Monday, June 30, 2008

Plastic Bags: Just Say No

If there is one thing I will indulge in getting preachy about, it's plastic bags. We must STOP ACCEPTING them with our purchases. At the grocery store, at the dollar store, at the second-hand store, at the farmer's market. We cannot afford to pay lip service to the practice of bringing your own bag. Plastic does not biodegrade. In other words, it will outlive us all.

This video about the research done by Algalita Research Foundation should convince you if you need an extra push.

Also, this article about a Bermuda triangle of plastic bags floating in the Pacific.

Some new bag practices to adopt:
  • Using your old plastic bags as trash liners is not a good solution. They'll still end up in a landfill where they'll sit forever. Instead,
    • bring them to the grocery store or farmer's market to reuse; not as fashionable as cloth, but who cares? it's groceries!
    • use them to protect produce in the frig
    • bring your lunch in them
    • recycle them at a Whole Foods or other grocery that takes plastic bags for recycling; they are typically a no. 1 or 2
  • Don't rely on ONE alternative shopping bag. They all compress, so keep one in your purse, pocket, car, at work, by the door - wherever you need to ensure that you'll have one handy when you pop into a grocery store or do a little impulse shopping.
  • Bringing your own bag goes beyond the grocery store - just say no at the mall, the shoe store and the electronics store. Your latest purchase from H&M will look just as good in a fold-up tote from envirosax.
  • If you have already purchased Ziploc bags, don't throw them out. Reuse them. They wash and dry, just like dishes. When they're worn out, cut the tops off and recycle them. According to the Ziploc site, they are plastic no. 4.
  • Make the switch to biodegradable trash bags. Use your current supply to protect things you put in a musty basement or fluff them up and fill a pillow with them. Okay, so I've resorted to an art project. Anyone got a better idea?

WEEK 10: Waste Management, Plastic Edition

I went to Target this weekend to pick up some necessities. Not paying attention, I was handed two items in separate plastic bags, each double-stuffed. I had to laugh to myself as I took the products out to carry. Not only were the bags so ridiculously thick that they probably had the consistency of four or five bags, but in front of me was a display touting t-shirts that said "Go Green." It's a shame I was probably the only one who noticed the irony.

As promised, we're going to focus on plastic for this lovely Fourth of July week. In May, we did a piece on how to recycle plastic, but since it's one of the most problematic materials to deal with at both ends of its life cycle - production and disposal - we're going to spend most of our energy this week suggesting ways to boycott it altogether. I'm going to start out with a piece on the ins and outs of plastic alternatives. Wednesday, Karyn will follow up on some locations where you can purchase those alternatives. Thursday, we'll have something fun to set the Fourth of July weekend off right. Just in time to say no to a plastic fork in your apple pie.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Ideas for Wood Waste

A Central PA cabinet company has augmented their business by recycling their wood scraps. I wonder if they would buy set construction waste from local film productions. If not, there may be other companies like this in the Philadelphia area. Worth digging into if your production involves a lot of built set pieces.

Take Action Now!

Two important eco-bills are in front of the PA State Senate. With only days left before the summer recess, they have still not passed!

House Bill 2200 would cut projected energy use in Pennsylvania and result in a drop in projected global warming pollution equivalent to removing over 1 million cars from the road for a year.

Special Session House Bill 1 would provide the largest increase in clean energy funding in state history.

Both bills have already passed the state House, but now we need to convince the Senate to take action. Send a letter through PennEnvironment urging your senator to pay attention today!

Thursday, June 26, 2008


As Karyn mentioned in the post earlier today, a great way to cut down on landfill gas is to start a composting system. Being the least environmentally aware person in the group, I sheepishly had to ask what it really was. Hence, my new blog entry!

Composting is, according to the How To Compost Website, "the transformation of organic material (plant matter) through decomposition into a soil-like material called compost. Invertebrates (insects and earthworms), and microorganisms (bacteria and fungi) help in transforming the material into compost." Basically, it's nature's way of recycling. 

Further research shows there's actually more than one way to compost. One is called Cold/Slow Composting. This seems to be the simplest way to start off. To begin, take the greens (nitrogen-rich material like grass clippings, vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, etc.) and the browns (slower to rot, carbon-rich material like dried leaves, small twigs, cardboard, and shredded paper) and set it in a bin. Make sure to keep meat scraps and dairy products out, as they do tend to attract animals. Then, turn the pile every day or so and within several months you will have fully decomposed the pile.

Hot Composting requires more of your time, but also will take less time to fully decompose. As this is a very detail-oriented process, please check out this helpful site that can walk you step-by-step through the the setup and follow through.
A huge benefit of doing this is that, on average, 700 lbs of material is kept out of landfills. A healthy number that can help cut down drastically on landfill gas and carbon. Rock!

