Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Computer Resurrection

Doing research into the last column opened up a discussion about what we could do with the old computers we have lying around. Dumping those oversized paperweights into the local church dumpster doesn't really seem like the most environmentally sound option anymore, so like I did with the DVDs, I turned to the internet.

Before delving into the results, turn on the machines and see if they still run. If you’re nodding yes, I’m going to recommend you find a place to donate that system. Chances are if it works, someone will want it. A lot of local communities would appreciate anything you pass their way. I’ll even make it easier for you. If you’re from Philly, go to either Nonprofit Technology Resources or the Boys and Girls Club of Philadelphia to donate that computer. Once I clean up mine, it’ll be going to the latter.

The thing that surprised me the most when doing a broad search was learning that almost all major computer designers will take back your desktop or laptop and break it down for you. Dell is getting a lot of acclaim of late for not only recycling your old computer for free, but also for their ReGeneration campaign, which will reward a design student for creating the most efficient computer model for sustainable living. Not to be outdone, Apple is also jumping on the bandwagon, recycling computers, regardless of brand. All you have to do is pay for shipping. They’ll even give you a discount toward your purchase of a new computer, ipod or iphone. Pretty killer.

There are other recycling services outside of the above, but I don’t really recommend them. The computer manufacturers will refurbish some of the materials for later use, which greatly cuts down on the amount of carbon footprinting these independent recycling companies incur in the breaking down of materials.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Have no fear! DVD recycling is here!

Yesterday, Jenny had asked me what we could do with all the used DVDs she had lying around from burning video edits. "Bird-catchers?" I proffered. She winced. I understood my new blog task.

A quick Google search nets a few companies that will have no problem taking them off your hands. But it’s gonna cost you a small nut in shipping costs.

A good place to send them should you decide is the Their website's got a pretty awesome "green" theme (we especially dig the links done in green sharpie). But more importantly, they're dead serious about raising awareness and go deep into the concept that recycling is a natural part of sustaining all living creatures in equilibrium. They've also written a very detailed description of a compact disc's lifecycle.

Best idea would be to team up with a few hard-core recyclers and split the cost for shipping. No need for fancy containers. Just a cardboard box. They don't charge. Just register and put yourself on their map of recyclers. The benefit in the long-run far exceeds the cost now. Because all those innocent little disks you burn thru by the spindle-full (and I'm talking to you, too, architects, artists, and designers) are evil, as you'll see from this cheery EPA map. (Actually I think that's where Bruce from CD Recycling Center got his info...)

So. Rather than spend your precious time turning these film & videomaker's necessities into ugly crafts that will only remind you of all the waste you've created, send them off, grind them up and sprinkle them like fairy dust down the recycled-plastics pipeline. You may see them again some day in the fire alarm you install after doing the following.

Footnote: Those of you with classified government information or pornography on those disks, fear not. Just put them in the microwave with a glass of water and hit “High.” Who says saving the environment isn’t full of fireworks!

Credits: We think the video above may be David Lynch's new work-in-progress.

Monday, April 28, 2008

WEEK 1: Recycling

All film productions start in development. That typically occurs in an office (or a house in this case), so that's where we'll train our green goggles for the next few weeks.

Recycling, then, seems like the logical place to start once you're in that office. There's something basic and relatable about it – everything we do creates bi-products, and we all return to organic matter in the end...

I'd like to throw out a concept: when you've finished using something, you have many choices for what to do with it. This week, we'll discuss some of the smarter choices for what to do with office waste and have your deepest recycling questions answered by Philadelphia recycling maven, Jimmy Gardner.

Please feel free to post your questions here, and we'll make sure Jimmy gets them. And when you're done reading this, you can make a paper airplane out of it. In your mind.

Going Green Behind-the-Scenes

All right, people. We are done with the bugle calls and introductions. We're finished with the obligatory Earth Day ruminations. And we're ready to get down to bidness. Over the next 10 weeks, we'll be asking the questions that need to be answered if we're gonna get this movie locomoting towards sustainability.

I say towards because we are not promising to be saints. (I think we'd have to turn off the computer and just eat air.) I say towards because we won't be able to afford the most sustainable option every time. Compromises will have to be made, but at least we'll be aware of them.

Our project of going green behind-the-scenes will be a work in progress. Each week we'll chronicle a different set of factors relevant to production: recycling, energy, transportation, etc. We'll give you weekly updates on environmental awareness in the film industry, and we'll devote one week to green things happening in the music world.

