Green Living Magazine writes: “There’s something about Franke”

“Franke James is using her creativity to tackle climate change—armed with a paintbrush and a vivid imagination—and having dazzling results.”
Photo of Franke James by Kourosh Keshiri for Green Living Magazine

Franke James, artist, author and co-founder of The James Gang, is profiled in the Fall 2009 issue of Green Living Magazine. The issue urges Canadians “to take a stand” and challenges them to become greener citizens.

“Canadians want to do more for the environment than the proverbial ‘changing of lightbulbs,’ ” says Lindsay Borthwick, editor of Green Living magazine. “The goal of this issue was to show them how. From voting to volunteering, leading by example to making climate change art, we’ve showcased the numerous ways to help individuals, families and communities work toward significant environmental change.” Green Living Magazine cover, Autumn 2009

Green Living journalist Astrid Van Den Broek interviewed Franke for the profile and wrote, “James’ voice comes through so strongly in her eclectic, captivating online visual essays that sometimes I feel like I’ve been reading her diary entries, instead of public documents. But that’s exactly why they stand out. While so much environmental messaging is filled with admirable but often abstract concepts or clichéd language that fails to connect with its audience, James manages to avoid both. Instead, she offers her atypical journey toward a greener life in these can’t-click-away illustration-meets-photography-meets-storytelling essays.”

The Social Leper illustration by Franke James

Franke comments, “I was delighted when Green Living said they wanted to do an article on my environmental visual essays. However I was totally amazed at Astrid’s thoroughness in interviewing me — even interviewing people I know from across the country. And going back to where I attended grade school! I joked that it reminded me of the Sesame Street segment “This is YOUR Life!” I’m not usually the one being interviewed (if you know my work, I often interview friends, family, pundits, and strangers for my essays). But I’m very grateful they decided to write the article, and honored to be part of their “Take a Stand” issue — because taking action on climate change is the #1 challenge we face. Failure to reduce CO2 emissions today imperils the future well-being of our children and future generations. Society as a whole has not gotten that message, yet.”

Alex Mayer, Director of the Michigan Tech Center for Water and Society, who helped Franke calculate the stormwater runoff for Paradise Unpaved, was interviewed for the article. Dr. Mayer comments, “I’d never seen anything like these essays applied to environmental advocacy and it affected me intellectually and emotionally.”

Astrid goes on to write, “Mayer’s experience is echoed by Stan Kozak, curriculum specialist for Learning for a Sustainable Future, who recently witnessed James’ tour de force at a workshop on climate change education. “We’d spent two days looking at the science and it was not looking good. Then, bango, Franke James comes along and says ‘do the hardest thing first’ and then shows that she has done it and is still living to prove it—and she is artistically thriving and maybe even seeing some financial benefits as well,” says Kozak. “I think Franke should be the ‘closer’ at more conferences just to keep people’s spirits up—and let them know there is hope if people take personal responsibility.

“There’s something about Franke” is a lively and entertaining read about Franke’s role as an artist, environmental author and activist. It shares her passion, creativity and counter-intuitive advice to ‘do the hardest thing first’ with a growing audience.

But the story is still being written as Franke continues to share her message of environmental art and activism. Ryan Dean, a coordinator at Bates College (and a recent graduate) commented on her Bates College keynote to this year’s incoming students:

“What can I say? Attending your talk really put things into perspective for me. I can honestly say that your visit to Bates really made all of the lofty possibilities a tangible reality. I am so impressed because you not only recognize that you must take up this social responsibility yourself, but you are actually compelling enough to get others to do the same. Students here came away from your talk both with a greener conscience AND ways in which they could create activist art themselves. It’s brilliant.

I find your combination of activism and art completely inspiring and it has sparked an energy in me that has only grown in the days since! My head is buzzing with the number of new ideas that I am determined to see come to fruition. Thanks for everything.”

Bothered by My Green Conscience

front cover illustration of Bothered by My Green Conscience by Franke James

Bothered by My Green Conscience:
Where art meets personal activism

Bothered by My Green Conscience is the story of my true-life adventures in going green. It includes the story of us selling our only car (an SUV), winning approval from Toronto City Hall for the right to build a green driveway (and actually building it as a long weekend DIY project), rediscovering eccentric glamour in my own closet, understanding the real poop on social change, and also writing a visual letter to my future Grandkids in 2020, and wondering how they will judge us. The collection of five visual essays is being published as a 160-page full color book by New Society Publishers in late April 2009.