Landfill Gas

According to the EPA, Americans send an average of 4.5 pounds of garbage per person per day to landfills. The organic material in that garbage decomposes in an oxygen-free environment, which produces landfill gas, a mixture of two potent greenhouse gases, methane and carbon dioxide. Landfill gas is the largest human-related source of methane in the United States, making it a significant contribution to global warming.

Both methane and carbon dioxide are greenhouse gases, but methane has 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. While there are EPA regulations designed to curb methane emissions, and some landfills have begun to convert their gases into energy, a huge amount still escapes into the atmosphere. Also, food waste in landfills contributes to leachate, the potentially toxic liquid that results from accumulated moisture and rainwater filtering through the garbage. This liquid is difficult to contain, and can lead to groundwater contamination.

Instead of sending all of that useful biodegradable material to a landfill, why not try composting? Unlike the anaerobic decomposition process that takes place in a landfill, a properly managed aerobic composting system that gets plenty of oxygen will reduce the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. The compost you will make is much better for the environment than chemical fertilizers, and the plants you eventually grow with it will help take carbon dioxide out of the air. 

Even people in small apartments can keep their kitchen scraps in a compost pail. Any stainless steel pot with a tight fitting lid will do, or you can just put it in a container in the freezer until you can take it to your local community garden or Whole Foods compost trash can. More intrepid folks could also try a worm bin, since vermicomposting is a great way to compost your scraps indoors, when you don't have a yard, or if your outside space is limited.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Waste Removal

From M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense to Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones, filmmaking  in Philadelphia has become big business. The industry generates millions of dollars in revenue, promotes tourism, and gives work to hundreds of union workers.

What it doesn't do, however, is obey the law.

Philadelphia has mandatory recycling laws for businesses, yet compliance is still the exception rather than the rule for businesses of all types throughout the city. The Philadelphia Commercial Recycling Guidelines require businesses to develop a Recycling Plan, submit it to the city, publicly post the plan on site, and distribute it to all employees. The plan must include:
  • hiring a hauling/recycling company that is licensed by the City of Philadelphia, (like Blue Mountain Recycling, or Waste Management)
  • providing recycling containers, and separating recyclables (high-grade office paper, aluminum, corrugated paper, ferrous and nonferrous metals, etc.) from garbage (food waste and other organics)
  • creating an education program to communicate expectations, changes, impacts, etc. to employees
Given the temporary nature of the film business, developing a recycling plan of this nature on each individual set would be difficult, but developing a template of recycling rules that would govern all filmmaking in this region could fulfill the city's requirements. These rules should reflect the reality that materials will differ depending on the department, and will need to be enforced on the set, on location, in the catering tents, and in the production office.  Maintaining a list of recycling drop-off sites for construction materials and hazardous materials would also help to keep lumber, plastic and other building materials not currently included in the city's regulations from being sent to landfill.

Without these guidelines, employees concerned about the environmental impact of film have had little opportunity to change wasteful day to day practices, besides literally sorting recyclables out of the dumpster and carting them home for residential collection! Construction coordinators have also managed to donate some materials to organizations like Habitat for Humanity, but production managers are not accustomed to including recycling costs in their budgets, so spending man hours researching and redirecting these materials must be done surreptitiously, or off the clock.

Philadelphia would also benefit from having a business like Build It Green! NYC in the area. They are a "non-profit retail outlet for salvaged and surplus building materials", where film productions could donate and shop for recycled building materials. In addition to lumber and sheetrock, designers can also shop for previously used cabinets and appliances in their inventory. 

For more commercial recycling information, call the Philadelphia Recycling Hotline at 215-686-RECYCLE (7329) and check out the Pennsylvania page at for local recycling businesses.

You can also report any non-compliant business by emailing

Monday, June 23, 2008

WEEK 9: Waste Management

We all do it, whether we want to admit it or not. We have some scraps left on the kitchen counter, be it egg shells or the unused coffee grounds from the morning's cup of coffee. As you rush out the door for work, you quickly scrape the leftovers into the kitchen trash can. What you don't know is that, according to the US EPA, along with yard trimmings, food waste makes up 24% of the country's waste stream.

This week, we're going to focus on waste removal. Karyn will start the week off with a look at waste removal and recycling on film sets, as well as discussing mandatory recycling laws for businesses. Then, we'll take a look at Clean Vibes, a waste management company that handles concerts and other events. We'll wrap up with a look at landfill gas and composting.

And for all you people who are asking "Where's the plastic?" Don't worry! We got a whole week of it coming up next!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Emeril's Gone Green

A couple of weeks ago we announced the launch of Discovery Channel’s newest network, Planet Green. With it being food week for us, it seemed only appropriate to showcase celebrity chef, Emeril Lagasse's newest show on the network, Emeril Green.

According to the celebrity chef, the best meals are always made with the freshest ingredients. That is why Emeril will show viewers how to cook healthy, delicious meals using only organic and in-season foods. The show is shot on location in Whole Foods Market, and Emeril, along with the help of the Whole Foods team, cover such questions as which foods increase the taste of meals and at what cost.

