are used on this ever-shrinking planet.

The 13-part Big Ideas series is part of a package of green-themed Sundance programming collectively titled "The Green," which includes related documentaries, short informational films, and Web content ( Each Big Ideas episode has a one-word label ("Fuel," "Build," "Wear") that suggests the episode's theme and piques curiosity about what might be covered. Some are obvious. The episode on fuel, for example, looked at the various alternatives to powering cars with petroleum-based products. But the episode labeled "Wear" moved beyond the typical nod to hemp and casual wear to examine other natural fibers and fabrics and how they appear in high fashion. And this is what makes the series as absorbing as it is timely. By including artists, innovators, and activists alongside scientists and academics, the series takes on an exciting, optimistic tone. A welcome change from the cautionary-tale approach found elsewhere.

Big Ideas for a Small Planet airs Tuesday nights at 8pm on the Sundance Channel. New episodes repeat the following Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. Check local listings. Don't have cable? Not to worry. Episodes can be purchased for a nominal fee or by subscribing to a season pass at iTunes.

Here are the highlights of upcoming episodes:

"Furnish" (May 29): A furniture company explores how to make their products 100% sustainable. Two designers create recycled furniture using scrap wood. An innovative Philadelphia-based design firm creates stylish products for the home.

"Create" (June 5): A look at artists on the frontline of innovation. Profiled are photographer Subhankar Banerjee, who documented the effects of global warming on biodiversity and the indigenous cultures of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; Alyce Santoro, who recycles discarded cassette audiotapes into Sonic Fabric; and architect and "upcyclist" David Hertz, who shows how he made an eco-friendly dream home from a discarded 747 airplane.

"Kids" (June 12): How to teach children about ecology and how some kids (and kids at heart) have turned their knowledge into action. Featured are Evan Green, founder of the Red Dragon Conservation Team; Plastics Are Forever founder Sara Laimon and her group's effort to educate fellow high schoolers about the destructive impact of plastic containers on nature; and Barbera Aimes of ImagiPLAY, who creates toys from renewable, nonsplintering rubberwood.

"Paper or Plastic?" (June 19): Ecology-focused designers operating in the "cradle to cradle" concept share their alternative approaches to packaging, featuring architect, designer, and ecological innovator William McDonough and colleagues, who share how they are eliminating toxins from mail packaging; Dr. Gerhard Schmidt, also working with McDonough, on the Ford Model U, a concept car made of recyclable or biodegradable parts; and Frederic Scheer, creator of biodegradable food containers and utensils.

"Sports" (June 26): A look at how Craig Calfee created professional racing bikes from bamboo; Alison Gannett's Save Our Snow tour, which suggests affordable, Earth-friendly solutions to declining snow packs; and Jason Salfi of Comet Skateboards, who shows how his line of stylish skateboards is made of bio-friendly materials made in a solar-powered facility.

Related programming in "The Green":

The Refugees of the Blue Planet (D: Hélène Choquette, Jean-Philippe Duval): Environmental degradation and profoundly destructive natural disasters are on the rise, as are the number of refugees displaced by them. In 2003, the United Nations reported that for the first time in history, the number of refugees fleeing environmental factors had surpassed those fleeing war or political persecution. This Canadian film focuses on the plight of individuals around the world uprooted by environmental destruction. Airs June 12, 14, 15, and 17.

Rivers & Tides (D: Thomas Riedelsheimer): A look at the life and work of Scottish artist Andy Goldsworthy and the imaginative outdoor sculptures he created from found objects in nature. Though his work is painstakingly created, much of his work is short-lived, bringing a new perspective on how art and beauty are valued and experienced. Airs June 5, 7, and 8.

Check local listings.

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Sundance, Big Ideas for a Small Planet, The Refugees of the Blue Planet, Rivers & Tides

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