Hollywood Turns the Yellow Brick Road Green

[Editor's note: The following is a guest post written by Melissa Molenda, a marketing manager for The Nature Conservancy in Michigan and a lifelong Disney fanatic. When she grows up, she wants to be a captain on the Jungle Cruise.]

What happens when the yellow brick road turns green? That’s what The Nature Conservancy explored on the set of Oz: The Great and Powerful in Pontiac, Michigan to find out how Hollywood has been incorporating environmentally friendly practices during production.

A growing trend amongst major motion picture companies has been shifting over the past few years in environmental mindfulness. Even though shooting may only take about three months to complete, the impact on location from more than 800 cast and crew members creates waste and pollution equivalent to a small city.

That’s where Julie and Brad Etheridge come in. As environmental stewards for Walt Disney Motion Pictures, they hold the task of implementing recycling, reuse and environmental action on set, which includes activities such as educating the cast and crew on the best eco-friendly habits to embrace daily towards a greener world.

Disney’s environmental steward position was planned back in 2009 and implemented during their live action shooting in an effort to eliminate waste on set. The creation of the position was one of several changes Disney made in alignment with their 2013 goal-line achievement of decreasing solid waste to landfill to 50 percent of their 2006 baseline level. Aiming to reduce their environmental impact and inspire employees, business associates and consumers to take action for the environment, the company’s ultimate goal is to send literally no waste at all to landfills.

While Disney’s main focus in eliminating waste is centered on their themed resorts and parks, the ambitious “zero percent” objective has targeted specific areas of Disney’s markets including product footprint, education and action, climate and energy, water, and ecosystems. As part of their global effort to aid in nature conservation, Disney has recently teamed up with The Nature Conservancy for collaboration on a large-scale, forest carbon project in China.

It’s important that major companies like Disney take on the global tasks such as land restoration in foreign countries because only a few businesses have as many financial means and resources as a Fortune 100 company does. But even money has its limits, which is why Disney works just as hard to stay self-conscious and self-reflective of where their own corporate footprint has landed in the past and where it plans to be placed in the future. This is why environmental stewards like the Etheridges place so much importance on the education of green practices for their cast and crew members not only on company time, but how to be more environmentally aware within their personal lives as well.

Julie and Brad make every effort possible to keep the Oz set green (pun intended) by doing anything from switching out the entire crafts table with environmentally safe dishware and utensils, to swapping plastic water bottles with reusable steel water containers. In fact, they start every day on set by sifting through dumpsters looking for misplaced recyclable materials.

Hollywood Goes Green

The Etheridges work with a Detroit-based company, Green Safe Products, to pick-up their recyclables and compost materials every week. Green Safe works to provide environmentally safe products to customers including biodegradable and compostable cups, plates, utensils, bags and many other recyclable products and products made from recycled materials.

Whether researching the best possible alternatives to energy, restoring the rainforests or sorting through garbage, it is a unified respect and concern for the planet that propels the world forward for a better tomorrow. It is due to the innovators like Hollywood, Disney and their Environmental Stewards that bring change to the planet to create a more colorful world not just for the movies.

It turns out that in the end, the yellow brick road is a lovely shade of green.

[Top image: Hollywood sign. Image source: David Green/Flickr via a Creative Commons license. Second image: (L) Brad and Julie Etheridge; (R) The author recycles on the set of Oz: The Great and Powerful. Images source: TNC]

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