To watch Emeril's newest show on Planet Green, go to the website to check for local listings. And if you have managed to read this little blurb without yelling a gratuitous "BAM!", then I am impressed!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Greener Catering

Filmmaking uses a tremendous amount of resources. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the meal tent on a typical movie shoot. Feeding hundreds of people in a temporary, often outdoor, location usually involves the crew eating in giant plastic tents, with air conditioning or heat pumped in. Access to sinks and running water is usually limited, so all of the plates, cups, and utensils are disposable. These items are almost always plastic, as are the hundreds of bottles of water and soft drinks that are thrown out at every meal, since no recycling is ever provided.

Estimating how much food to make is difficult, and providing film crews with an array of food choices results in an enormous amount of food being wasted. Snacks, or "craft service", are also required on every union film, offering donuts, candy, and other heavily packaged, mass produced convenience foods. If things like apples or carrots sticks are offered, it will be conventionally grown produce that has a large carbon footprint. None of this food is made with local or organic ingredients, because sustainability has not been a priority on the production company's bottom line.

While feeding the crew in a more environmentally friendly way would usually involve spending more money, anyone who has worked on a big budget film can attest to the unbelievable waste of cash and resources that goes on in every department. It is not the lack of funding, but a lack of commitment that keeps productions from making many "green" changes, and food is no exception.

So, here are some suggestions for feeding the crew:
  • Buy organic food, shade-grown/organic and fair trade coffee & teas.

  • Choose organic or local produce whenever possible.

  • Look for sustainable seafood and organic and/or free-range meats from local farms.

  • Encourage the use of reusable dishware and mugs, if a place to wash dishes is available. If not, provide recyclable or compostable plates, cups and utensils.
  • For catered meetings and general craft services, make sure food suppliers do not provide Styrofoam. Ask caterers to provide only recyclable serving containers, like aluminum pans.

  • Find out if leftovers from catered meals can be donated, and give unopened packaged food to the local food bank.

  • Purchase a composter for vegetable food scraps.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Grass-fed Meat: Better for the Environment?

It's easy to forget as you're eating that delicious burger from Five Guys that the cow the meat came from was brought up in a tight pen, fattened with a corn-based feed until it's plump enough to be slaughtered and processed into the meaty goodness that you're about to put in your mouth. But before you take that bite, let one quick thought cross your mind: "Wait, would a cattle normally eat corn?"

No. And that's where grass-fed meat comes in. Grass-fed refers to the natural, pre-industrialized method of how cattle and other animals ate food. A cow's digestive system is set up to process grass and produce omega-3, a healthy non-saturated fat. Additionally, the waste produced by free-grazing cattle has nutritional value to the earth, helping to regrow the land (ah, that beautiful circle of life). Conversely, in confinement, cattle waste is generally stockpiled, actually doing damage to the environment in its excess, the opposite of its naturally intended effect.

So it seems simple. Can't we just transition beef production over to grass-fed farms? Well according to some people, the omega-3 rich grass-fed meat has both the smell and taste of ammonia, not a high selling point to most consumers. Also, the cost is substantially higher than corn-fed beef, another negative in an already faltering food economy. The biggest negative though, is there's simply not enough space to feed Americans the amount of grass-fed beef they're used to eating in their current industrialized diets. What really needs to happen is for most Americans to cut back on meat in general, a thought that scares the steak-loving bejesus out of me.

That's not to say that grass-fed cattle should be ignored. I've never experienced any of the ammonia or bad tastes that have been associated with free-range cattle, and I've eaten my fair share of it over the years. The cattle are also treated much more humanely, well worth the extra cost incurred. I'm far from an expert on this massive topic, so for those of you looking to dig deeper, check out this informative interview with sustainable farmer Shannon Hayes on Green Luvin' or this in-depth, if rambling, article on The Food Revolution.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Carbon Footprint of Food

When I originally decided to write the blog entry for the carbon footprint of food, I figured it would mostly center around how food gets from location A to location B and how much of a CO2 footprint it would leave in its trail. However, according to a study published by Carnegie Mellon researchers in April, it seems that how food is produced (going all the way back to the fossil fuels used to manufacture fertilizer and tractors) may be an even bigger contributor to our food's carbon footprint than its transport.

Though the average distance a parcel of food travels is around 4,500 miles, one would think that buying locally would cut down significantly on that annoying carbon tag. While it does in many cases, what you may not be taking into account is the energy required to produce that food in a particular climate. For example, a community in England may incur less of a footprint by importing tomatoes from Spain than by growing them in a greenhouse a few counties over because of the amount of energy used to power and supply those greenhouses. (Another article that explains this concept really well is Big Foot, by Michael Specter.)