Sometimes we'll have questions, sometimes we'll have answers. Sometimes we'll call on experts for the answers. By the end, we hope to arrive at a new level of knowledge and a set of choices we all feel good about. So if you have green questions specific to the film industry, or to the business of living in general, please post them here. We'd like The Future Weather Report to become a forum for everyone.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Arbor Day: Earth Day's Red-Headed Stepbrother

Today being Arbor Day and all, I thought it would be best to find out what Arbor Day actually is. According to Wikipedia, this is a holiday in celebration of J. Sterling Morton, who migrated out to Nebraska and found a dearth of trees. Realizing that you can’t really build anything without wood, Morton became a cheerleader for the new settlement and offered prizes to those who would plant trees on April 10, 1874. Apparently, an estimated 1 million trees were planted that day! Nebraska adopted Morton’s birthday, April 22nd, as the official Arbor Day.

Soon, other states jumped on this bandwagon. The date to celebrate is usually the last Friday of April due to the soil being better suited for planting, but some states celebrate it a little earlier (I’m looking at you, Florida, Louisiana and Alabama)!

Some other countries have also adopted Arbor Day, most giving it the cool and original name of National Tree Planting Day. I’ll admit though, I’m a little more partial to Venezuela’s “Dia del Arbol”, as everything sounds better in Spanish.

So now that I’ve dropped some knowledge on you, what are you waiting for? Go plant a tree already!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

LOVE (or My Plants Are My Children)

And now to cap off Earth Week, a little horticultural indulgence...

Some people brag about their kids - take out their wallet photos, send you Christmas cards and countless emails of them, put them on their Facebook profiles.

Some people show off their dogs...take the on play dates...dress them in human clothing...impersonate them in baby voices.

I'm going to brag about my plants. So if you're not into that sort of chat, stop reading now.

Like most parents and pet-owners, I'm not an expert, I just decided to have them. I'm convinced that my plants do better with affection - a little petting, loving, pinching and talking to. And you never know when they're going to surprise you!

This is Henrietta from Washington Heights.

She used to have a Siamese twin named Pilar. (Or maybe this is Pilar, and it was Henrietta who fell ill.) Either way, she has survived a move from Manhattan and looks lovely on my toilet.

This is Cornie, as certain persons in my household call her. (I'm not too fond of this name, as, well, it's corny.)
She's more than doubled her height since we came into each other's lives three years ago. I like to think we have a certain chemistry. Or maybe she just likes rocking out in the giant Ikea pot I put her in. It has a shelf at the bottom that serves as a reservoir for surplus water.

A few weeks ago, we were shocked to discover she's having a baby. Congratulations, Cornie!

This is the Christmas Cactus from the Fresh Grocer.
You can tell she's going to produce a leaf when she grows little whiskers at the ends. Every December or January, she blooms. It's a long, lovely process of watching teeny magenta buds appear, fatten, lengthen, open, live in full fuchsia splendor for a day or so and then droop until I can't help myself and pinch them off. Every year she grows more blossoms than the year before. Can I do that?

Look at what this succulent is doing! It's grown a little satellite. Do you think it will turn into a flower?

It's also fun to adopt other people's plants...

This desert succulent was given to me by Roz, a girl I used to work with. I always think of her when I see it.

And then there's Basie, as she's been dubbed by the same person who named Cornie Cornie. I bought Basie with my Urban Outfitters discount. She was a Japanese novelty toy - a porcelain egg filled with dirt and a plastic pouch full of seeds. I cracked off the top, germinated some seeds and dribbled water on the sprouts multiple times a day. Every day they grew considerably. I had to take very close care of them or they would droop. It was quite exciting. This was during the summer that I produced the trailers for Future Weather and by the time we left for the shoot, Basie was producing honest-to-goodness basil leaves in her little egg. (I tasted one or two.) I took her with us on the shoot and she chilled out in the kitchen of the crew house. I have to say, I'm not sure what to do with her now. I think she'd much prefer to be in the ground or a bigger pot. When she starts flowering, I trim her back, but now it's to the point where I'm not sure she can produce much more. Suggestions, gardeners?

Inspiration - Without the Bullshit

Today's entry is a little more uplifting. The Time article touches on strong economic and policy changes that could curb global warming. The other two offer a more personal perspective on how two people are helping, be it through inspirational speech or simply converting a home. Enjoy!

How to Win The War on Global Warming
Wait, you mean there’s hope?! Thanks, Time Magazine!

Every Day Ought to Be Earth Day
A nice sermon by Ann Lovejoy. Our time's short. Enjoy it!

Greener Pastures
Bill Nye, the Science Guy! See how he made his house green efficient.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Earth Day's Over. Now What?

