Last week Target invited me to Universal Studios in Los Angeles to watch a shoot for one of their commercial that is slated to run on television later this year. Watching a film, television, or commercial filming can be like watching CalTrans road work: generally not a whole lot of action is going on, folks are standing around, but somehow the work eventually gets done.
But last week’s commercial shooting was different from others I've attended or had stumbled upon in random neighborhoods like Koreatown, Silver Lake, and yes, Hollywood. Not only recycling bins, but composting bins were everywhere. Just about everyone had a steel water bottle. A production trailer ran on part biodiesel blend, but mostly off of solar. And someone was always manning the garbage bins, making sure the right waste entered the correct bin.Target partners with EcoSet, an environmental production company founded as a response to the environmental impact of the film production industry. Shannon Schaefer Bart, a film student from Minnesota, first got her feet wet in the local Minneapolis entertainment industry. Bart saw firsthand how wasteful the film industry was and decided to start tackling issues like waste diversion. Working on the Coen Brothers' movie, A Serious Man, she took the opportunity to propose more waste prevention, recycling, and composting. In 10 weeks, the production diverted 11 tons of waste from landfill or incineration, and donated heaps of reusable office and production materials into the local community. She launched EcoSet in January 2009 and began developing more sustainable solutions for commercial productions, and then Target called.
For two years, Target has engaged EcoSet on their advertising shoots in Los Angeles. Just a few of the new developing best practices for film production on which Target and EcoSet are working include:
EcoSet has even more goals: to have all wood on their sets be Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified (currently most is reused), to ensure that low or no VOC paint is the norm, and other materials from props to film waste is donated, repurposed, or recycled. Their work is growing outside of California: they have worked with Target in locations including Portland and Vancouver.
To date EcoSet has diverted at least 57 tons of waste from landfills. And they are making headway and changing minds in an industry that has many reputations, sustainability not among them. And I am looking forward to watching their next shoot next time I’m in LA.
Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010, and became its Executive Editor in 2018. He's based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas. He's lived in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, and has traveled to over 70 countries. He's an alum of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California.