However, according to the Carnegie Mellon study, shifting your diet for ONE DAY a week can actually have just as much, if not more of an impact as buying all local produce. According to an article on the environmental Science & Technology website, "Replacing red meat and dairy with chicken, fish, or eggs for one day per week reduces emissions equal to 760 miles per year of driving. And switching to vegetables one day per week cuts the equivalent of driving 1160 miles per year."

While some people may cringe at the thought of not having a cheeseburger every day, taking that one day and not eating red meat or dairy would still have a huge impact on your individual footprint. It obviously won't zero out your emissions, but it's a huge, helpful start.

For more statistics on what foods have the biggest footprints, check out this helpful pie chart.

Monday, June 16, 2008

WEEK 8: Food

This week, we're going to tackle food. We'll start the week with an examination into the actual carbon footprint of food, discussing its myths and truths. We'll then take a look at grass-fed meat and see how it differs from its processed cousin. On Thursday, Karyn will give us a look into the realities of on-set catering. We'll wrap up the week with a nice little piece on Ann Karlen, the founding director of Fair Food, a White Dog Cafe Foundation Project "dedicated to bringing locally grown food into the Philadelphia marketplace, and promoting a humane, sustainable agriculture for the greater Philadelphia region."

Unfortunately, we did not receive any submissions on how to feed a crew of 35+ people. So if any of you out there still have thoughts, please send them in by the end of the week and we'll be sure to publish them!

June 17: Bike Parts Art Show

This Tuesday, June 17th, The Neighborhood Bike Works and Spokespeople begin gearing up for their 6th Annual Bike Parts Art Show by inviting bike enthusiasts and artists alike to a Bike Park Raid at 3916 Locust Walk in St. Mary's Church from 6:30-9:00pm.

Come get inspired to make fun, bike-friendly art by scavenging through their random bike parts, or bring some of your own old, unwanted parts to add to their collection.

All profits from the upcoming show help the Neighborhood Bike Works in their mission to "promote cycling as an environmentally-friendly means of transportation and create opportunities for area youth through bicycling."

Support Organic Farming in PA

The main reason that organic produce is more expensive than it's chemically-sprayed, genetically-modified competition is that farmers who choose to grow diversified crops free of pesticides do not receive the local or federal government support that conventional agribusiness does. Want to see a lot more organic produce, at more affordable prices? Help Pennsylvania farmers transition to organic farming by supporting House Bill No. 2347.

Friday, June 13, 2008


Annie Shaw loves Niagara Falls. Having lived in urban centers such as Hong Kong, St. Louis, Los Angeles and New York, she has often found herself a tourist of nature, appalled and attracted to our impulse to make nature more natural. As an artist, she is determined to discover new beauty in cliché, and to shatter the cliché in what we consider beautiful.

This video was captured on the Canadian platform overlooking the American Falls, in the morning mist, devoid of people, while a maintenance truck prepares the area for hundreds of incoming tourists.

Annie is currently presenting a project based on the Mega Millions lottery at Monte Vista in Los Angeles. Visit for details.

H2O: On Set

Video by Max Joseph for Good Magazine

One of the problems we expect to encounter with shooting a movie on location is a lack of readily available water. One idea that we've been floating around is purchasing reusable water bottles. Slate did a really great article last year where they tested the various bottles and gave them a rating. Unfortunately, they also gave a price. With the cheapest bottle being around $8.00, this is a cost that can add up pretty quickly, especially if we need to figure in at least 40 units. They do have a really cool corn-based water bottle though that easily bio-degrades. Just make sure you don't put it in the dishwasher.

Along the same lines, it's also possible that we can just re-use glass bottles. Think of something like Snapple. It's a perfect glass bottle with a screw-on lid that can be washed and reused often. It's also fairly easy to fill at the tap. Karyn also made a great point that crew members can think of a water bottle as one of the tools they're expected to have on set and bring their own. This means it can also be a tax write-off. And at around $15 for a durable stainless steel bottle, like a Sigg, it's not as much of a liability.

If we go with BYO bottles, then we've gotta come up with a source for water when we're away from a convenient tap. One idea we have been tossing around is a bottled water cooler, as in the old office water cooler. But the more research we do, the less it seems like a good fit. One, you have to plug them in. Depending on the office we set up, we'd have to take into account the amount of energy that would incur. A quick Google search shows that it can be a lot, sometimes using more power than a fridge (yikes). Two, if the shooting location is nowhere near the office, we will have to continuously send people back and forth to fill their water bottles, which is a waste of our time and resources.

What seems like the smartest, most convenient idea may be an old-school, insulated water jug - the kind they used to have at football practice. While we obviously won't be using the paper cups, this may be the best way to get water to the set. Buying and filling a few containers with tap water or a hose won't cost nearly as much as a bottled cooler and it doesn't use anywhere near as much energy (just our own). A problem with this, though, is not just the location of the water source itself, but also the potability (that means quality) of the water in our locations. Ultimately though, it may come down to cost and what will be most useful for our production logistics.