Here are some articles to motivate those who feel a little overwhelmed by all the climate crisis info being thrown at them:

The Greatest Danger
Very Zen article from Yes! Magazine suggesting you acknowledge the fear you feel in regards to our environment and our future.

Why Bother?

Michael Pollan recommends starting a garden as a way to help alleviate the dread of environmental change.

Let's Dump Earth Day
Salon offers up a tongue-in-cheek but poignant look at what Earth Day, and beyond, should really be about.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Things To Do on Earth Day (all across the planet)

Go for a walk.

Ride a bike.

Sit in the grass.

Talk to a plant or animal.

Make friends with a stranger.

Breathe in.

(Breathe out.)

Jump all around.

Continue your education - Look for a great list of Earth Week reads over the next couple days!

Things To Do On Earth Day (in Philly)

Clean up Pennsylvania
Join this ambitious effort to remove trash from PA's roadways, parks, forests, riverbanks, neighborhoods, and open spaces.

SEPTA will be having a kiosk set up in Suburban Station to help commuters better understand how they can help the environment by taking public transportation. In typical SEPTA style, no information is available on their site as of now.

Don't Believe the Hype
Philly Weekly gives you the dirt on green cleaning products.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

It's CSA Time!

with Sesame Street string beans to inspire you...

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and it means exactly that: directly supporting a small, family-run farm in your area by purchasing a share of what that farm produces over a season. They typically span from May to November, and each week members receive a box full of fresh-picked vegetables and sometimes fruit. Many CSAs also offer local eggs, dairy products and organic beef and poultry.

Every year since I've lived in Philly, I've tried a new one. Each has offered family recipes and an annual potluck at the farm. But as far as offerings, they've all been different, and each has been wonderful. I love the anticipation of finding out what small (and sometimes giant) treasures will be in my box each week. You may have to get used to an overabundance of a certain vegetable (it always seems to be green peppers for me) and it's a great way to create kitchen improv. My first year, I was a member of Greensgrow, an amazing urban farm in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia; then Spiral Path, a certified organic farm; and last year, Lancaster Farm Fresh, a cooperative of farms in Lancaster county. This year I joined Lanisdale Farm in Jonestown, PA. (pic below)

I've found the best way to find a CSA is to ask around your local farmer's market. Buy Local PA has a directory, but I'm not sure how up-to-date it is. And Farm to City allows you to join several CSAs in the Philadelphia area directly from their website.

Now if we could just figure out how to get this kind of produce prepared for forty people and onto our set for twenty days... Ideas, anyone?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Planting the Digital Seed

First things first. As a grassroots effort, we know we will be heavily dependent on as a hub for our production over the next few years. So Jenny and I set out to see if it would be possible to host our website on a server that was powered by solar and/or wind energy. Since servers run 24/7/365, it seemed like the most energy efficent way to go. However, we also didn't want to spend too much time researching it. Time is pretty much all we have to spend right now, so we have to be thrifty.

When typing "solar powered web hosting" into Google, you will be inundated with several options for green hosts. But when you dig a little you'll find mention of green certificates on most of them, rather than actual wind or solar energy. Not knowing what that meant, I did another search. Green certificates, or green tags, are actually called, by the government, renewable energy certificates. According to the Department of Energy, these certificates "represent the environmental attributes of the power produced from renewable energy projects and are sold separate from commodity electricity." Basically, it allows you to invest in energy and offset your own consumption by having the same amount put back into the power grid, just most likely not in your own location (as a small aside, if you're based out of Philadelphia like we are, you can invest in wind energy through your monthly PECO bill for as little as $2.54 a month.

As important as investing in new energy is, it was hard for both Jenny and I to fully commit to one of these companies since the energy cost seemed hidden. Luckily, I stumbled across a very helpful website: No more Google searches! All you need to do is sign up for their mailing list and you'll receive a list of all the reputable green web hosting sites. A few days later, they'll even send another email, this one with a list of green web designers, marketers and other services. Very cool and very helpful. And upon comparing prices for green servers to those of normal servers, the differences in price are pretty slight. regular hosting services start at around $5.95, while alternatives start at around $7.95. You may get more space with a normal powered web host, but most likely won't need it.

Through the Host It Green list, we were lucky enough to stumble across a hosting service based out of England called Ecological Hosting. Servers are 100% percent solar powered and run by an affable bloke name Jamie and his partner, Sue. His plans are very competitively priced (though his listings are in pounds, not dollars). But the main selling point for Jenny and I is that it's a small, conscientious family run business. When you call, Jamie picks up the phone. He and his wife also run their home office as sustainably as possible. They don’t print unless they have to and when they do, it’s on recycled paper. They also reuse all electronics in different capacities instead of just throwing them out. Very cool. You can read more about them here.

