Extreme Makeover: Green Edition? India Uses Reality TV to Promote Sustainability

by Aman Singh Das | February 17, 2010

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When it comes to reality shows, most Americans can claim to follow at least one. And some of these reality shows, while most remain simply entertaining and fluff, have been responsible for spreading good practices in the community like philanthropy (Extreme Makeover, Home Edition), healthy living (The Biggest Loser), etc. How many of us, however, think of using this well-established platform to actively promote a new idea? And for those of us in the sustainable field, it could be a no-brainer!

Ty Pennington and Kermit the Frog

India, the country of over a billion people, is new to reality television. Having to maneuver centuries of conservative thought and restrictive television viewing, broadcasters have only recently begun to experiment with reality TV, not counting Indian Idol, which has been around for a while. Keeping that in mind, it is then, somewhat of a novelty that India's official government-run, state-owned channel recently started shooting a show called Green Kerala Express. More of a hybrid between a game show and a reality show, it is named after India's southern coastal state of Kerala with a focus on highlighting, get this, rural sustainability efforts. How incredible is that?

According to Fast Company, the show has already received over 250 entries from Kerala itself. And this is how it works: "Those that make it onto the show will contend with judges, a jury, and an audience that can vote via text message. After 100 days of competition, one panchayat (committee of village heads), one municipality, and one corporation will each win approximately $213,000 from the government for their green efforts." Even more interesting is the show's definition of "green efforts." They are using it, in what might be its widest use yet, to extend from water conservation, health, food security, agricultural sustainability, and energy efficiency to education, women rights and housing!

Green India

While Fast Company questions the success of a similar show in the U.S., with its focus on community-based efforts, I think it might just work. Sustainability is picking up pace in awareness at the local and the macro level, and a reality show to bring it home to each and every consumer, employee and maybe even the odd CEO with 10 minutes to spare? With the right combination of show timing and sponsors, it might just help boost our knowledge to new levels--necessary for any sort of efforts to address climate change, initiate energy efficiency efforts and increase interest in green jobs.

Got something to say? Write to In Good Company, follow us on Twitter or leave a comment! By the way, for all you readers who continue to hold off on joining Twitter, this article was tipped off by a fellow-tweeter! Thanks for the tip geet_s!

Filed Under: CSR

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