But I want to open up this discussion to you, faithful readers. What are some ideas that we're glazing over? What do you think would be the most effective way to keep our crew hydrated and happy without creating a lot of waste?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

CARBONated drinks

To evaluate the carbon footprint of soda, you have to start with carbonization itself. A typical 12-ounce can of soda releases up to six grams of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and that's just the bubbles! Add to that the acid rain and greenhouse gases produced in the manufacture of plastic bottles, the millions of unrecycled plastic bottles in our landfills and waterways, and the bauxite mining for aluminum cans (including toxic bisphenol-A linings), and you have a sizeable environmental problem.

the containers is certainly better than throwing them away, but recycling also uses a great deal of energy. And unlike glass and aluminum, plastic bottles cannot be recycled into new containers, but "downcycled" into lower grade plastics with limited applications and even smaller markets.

The nonprofit CAP Partnership has just unveiled their Carbon Action Plan (CAP), a standardized protocol used to measure the greenhouse gas emissions from beverage manufacturing. They estimate worldwide consumption of all ready-to-drink beverages to be approximately 1 trillion litres a year, and plan to assess the carbon footprint of this industry by considering:
  • the amount of renewable energy used
  • the percentage of recycled material in the packaging
  • the number of water litres used to make 1 liter of product
  • the extent of a company's carbon reduction in the previous two years
  • the amount of carbon emissions verified as having been offset
They are establishing pilot programs with bottled water companies in each continent, but plan to extend the program to soft drinks next, with the hopes of eventually applying their program to many other food and drink producers.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Tap Campaign: Ban the Bottle

Every year, Britons quench their thirst, empty their wallets, and discard 3 billion empty water bottles, filling landfills with plastic. Tap is taking on the bottled water industry and asking people to enjoy tap water instead. It's refreshing, clean and free - and doesn't muck up the planet. Our products promote sustainable, smart living, with bottles, jugs, glasses and everything else you need to enjoy tap water. Our business is carbon neutral, environmentally sensitive, ethically driven and as wholesome as a cup of strawberries. Our profits fund water projects in the developing world, showing that you can quench your thirst and do good at the same time. Visit us at

Tap water is good.

According to WHO (that’s the World Health Organization, not the band), there’s no convincing evidence that the minerals in bottled water have any beneficial effect on health.

In fact, The French Senate (who know their l’eau minérale) advises people who drink bottled mineral water to change brands frequently, because the minerals in particular brands could be harmful in high doses if consumed over a long period.

In 2006, 99.96% of the 4.5 million samples tested passed water quality sampling.

Tap water uses 0.3% of the energy needed to produce bottled water, without creating the waste. It has a big, clean taste with a small carbon footprint. We like it.

The bottled water backlash.

After a decade of unfettered growth, UK sales of bottled water have decreased by 9 percent. Bottled water is being increasingly banned at local council meetings and Prime Minister Gordon Brown recently announced that his government would be phasing out bottled water in all of its departments.

In the US, the mayors of San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis and New York have all begun urging people to opt for tap water instead of bottled. Trendy restaurants in cities around the world have stopped the bottled glut in their establishments, newly offering their diners municipal tap water (sometimes carbonated on site).

In London, Times food critic Giles Coren recently announced a new zero-tolerance toward bottled water, and has started taking restaurants to task for offering it on their menus.

In Canada, 15 campuses have joined church groups, municipalities and other organizations in the “Back-to-the-Tap Movement,” which include declaring “bottle-free zones.”

Even the National Coalition of American Nuns adopted a resolution against the purchase bottled water unless absolutely necessary. Other religious groups with similar stands include Presbyterians for Restoring Creation, the National Council of Churches, and the United Church of Christ. Could they be getting a message from the guy upstairs? What would Jesus drink?

Water the world.

At Tap we believe it’s time to think globally and drink locally. Our actions can affect the world, where combating climate change and water can start with the twist of a faucet.

Many parts of the world are parched. More than a billion people lack access to safe drinking water. The number is expected to quadruple by the year 2050. (And we use it to make ice sculptures of Garfield.)

Water tables are retreating. Wells are drying up. More than a quarter of the world’s population rely on groundwater for drinking, but stocks are being used up faster than they are being replaced.

Here are some nasty facts:
  • 1.1 billion people live without clean drinking water.
  • 2.6 billion people lack access to clean drinking water, and three out of five live without adequate sanitation.
  • Dirty water kills 1.8 million people a year. Ninety percent of these are children (that’s 3,900 dying every day).
  • Poor people living in poor areas often pay five to 10 times more for per liter of water than wealthy people living in the same city.
  • Less than 1% of the world's fresh water (or about 0.007% of all water on earth) is readily accessible for direct human use.
  • The average individual in the developed world uses 100 to 176 gallons of water at home each day, compared with the average family in the developing world, which uses about 5 gallons.

