Indie ceremony aims for 'zero-waste'

From megastars like Leonardo DiCaprio cruising around town in their Toyota Priuses to “The Inconvenient Truth’s” role in educating millions about global warming, Hollywood has become perhaps the most visible and passionate eco-friendly community on the planet. But neither the industry nor the green movement has seen anything quite like 2008′s Spirit Awards, which will make history as one of the most eco-friendly film kudos ever produced.

“For the past few years we have been making small changes to get Film Independent (FIND) more environmentally sound,” says longtime Spirits producer Diana Zahn-Storey. “Then we made the decision to go all the way with it. Since the Spirit Awards is our most publicized event, we decided to do something that would not only be environmentally sound but also show people how they can do it on their own.”

To implement the greening of the awards, Storey enlisted the help of Tim Allyn, the well-known environmentalist whose wife is Spirit- and Academy Award-winning producer Cathy Schulman. “After meeting with Tim, we decided the best way to proceed would be to put on a ‘zero waste’ event,” Zahn-Storey says. “He presented us with tons of suggestions, and we did our best to implement all of them.”

The changes began as early as the nominating process, when all eligible voters were required to register online before receiving a ballot, thus saving thousands of sheets of paper. (The paper they did use was FSC-certified, 100% post-consumer recycled.) To help make sure voters saw the nominated films in the most eco-friendly circumstances, FIND hired B-Side, the Austin, Texas-based technology outfit that specializes in film-festival websites, to make some of the pics available as streaming video on a secure portion of the Spirits website rather than send out screeners.

“At least half the films that are nominated don’t have distributors, and the ones that do aren’t on DVD — that’s a lot of discs to produce,” says B-Side’s Chris Hyams. “In addition to designing the website for the event, we also provided them with the ability to have some of the films online. It saved everyone money and didn’t waste any materials.”

For the event itself, Zahn-Storey and her staff have made dozens of small but significant adjustments, including biodiesel generators for all electrical devices, LED bulbs, soy-based inks for the programs, reusable dinnerware, eco-taxi and -limousine services, etc. All leftover food will be sent to a compost facility, and even the reusable flooring and drywall will be donated to Brad Pitt’s reconstruction efforts in New Orleans.

“We plan to keep expanding our environmental efforts in the future, not just at the awards but within our entire organization,” Zahn-Storey says. “Until you find out how simple some of these conservation methods really are, the process seems daunting, but it’s not. There are so many ways to make a difference.”

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