The publication of this book is very exciting for me as I have been able to write and design the entire book. It’s been a lot of work but a wonderful and fun adventure…. Franke talks more about the design from web to print…

The book is now available for purchase on Amazon.
Bothered by My Green Conscience: How an SUV-driving, imported-strawberry-eating urban dweller can go green

Book Reviews & Interviews

Greenpeace Canada

Anil Kanji, Book Review Bothered by My Green Conscience

Franke James, talking about how lasting change is often sparked by a combination of factors – legislation, social acceptance, and community initiative and desire:

What levers work best to change behaviours? Will we do something we hate to avoid a fine and social disapproval? People are pretty good about stooping and scooping. New York created the ‘Pooper Scooper’ law in 1978. The threat of a fine caused people to pick up, but a major factor was social pressure. Is everyone doing it? No, but now it causes shock if a dog owner fails to stoop and scoop. If people can be convinced to pick up dog shit, who knows what social change is possible?

Bothered by My Green Conscience describes Franke’s journey from an SUV-driving, imported-strawberry eating urban dweller into an inspiration for those of us looking to make green changes to our lives. The quote above doesn’t do justice to the book’s colourful illustrations and scrapbook-style text and photography. I’ve been a fan of the creative visual essays on Franke’s website for years, and it’s nice to see how she’s adapted them for book form. She tells the stories of letting go of her SUV, converting her front parking pad into a garden, considering the future she’s leaving for her grandchildren, and being inspired by a Malcolm Gladwell and Mark Kingwell talk.

What I like most about Franke’s approach is that she’s not really that radical, and isn’t preachy about the changes she’s making in her life. She readily acknowledges she’s not perfect, she’s just someone who started to listen to their “green conscience” and acted accordingly. I take to heart her advice for anyone who wants to make a change in their lives but feels overwhelmed by where to start: “Do the hardest thing first”.

In our fight against climate change, much of our work involves political action. But equally important is “walking our talk” – conserving energy, reducing waste, and decreasing our carbon footprints. What’s the hardest thing for you? And conversely, what do you see in daily life that would be easy to change? Franke shows that doing the right thing can be easy, and even fun.

Read more

The News Record, University of Cincinnati

Green Conscience activist sows seeds of sustainability
By Taylor Dungjen

She renovated her home, sold her SUV, fought city hall, planted grass where her driveway used to be and wrote a book.

Franke James – artist, writer and environmental activist – had to fight Toronto City Hall to remove her interlock driveway so she could green up her property. Upon inquiry of the driveway’s removal, the city sent out an official to say, not only could she not remove her driveway, but she could only have one tree in her front yard.

“That’s when I had an eye-opening moment,” James said. “I thought, ‘How can that be? That doesn’t make any sense at all. [The city of Toronto] is saying they’re green, that they want people to plant trees, but I can only plant one?’ It really bothered my green conscience.”

James will present “Paradise Unpaved: How Nurturing your Inner Alice-in-Wonderland Can Win Over City Hall,” Monday, May 18, to the University of Cincinnati community as the last installment of the Climate 101 Lecture Series for the current academic year.

Read more…


Michael McGee, Atmosphere Monthly Bothered by My Green Conscience | A book by artist Franke James

“The full name is Bothered by My Green Conscience: How an SUV-driving, imported strawberry-eating urban dweller can go green. It’s by Franke James of Toronto. This book of visual essays is engaging, beautiful, ingenious and an unusual pleasure to read. It is good for future generations, for frugal budgets and one’s own spirit.”

Read more


Book review by Martin Edic: I’m not ‘Bothered By My Green Conscience’ (Franke James new book!)

Franke’s visual essays have been spreading virally over the past few years with mentions on major blog sites like Kottke and Treehugger. Now they are gathered together in a book, Bothered by My Green Conscience (New Society) and I think it gives us a very good reason to still value having a bound and printed object that we can share without peering into a screen.

Franke’s essays are illustrated guides to her process of changing internally and externally — we literally see into the conscious and unconscious thought process as she decides to take real action in dealing with the personal effects of climate change. Not content to simply change lightbulbs and stop drinking bottled water, Franke (with her husband) sells her SUV, rips up her driveway and plants a garden (battling a confused bureaucracy in the process) and writes a moving letter to her unborn grandchildren, a letter bemoaning in advance our pitiful lack of effort to improve a world we’re destroying. This essay, To My Future Grandkids in 2020, goes beyond the humor of the situational earlier essays and paints a poignant picture as Franke attempts to explain our collective failure to change things now when change is required — an explanation written for a generation yet to come.

The essays must be seen to be appreciated. Combining text, illustration and collage, they express the messiness of creativity and the beauty of action. This really is a book to give to your friends and family. Though we’ve never met in person, Franke and I are friends, separated by 80 miles of Lake Ontario water. We’ve been corresponding for several years now and I’ve had the pleasure of seeing these essays appear on her blog. When the book arrived in my mail I realized that they were deeper and more thought-provoking when revisited in this format.

