Something greener this way comes. As much as billboards are great for advertising brands and products in the name of capitalism, some billboards are meant to solve real world issues without a company name attached to it. We know billboards are successful tools at capturing outdoor audiences when they least expect it, but they can also be positive environmental surprises meant to enact change.
The billboards we’re going to discuss today act as public service announcements, or humanitarian executions, that either beautify or make differences to a given community in need of a basic resource. Let’s look at how a billboard highlighting bird nest destruction, billboards combatting pollution, and nature-based billboards all work to benefit our ecosystems so often tarnished with purposeless clutter.
A Cause Against Clearcutting
In 2018, billboards in Halifax, spearheaded by an environmental group in Cape Breton, aimed to spread awareness about the staggering number of bird’s nests destroyed by clearcutting. These billboards, situated in busy commuting areas, helped to raise concerns about a habitat-based problem that could be avoided with the proper activism. Acting as a cry for help and change, these Halifax signs were the outcome of dreadful results published in a scientific journal called Avian Conservation and Ecology, under An Estimate of Nest Loss in Canada Due to Industrial Forestry Operations. The results saw that between 214,500-1.69 million nests were disappearing each year as a result of logging practices throughout Canada. Following this published study, the environmental group saw it necessary to use outdoor signage to stop this from happening in the future.
People across Canada weren’t taking the plight of birds and their homes seriously, so these billboards helped to promote discussions on the destruction of mandatory habitats for survival. The same study, mentioned in the above paragraph, noted that, in Nova Scotia alone, 18,709-159,138 nests have been ruined. Obviously, these billboards placed in Halifax made sense geographically. The messaging on these billboards spilled onto social sites like Facebook, where about 60,000 people were exposed to this cause for change. The environmental group raised money for the advertisements through donations and wilderness photography sales. Reforming forestry was top of line for Halifax’s activists, and their billboards helped with that.
Billboards Against Pollution/Resourceful Billboards
There are a few billboards in our world that work as natural suppliers of human necessities, instead of advertising channels. A water generator billboard in Lima, Peru is able to produce up to 100 litres of clean water per day. The billboard turns air humidity into water using a simple filtration system that’s powered by the force of gravity. Because Lima is one of the driest cities in the world, with an average humidity of 83%, this billboard created by FCB Mayo agency and the University of Engineering and Technology of Peru (UTEC) provided a great natural resource while also helping motivate Peruvian students to use engineering to solve homeland issues.
Another billboard located in Lima helps to solve the problem of air pollution in a given area. An air purifying billboard, placed in the centre of UTEC, is aimed to eliminate the spread of dust, metal, and stone particles that are floating in the air due to campus construction among other things. Though this billboard started as another water generator, the ability to filter out air pollutants was another issue ready to tackle and the combination to merge the two was an unanimous decision. This air purifying billboard, reaching a radius of 5 blocks, producing 489,000 cubic metres of purified air in the city, and eliminating almost 100% of airborne bacteria, definitely helped restore a fracture of Peru’s ecosystem.
In partnership with World Wildlife Fund, Coca-Cola erected a 60 ft by 60 ft in Philippines made out of 3600 pots of plants. This living billboard is the outdoor expression of Coke’s “Live Positively” message to make a positive difference in the world revolving around sustainability. The billboard is able to absorb plenty of carbon dioxide while being made up of recycled Coke bottles. As a result of this living billboard, a total of 46,800 pounds of carbon dioxide was absorbed from the atmosphere, reducing the effects of air pollution.
A Naturally Artful Purpose
An artist by the name of Brian Kane took hold of a pair of billboards in Massachusetts and turned them into digital, natural presentations for the environments they’re placed in. As a part of a project entitled “Healing Tool”, which stimulates the real world through digital experiences, Kane effectively used billboards to the environment’s advantage. This artist project, running for a month, used billboards to replicate earth’s surroundings, and changed regularly according to the time of day. For example, at nightfall, high-res images of the moon would flood the billboard’s screen.
Kane says, “…It appears to be replacing the artificial with the natural, but it’s really just using technology to simulate a natural replacement. It’s also a form of ‘unvertising’- a campaign without a message. By removing the marketing message from the advertising space, we create an unexpected moment of introspection.” (Motavalli 2015), which is an artist’s statement we can get behind that evokes conscious, awakening messages of preservation in our outdoor spaces.
Billboards aren’t just used for advertising market messages anymore. After looking at the ways in which they can be adapted to facilitate action-based change, used as natural resources, and create digital projections of a clean, untouched environment, billboards can be environmentally conscious beacons of hope. This modern reform of outdoor advertising is part of the change we may wish to see in our world.
Motavalli, Jim (28 July 2015). Artist uses billboards to make a pitch for nature. MNN.com. Retrieved from: https://www.mnn.com/green-tech/transportation/blogs/artist-uses-billboards-make-pitch-nature