Not all bottled water is evil. And not everyone can give up bottled water all the time. If someone handed you a bottle when you’d just passed the 25th mile on the London Marathon, for instance, you might not throw it back in their face. But let’s hope they’ve handed you one of the following brands:

Belu is a water of firsts. It’s the first carbon neutral bottled water in the UK (partly by not importing or exporting its water, to reduce its carbon footprint). It’s has UK’s first compostable bottle made from corn. And all Belu’s profits go to clean water projects. Its partners (besides Tap) include WaterAid, NatureWorks, and the London Rebuilding Society (LRS).

AquAid makes water coolers and donates a lot of their profits to a number of charities, including Water Aid, Christian Aid, and Pump Aid.

Charity:water have funded more than 600 projects in 11 nations that will provide 250,000 people with clean water.

And we’re at

J.B. Miller is an American writer living in London where his play “The Dorchester” was produced last year at the Jermyn Street Theatre. He cowrote “The Acme Climate Action Kit” which is being published in September by 4th Estate. Check out

Future Weather on Ecospace

Jessie Magee, writer extraordinaire, has written a fantastic article about us, just published on, a great new venue for green news and activism. Check it:

Climate Crisis Tale Searches for Greenlight

And to get you really excited for our upcoming production, here's our latest teaser !

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

What's So Bad About Tap Water?

I'm a water bottle offender. Professionally, I'm an event planner, which requires me to be in three different places all at the same time. We have many break stations set up in these locations, so I find myself grabbing a bottle of water as I run from point A to point B. While I always feel a pang of guilt, I find ways to justify my consumption, like the sticker on the bottle that promotes 30% less plastic. But as I've recently transferred my office to a different building, I'm trying to reuse one bottle a day thanks to the handy faucet located one room over from my desk.

Living in Philadelphia, we're lucky enough to have some of the better-tasting tap water in the country, having recently been given an honorable mention in a recent poll by the country's top mayors. It's treated several times a day and is always at the EPA standard. In fact, the Philadelphia Water Company has been continuously tweaking it's chlorine content to ensure the best taste for the last 20 years.

However, we also apparently live in one of the sickest cities in the country. According to an article on MSNBC, over 70 (!) different types of pharmaceuticals have been found in the main water sources. Philadelphia's Water Co. says they're extra vigilant, which is why it tests for more drugs than other cities, but it's still not a stamp you want on your image, especially in a time where environmental awareness is becoming more common. While this pharma-content may seem scary, it really is only a trace amount. And if you're really concerned, you can get most of these chemical offenders out via a water purifier, which is pretty cheap. You can buy a Brita Pitcher for around $12.oo and a faucet purifier for $25.00.

To find out what the tap water situation is in your location, check out the EWG website.

Monday, June 9, 2008

WEEK 7: Beverages

It's everywhere: in the buildings we work and live in, under the streets we walk, and 70% of our body. Water is probably the single most important element in the world. Now, if it only had a taste!

This week, we're excited to have two guest bloggers talk about the sustainability of the things we drink: playwright J.B. Miller will give us the inside story on Tap, a London campaign that's up with tap and down with bottles, and Pacific Northwest food rebel Michael Hebberoy will talk about a fair trade coffee project he's working on with Caffe Vita of Seattle. We're also going to uncap the carbonated beverage scene and see what is the most efficient way to get, serve, and preserve water on the film set. So stay tuned!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Is The Electric Car Really Dead?

Who Killed The Electric Car is a film that documents the rise and fall of the EV1, an electric car made by General Motors in 1996. In response to the alarming smog problem in the Los Angeles basin, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) had just adopted the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate, requiring 2% of new vehicles sold in California to be emission-free by 1998, 10% by 2003. The EV1 was GM's solution, a vehicle that ran on 100% electricity, cost the equivalent of 65 cents a gallon to operate, and produced zero emissions. They did not allow consumers to buy them, but instead offered them a closed-end lease for three years, with no renewal or residual purchase options. Upon the expiration of the leases, and despite overwhelming enthusiasm for the EV1's performance and environmental benefits, GM destroyed the cars and discontinued production.

The film explores the many reasons for GM's decision, including the powerful auto and oil industry lobbying efforts, the oil companies' fight against public charging stations, and the Bush administration's lawsuit against the California Air Resources Board’s Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate. This is a must-see film for anyone looking for alternatives to our current fossil fuel dependence, and it ends with a hopeful look into the future of alternative fuel technology.

That future is now for students from West Philadelphia High School Academy for Automotive and Mechanical Engineering. They have created a flex fuel plug-in hybrid that gets 100mpg, and are serious contenders for winning the Automotive X Prize, a competition challenging "the world's best and brightest minds to design, build and demonstrate vehicles that are super-efficient and production-capable."