Read full article

Jim Carroll, Innovation Expert & Author

Book review: I read a book today, oh boy! “Bothered by My Green Conscience”

Last night, I read Franke’s new book, “Bothered by My Green Conscience: How an SUV-driving, imported-strawberrty-eating urban dweller can go green.

It’s an absolutely stunning, delightful, colorful, inspirational and thought provoking romp through Franke’s unique adventure to change her life to pay more respect to the environment. It’s artistic, creative, and unique. I don’t think I’ve quite ever read a book like this.

It’s not really a book that you read; it’s more of a colorful diagram that you work your mind through. Franke’s unique skill has always been her ability to draw her thinking. And that’s what she does in this book — it’s an absolutely fascinating display of what can be done when a truly unique, creative mind sets out to tell a story in a unique and innovative way.

You really need this book – both for the unique creative way in which she tells her story — and for the importance of the message that it provides. Inspirational!

Read full article

Montreal Gazette:

Interview by Monique Beaudin: Beyond the bags and bulbs

Franke James had made small steps in the pursuit of an eco-friendly lifestyle, but it was the selling of her SUV that started a giant leap toward greener pastures

Franke James has a message for people who want to make environmentally friendly changes in their lives: Do the hardest thing first

“It’s human nature to want to postpone hard things,” she said. “We need to face up to the fact that we need to tackle the hard stuff first while we’re strong enough to do it.” And that’s how she decided to do something big about climate change – by selling her family’s only vehicle, their SUV. “You can change a light bulb, but do you really feel good about that?” asked James, who will be in Montreal next month to take part in the 5th World Environmental Education Congress. “I wanted to do something that was a big statement that I would feel was a big lifestyle change… Selling the car was definitely the hardest thing,” she said. “Every day you get up, and you don’t have a car. So you have to live with that reality… In general, people are not aiming very high in terms of climate change,” she said. “They say, ‘I’m recycling, changing light bulbs, what more do you want me to do? I’ve got a life.’ ”

In her book, James writes to her future grandchildren, saying she imagines them “cursing us – yelling and stamping your feet that we were stupid and selfish and mean.” She says she wants them to know that she tried to do something about climate change. “Even if I’m one of the few who is actually taking personal responsibility and changing my lifestyle, at least I’ve done something,” she said. “My future grandkids are going to think, ‘She did try. She changed her lifestyle and she did write about it and communicate it.’ ”

Lest you think James is hectoring people who aren’t as green as she is, she says that’s the last thing she wants to do. Everyone can tackle global warming in their own way, James emphasizes.

“I would hope that each person would find their own thing that’s right for them to do,” she said. “If they could just raise the bar a little and do something ambitious, because we are seeing the changes all around us – the polar ice caps melting, we are having weird weather. Climate change is coming faster than anybody expected.”

Read full article

Lloyd Alter writes: No One Will Know Except You.

Franke James is an author, artist, photographer and writer who has been on TreeHugger and Planet Green before with her illustrated essays like MySUV and Me Say Goodbye. They were recently published in her book Bothered By My Green Conscience, where the printer made a mistake and didn’t print the inside covers red… The printer said sorry, but said “no one will know except you.” That got Franke thinking.

And when Franke gets thinking, she gets drawing and twittering, and the results are interesting and entertaining. Read about the resolution of the Mystery of the UnRed Page.

Read full article


Joshua Tusin reviews: Bothered by My Green Conscience

“Local artist Franke James is no stranger to interest in her endeavours to go green, but with Bothered By My Green Conscience Franke has made the jump to the hardcopy book world. Until now people have only been able to follow her stories through her vertically-oriented, online visual essays, a format that had be to re-worked to fit a book 5.75″ wide and 6.75″ tall.

Franke not only provided the book content but designed the book too, and thank goodness she did. Her visual aesthetic is as crucial to the stories as her compelling content, and if the design of the pages were left to somebody else I suspect the translation to paper would not have been so perfect. And that’s really the word here: perfect…

…a letter to her future (as yet unborn) grandchildren in 2020 was a touching and clever way to articulate the reason Franke has become a green crusader. Not that people need to justify why they sell their SUVs, install a green driveway or otherwise go green, but since Franke keeps making waves with the grand green gestures she makes, this essay gave her the freedom to express, in her own way, why it’s so important to her that she does her part for our planet.

