By Paul Kradin, CEO, CO2CYCLE
We all seek to lead lives with purpose. I recently discovered — at age 50 — that my purpose is to help address the gathering threats of rising greenhouse gases and our rampaging abuse of disposable plastics. Our atmosphere is clogging with carbon dioxide and other heat capturing compounds, and the earth that sustains us is submerging under a mountain of single-use plastics — their masquerade as a “convenience” is officially over.
My practice had been to use earnings from my comfortable career as a corporate communications writer to support charitable groups that aligned with my values. But I felt I needed to do more. My partner has a well-established commercial production company and had long-lamented the industry’s wastefulness. We conceived a start-up that could provide green set services for – initially – commercial productions and instill sound environmental practices that wouldn’t compromise creativity.
In May 2018 I quit my job to start CO2CYCLE (pronounced cocycle) to do exactly that. On set we implement several systems to reduce waste, eliminate single-use plastic water bottles, offer solar-charged table-top batteries for light-duty work to displace Diesel-powered electricity, and collaborate with caterers to ensure their serving items are reusable or recyclable. At the end, we tally up the shoot’s total carbon footprint and invest in an offset project so it nets out to carbon-neutral. So far, we’re finding 20 tons of CO2 to be the average footprint per shoot!
On August 20 I worked my first commercial shoot for Ulta Beauty for four days — my first time ever working on set. Our presence is designed to be visually engaging, non-intimidating and highly educational. For example, we handle all trash collection, sorting and proper disposal with an array of graphic bins that are hard to miss. Our pop-tent is custom-made with four 100-watt solar panels that charge two portable batteries at a time (for computers, laptops, a water dispenser, catering appliances, etc.). And our onsite attendant — me — helps to make it a seamless experience.
The response from cast and crew was truly heartening.
“CO2CYCLE keeps a watchful eye to make sure everything on set is properly sorted — seamlessly and without any disruption to our creative process, said Cara Bonilla, Sr. Creative Director, Ulta Beauty. “With a commitment to education and dedication to saving our Earth, this company is chipping away – making a huge impact with many small, important steps.”
Our challenge is to build a bridge for production decision-makers between their desire for a green set and the more difficult step of allocating budget for it. However, we are not that expensive. On our last few shoots, CO2CYCLE accounted for an average of 1.2% of the total budget. Had we not been there, production would have spent about 0.2% on services we would have covered. So, the net cost for have a green, carbon-neutral production is 1% of the budget. Given the stakes I think this is a pretty good value.
We want to inspire a cultural shift away from constant consumption and disposal, and move toward a more sustainable practice. Are there other reasons beyond social responsibility that should motivate producers and their clients? Well, one marketing survey after another reveals that Millennials and affluent shoppers overwhelmingly prefer to spend their money with socially responsible companies. These customers will spend up to 30% more for products and services from climate-friendly brands when they’re aware of their altruism – which is why we provide a Carbon Impact Report and Instagram-ready graphics that highlight our successes on set.
For a long time, people didn’t understand how day-to-day habits could ricochet into our ecosystem. But now we do, and our situation is critical. These issues are daunting for people who can’t quite square how their small, personal efforts can alter a planet-wide problem. I would simply say that if each of us does what we can to reduce our carbon footprint and phase out our use of disposable plastics it would add up very fast.