As for mass production, a few companies have developed models that will move electric cars beyond their expensive, celebrity-toy reputation:
  • The Chevy Volt will use a common 110–volt household plug. For someone who drives less than 40 miles a day, which is the majority of Americans, the Chevy Volt will use zero gasoline and produce zero emissions.
  • For about $20,000, you can buy a Triac EV . It has a 100 mile range, can go 80 mph, and is "as simple as plugging in a toaster".

Wired's Inconvenient Truth

Around the office this week, we've been buzzing about a recent article printed in the new issue of Wired Magazine. It's a very controversial piece where the editors state that some well-worn environmental beliefs may need to be tossed by the wayside when it comes to battling global warming. Their solution is to make cutting carbon our paramount focus, even when it flies in the face of everything we thought was "green".

It's a fascinating read with some very out there ideas (Keep your SUV?). But other ones make sense when you look passed the provocative title. Regardless of your beliefs, take the ten minutes to read it; you won't be sorry. Just make sure to read the counterpoint. If you're really fired up, it may just cool you down.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Planet Green Network Launched

It's about time! Discovery Channel just launched the first all-access, totally green network. Planet Green will be a 24/7 guide on how to create a more sustainable lifestyle. Hmm… boring and sometimes depressing shows about the current climate crisis? Think again. This is Emerald City, baby.

One of the most anticipated shows will have a familiar face to anyone who watches HBO. Adrian Grenier, of HBO's Entourage, will host Alter Eco, a green makeover show. Think Tye Pennington, but without the giant bus and a lot more recycling. First up, the Tokio Lounge in LA is getting a completely new, sustainable look and will reopen with the new name Eco.

The other uber-famous environmentalist you might recognize is Leonardo DiCaprio, credited as a producer on the show Greensburg. About a year ago, the town of Greensburg, Kansas was completely leveled due to a devastating F-5 tornado that ripped through. Now, as the town tries to piece itself back together, they've decided to make the town as eco-friendly as possible. This show will document their efforts.

Ed Begley, Jr. will be the focus on Living with Ed, a reality show that follows him and his wife around their daily lives. Hard-core environmentalist Ed and his (less hard-core) wife, Rachelle, share how they live an eco-friendly lifestyle - the good, the difficult, and the humorous.

Whether its reality TV, cooking, fashion, home makeover, or car shows, it looks like Planet Green is eking out a little eco for everyone.

Transportation in Film

According to a report issued by The UCLA Institute of the Environment, the film and television industry is one of the largest contributers of air pollution in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, and it ranks alongside the petroleum refining industry as emitting the most greenhouse gases. The study's authors cite "the heavy reliance of the FTI on transportation and energy consumption in its normal operations" as the likely cause, so finding more sustainable transportation solutions should be a central part of any green production guidelines.

Several states now offer green filmmaking recommendations through their local film offices, and many of them include suggestions on how to minimize the impact of transportation. Here are the most common suggestions:
  • purchase ultra low-sulfur diesel, or biodiesel for generators and vehicles
  • contract with companies who also use vehicles that run on alternative fuels
  • encourage car-pooling/public transportation for crew
  • do not allow equipment and vehicles to idle unnecessarily
  • use an electric vehicle to transport items between buildings
  • use hybrid or fuel-efficient cars to transport talent, scout locations, shop for props, etc.
  • find local suppliers for paint, lumber, food, etc.
  • limiting the frequency of trips and coordinating trips with other departments when possible
And, perhaps most importantly, productions need to take the time in the planning stages to make environmentally friendlier travel possible, by trying to find shooting locations, hotels, construction areas, etc. that don't require driving long distances.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

PhillyCarShare Rules!

PhillyCarShare is a non-profit organization that launched in 2002 as a way to cut down on the amount of cars owned in the city of Philadelphia. The idea was simple: With less automobiles clogging the road, co2 emissions would be cut. And while this is a great idea on paper, it seems like in practice, it would be a much different beast.

Nope! Philly Car Share is the real deal. For a monthly fee of $15, you can get a car at $3.90 an hour or $39.00 a day. If one doesn't want to pay the monthly cost, you can still get a car, beginning at $4.90 an hour or $49.00 a day. While this may seem excessive, Enterprise will charge you $42.13 a day, Hertz is at $55.99, and Avis is at $79.00...for an SUV. Ouch. Also, more than half of PhillyCarShare's fleet are hybrids. While all the major car rental retailers do offer hybrids (at higher rates) and will do carbon offsets, it seems obvious which is the much better option.

Another great thing about PhillyCarShare is that they're very active in Philadelphia. While I could do without the deluge of people trying to get me to sign-up as I get off the train every morning, they do work hand in hand with SEPTA, offering a half-ride rebate if you rent a car from a pod located at various stations throughout the region. While this can only be done a few times a month, it's still a great incentive to support public transportation.

While there are still not many other car shares like PCS around the country, there is a helpful list on Wikipedia that can point you in the right direction. As someone who doesn't own a car, this is definitely a great option that I will definitely consider when taking day trips outside of SEPTA's rail lines.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Food for Thought: READER CONTEST!