And so whether it is for inspiration, admiration or discussion, this undersized book will become my new favourite coffee table book. Not only does it take up less space, it’s more important than whatever beautiful picture book I might have put out instead.” Read full article


Read longer excerpts



“Franke James totally gets it! GREEN and GROOVY are not mutually exclusive. Glamorous eccentrics care about the planet… They care about the stage upon which they sizzle and shine!” Simon Doonan, author of Eccentric Glamour

“Franke James uses right-brain thinking and a unique visual style to green her future, and ours. She fuses together the conflicting ideas around her personal lifestyle and her concern about climate change and arrives at some novel solutions. Bothered by My Green Conscience leaves an imprint. Fantastic!” Daniel H. Pink, author of A Whole New Mind

“Magnificent visual essays. Spectacular!” Dan Roam, author of The Back of the Napkin

“Franke suggests Doing the Hardest Thing First, which for her is giving up the car… And the change in her life… is a lot more significant.” Lloyd Alter,

“In her quest to wake up people to climate change, Franke James uses whimsical collages of words and images that bite you under the surface and tease your values. She isn’t afraid to take on anyone, from big industry to the cultural icons who try to make global warming an intellectual game. When my co-editor, Kim Blank, and I decided to edit a book of cultural readings for university students, we knew that we wanted James and Rachel Carson to anchor the conclusion.” Stephen Eaton Hume, author of Economics Writing

“I love the reactions of ordinary people to Franke James’ idea of selling her SUV. Love Suzuki the uber-environmentalist. Love that Franke has a beer fridge and that she is not perfect in this green stuff and that Suzuki would find a lot to criticize. My SUV and Me Say Goodbye shows that the imperfect person can still contribute a lot because people don’t have to be environmental purists in order to make a difference.” Claire Bernstein, You! Be the Judge

“Thanks for taking that huge first step and for not taking ‘No’ for an answer from the City of Toronto. You demonstrate that change may surprise us by being more fulfilling than maintaining the status quo. So many of us want to do something substantive… Thanks for showing us the way.” Joan Chadde, President, Michigan Alliance for Environmental & Outdoor Education

“Franke James’ Bothered by My Green Conscience contains powerful visual essays. As a university professor who has taught environmental engineering for almost twenty years, I find that the messages are especially clear, complemented with excellent research. The weaving of a self-deprecating personal journey with ecological principles is brilliant. Her visual essay style is a treat for the mind. Franke’s stories will help the rest of us be less fearful of making changes in our everyday lives.” Alex Mayer, Ph.D., Director, Center for Water & Society, Michigan Technological University

“Atmospheric CO2 is well above safe levels of 350 parts per million, and signs of climate change are all around us. We’re just years away from the point when scientists begin counting the number of days that the Arctic Ocean is ice free each summer. Should we bury our heads in the sand like an ostrich? Or, should we press on like artist Franke James with her eyes wide open and heart fully engaged with the people and world around her? I say, “The latter!” Bothered by My Green Conscience is a rare work of emotional leadership that can help people choose to get moving in the right direction, page after beautiful page.” Michael McGee, Founder of

“Wowzers! This is FANTASTIC. Franke’s visual essay clearly articulates the risks of NOT acting. Policy analysts struggle to convey what My Green Conscience has so clearly expressed.” Eli van der Giessen, David Suzuki Foundation


Bothered by My Green Conscience
How an SUV-driving, imported-strawberry-eating urban dweller can go green
By Franke James

You’ve changed all your light bulbs and switched to cloth bags at the grocery store. You recycle cans and bottles and you don’t print out that e-mail unless you absolutely have to. What’s next?

Using her signature style of lively drawings mixed with photos and hand drawn text, artist Franke James shows how we can meet the global warming challenge with imagination and creativity. Five vibrant, dynamic, full-color visual essays present refreshing and insightful ideas that make climate change personal:

Chapter One:
My SUV and Me Say Goodbye — Tackle global warming by doing the hardest thing first
Chapter Two:
Green Eccentric Glamour — Whittle down your wardrobe, wear only your fabulous favorites
Chapter Three:
The Real Poop on Social Change — Change bubbles up from the grassroots
Chapter Four:
Paradise Unpaved — Fight city hall and get back to the garden
Chapter Five:
To My Future Grandkids in 2020 — an environmental time capsule

Bothered by My Green Conscience is a must-read for anyone who is concerned about climate change and ready to take the next step towards a more sustainable lifestyle. Fun, engaging, humorous and upbeat, this book is an ideal gift for anyone in your life who is seeking inspiration to create change.

About the Author:
Franke James is an artist, photographer and writer focused on social change. An entertaining and persuasive advocate for the environment, she has a Masters degree in Fine Arts from the University of Victoria and lives in Toronto.

Bothered by My Green Conscience is available through booksellers and online retailers, including Amazon, as of April 21, 2009.

Amazon link:
Bothered by My Green Conscience: How an SUV-driving, imported-strawberry-eating urban dweller can go green