In what is basically a 30 Rock episode come to life, the federal Department of Energy designed and purchased a mascot costume to warn children about the dangers of environmental catastrophe—and to haunt their dreams, apparently.
Thanks to a FOIA request from journalist Emma Best, the details of which were published this week at Muckrock, we now know a bit more about the history of the Green Reaper—a verdant version of the Grim Reaper that manages to combine the ominous presence of the original with the vacant eyes of a cartoon character. While the mascot seems best suited to shatter children's innocence by informing them about the inevitabilty of their own deaths, the documents show that the Green Reaper, which was designed in 2012, was intended to be used in "community outreach presentations to local elementary school children" and in internal memos reminding government workers to conserve energy and carpool when possible.
One of the most terrifying details in the FOIA'd documents is the claim that—in addition to making appearences at schools—the Green Reaper shows up "randomly" at the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Um, no thank you.
The Green Reaper costume cost about $5,000 to manufacture, but the documents provided to Muckrock don't give a full accounting of how much time public employees spent brainstorming and designing it. Regardless, the government liked the design so much that Dawn Starett, the program manager who invented the Green Reaper, won a 2013 Environmental Stewardship Award from the NNSA for it.
For a government agency that sounds so important—according to its website, the National Nuclear Security Administration "maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile"—it's probably right to wonder whether building creepy mascots and handing out internal awards is really the best use of public resources. (The NNSA also trademarked the character's name and costume, which is a real shame, because Green Reaper would be killer branding for a marijuana start-up.)
On the bright side, squeezing that much existential terror out of a mere $5,000 is pretty damn efficient for government work.