Talking with Jamie we learned that his server was run out of Calfornia by a company called AISO (Affordable Internet Services Online).The AISO data center is covered on two sides by a total of 120 solar panels. They take the power from the panels, transfer it from DC to AC, then store it in batteries which they then use to power their center. They are developing a green roof, which is made of soil and drought resistant plants, which will lower the overall temperature of the building and cut down energy use (science is crazy!). AISO also offer solar-powered hosting plans, so don’t hesitate to check them out too!


Future Weather on Taiwanese site

Monday, April 14, 2008

Hope Grows Greener...

If you are deeply concerned with the swiftly changing state of the earth's ecosystems and how, as humans, we can adapt our way of living to become more sustainable (less taxing and toxic), you are not alone.

I began writing Future Weather in 2006. I had just read a series of New Yorker articles by climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert. (You can now find them in her book, Field Notes from a Catastrophe.) They were brilliant (check out Elizabeth on Grist) but also terrifying and heartbreaking, and they started to affect me.

At the same time a screenplay idea was beginning to gestate… something about a nerdy, misanthropic little girl in a codependent relationship with her former majorette, make-up-artist-wannabe mother. The girls' name is Laduree… (an amalgam of faux-french and cosmetics-counterese). I knew she lived in the country and had a green thumb. I knew her mother ran away from home. So I made an intuitive leap. What if global warming was something that Laduree was also concerned with, from her sheltered vantage point living in a mobile home in the middle of nowheresville?

I wanted to study this complicated environmental issue through the lens of a family drama and make a film that will get people, specifically Americans, to connect with it on a personal level. Maybe even engage in some dialogue about it and the issues it collides with. What is your relationship to the natural world? What happens to the impulse to reproduce when you're faced with the knowledge that thirty years from now, the world will be a vastly different place due to climate change? What do you say to children who live in fear of an unknowable future? In essence, how will we have to evolve to survive such fragile times?

Kind of heavy. But people continue to tell me that these are their concerns, too, so I don't think I'm alone in asking.

You might be wondering what the point of this blog is. Aren't you trying to make a movie? A resounding yes. But I also want to figure out how to run our upcoming production as sustainably as possible. We've got to change the way we live and work, and it's so much less daunting to do it as a community. I also need a way to stay creative while I track down funding. And a way to connect with people. Trying to get a film off the ground can be incredibly lonely. In short, it's time to get Future Weather out of the house. So we got her on the internet.

Talk to us. We have a gajillion entertaining green stories and guest bloggers planned for the coming months, but we want to cover the questions, conundrums and limitations that you face, too. We hope this becomes a forum and a resource not just for green filmmakers, but for anyone who wants to make a difference but sometimes feels overwhelmed by it all. So write to us if you'd like to contribute, or check back frequently and share it with your friends.

Monday, April 7, 2008


Until now, the only environmentally friendly activity I took any interest in was recycling, and that had more to do with not wanting to get fined by my township than wanting to save the environment. It’s not that I didn’t care; I was hesitant. To be honest, I still am to an extent. My greatest fear is that the green movement becomes a lot of media hype about a topic that really needs public debate and education. And to be honest, it wasn’t something I thought I would be involved in until I saw a job posting on the Philadelphia Film Office website.

The thing that grabbed me about Jenny’s passion for her project is that it comes from an “I’m learning too” standpoint. She’s not pretending to have a solution but, when it comes to the film, she’s at least trying to find ways to shoot it as consciously as possible. My job is to document that here. As I’ve mentioned before, I know very little about how to “be green.” So as we do the research in pre-production, I’ll share it with you here.

Topics will range from how to get rid of used CDs and DVDs to interviews with people who are making an impact in their communities. We’ll demystify things like green certificates, carbon neutrality and fair trade and hope you'll join in on the discussions with your own questions and expertise. But please keep one thing in mind. We’re filmmakers first, environmentalists second. We’re learning, too. Mistakes will be made. We look forward to, and encourage, those heckles.

So sit back, drink some tea brewed in unbleached manila hemp teabags (or bourbon aged in recycled oak barrels, for you Hemingway types) and prepare yourself for what will hopefully be a fun and informative way to not only watch the mechanics of a how a film goes green, but how to be environmentally conscious without being preached at. Scout’s honor.