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.

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