Food is one of the most critical elements to a positive production experience. Working 12-14 hour days, people need both substance and food that makes them happy. A film set even provides what's called a craft services table that offers snacks all day long - a little something to tide you over until the shot is finished so you can leave set and go eat! (did you hear the urgency in my voice??)

Starting June 9, we’ll be turning our attention to food. It's something everyone can relate to. It’s also a hot eco-topic - and there’s plenty to cover from the current world food crisis to the problem with bottled water. We're eating all this up, but eventually we’ll have to turn our attention to how we can use our knowledge to create a more sustainable film production.

Foodie, junk foodie, vegan, omnivore, or picky eater - we have a challenge for you!

How can we get sustainably produced, minimally packaged, healthy food to feed a crew of 35 on a shoestring budget? in either suburban Philly/NJ or extremely rural York County, PA? for both crew meals and our craft services table? What do you think are the most important factors for putting together a sustainable meal? Local sources? Organic production? The energy used to store and cook the food? Something to keep in mind is that a film crew is like a band of gypsies. We set up temporary camp with uncertain access to things like kitchens or even electricity from the grid!

We're looking for creativity and innovation, not necessarily plausibility. We're in the invention stage afterall. Email your answers to us at You'll get extra points for a video. Deadline is Friday, June 13. We'll publish the best ideas during our Food Week: June 16-20 and the winner will receive a special surprise.

And to get you in the mood to play with food, a Sesame Street favorite...

Life Beyond the Car: Transportation Alternatives

While some of the alternative modes of transportation I'll be listing below may seem very obvious to most, they're still important to mention. Sometimes the easiest answer gets hidden in the complexity that surrounds it.

A little known fact about New York City is that on average, a New Yorker's carbon footprint is 30% smaller than that of the average American. One of the reasons is public transportation. While most Philadelphians bemoan the thought of riding SEPTA to work, it is a great alternative. According to PA's Clean Air Council, who is working in tandem with SEPTA, public transportation produces 95% less carbon monoxide per passenger mile than a private car. SEPTA also plans to have an additional 400 hybrid electric-diesel buses added to their existing fleet of 32 by 2011. Now if they can only keep them running on time...

If the thought of sitting next to crazy passengers and experiencing smells you never knew could be produced by humans isn't for you, than consider carpooling. There are plenty of benefits to doing so. While the cut on carbon emissions is smaller than if you took PT, it's still an important percentage. It also halves the amount of gas being consumed by the participants. Economically, it's also more efficient. With oil prices soaring, two to three people in a car splitting gas costs is a major relief for your wallet. For more great ideas, check out the carpooling page on the Green Living Tips website.

For a city dweller who doesn't really need to drive, try buying a bike! Philadelphia's public transportation isn't always the most accessible, especially if you live in the Art Museum District or certain areas of South Philly. A bicycle has the additional benefit of being good for you, it being a great cardiac workout and all. Find a used one on Craig's List, or if you're between 8 and 17, you can earn one by becoming a bike expert at West Philly's Neighborhood Bike Works. Just be sure to wear a helmet. Philly drivers aren't the greatest.

And of course, walking is always an option. Just remember that if you walk to the store, take a reusable bag with you - say no to plastic!

Also, if any of you readers want to share your ideas for alternative transport, please post them in our comments section!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Green Events in June

This Wednesday, June 4th at 6:30pm, the Clean Air Council is screening the Natural Resources Defense Council's film Crude Substitute: The Folly of Liquid Coal at the The Academy of Natural Sciences. The event is free, but there is limited seating, so to attend, RSVP online or call Katie Edwards at 215.567.4004, ext. 121.

On June 19th, the Academy will also be hosting the Urban Sustainability Forum: Greening Philadelphia's Infrastructure. Featuring Philadelphia's new Director of Sustainability, Mark Alan Hughes. The event will focus on the ways that Philadelphia can "move the sustainability agenda further and faster than any city in the U.S."

Reception 6:00-6:30 pm
Program: 6:30-8:30 pm
RSVP requested to

WEEK 6: Transportation

As I groggily take the train to and from work every morning, I've noticed a new ad campaign that's being pushed heavily by SEPTA. They've embraced the green trend, trying to let the commuter know that public transportation is the best alternative to helping reduce your carbon footprint. Another reminder will greet you as you step off the train. Faux-grass posters have been placed over the escalators that lead to Market East Station. But as my tired eyes fix on those ads on the train, knowing how great it is that they're making this push, the only thought that goes through my mind is this: Isn't that printed on non-recycled glossy paper?

This week, we're going to tackle transportation. One of the main goals for our production is to supply the most fuel efficient cars for the film as we can, be from a high mileage rate or through alternative fuels. We'll discuss the many forms of transportation, some of them obvious, some not so much. We'll take a look at Philly Car Share and let you know if they have some alternatives that are right for you. Also, we'll finally see some biodiesel in action!