Sustainability at the Oscars: Going Green Can Be Glamorous



Glitz, glamor, and environmental sustainability are on the agenda today at the Oscars. For the seventh year in a row, the organizers of the Academy Awards are adopting “green” practices for Hollywood’s biggest night.

It all started in 2007, when the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) teamed up with the show’s producer Laura Ziskin to reduce the environmental impact of the event. ”By announcing this initiative from such a legendary and respected stage, the Academy is reaching tens-of-millions of people across the world with a message that cleaner, more sensible energy choices and a simple commitment to environmental stewardship are Oscar-worthy endeavors for everyone,” Frances Beinecke, NRDC President said in a press release at the time.

Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the NRDC, recently sat down with actor Ed Begley Jr. to discuss the greening of the Oscars with Valhalla Entertainment CEO, Gale Anne Hurd. LA Confidential published the interview.

“Everything is sustainable,” Begley Jr. said, calling the event “one of the greenest galas I’ve ever been to.” Hershkowitz said that all the food is “organic and as local as possible.” What isn’t eaten is donated or composted. Timing was perfect for going green back in 2007, Begley Jr. explained. An Inconvenient Truth was up for an Oscar, Leonardo DiCaprio showed up in a hybrid, and suddenly, “it became cool to be green.” But what exactly does “going green” for the Oscars entail? Hershkowitz used his NRDC blog in 2013 to give readers a glimpse into the process.

A total of 183MW of Renewable Energy Credits were purchased from wind power projects to cover the two weeks of preparation and telecast of the Oscars. Other choices included utilizing hydrogen fuel cell lights, B-20 biofuels, and uninteruptible power supplies. The latter took seven days of generator use out of the equation, reducing fuel use and related air emissions by more than 4,000 gallons of fossil fuels. Incandescent lights were replaced by LED fixtures, even for the Governor’s Ball, where 18,000 LED points of light were installed in the chandelier.

There was nothing new about last year’s red carpet. According to Hershkowitz, not only was it made of entirely recyclable materials, but it was used in 2012 too — and the plan is to roll it out in 2014. Recycled goods were part of the invitations as well as napkins for the Governor’s Ball. In the Dolby Theater, where the ceremony is held, easily accessible recycling bins were implemented to allow backstage workers to recycle throughout the preparations. Out of the 50 tons of non-food waste as a result of last year’s awards show, and 70 percent of that was recycled. It is estimated that through paper-saving measures, like double-sided printing, 10,000 sheets of paper were saved.

The organizations kept things local for the Governor’s Ball menu, sourcing food from 80 farmers and obtaining seafood that had been certified by Seafood Watch. Any food that was prepared but not consumed was given to LA Specialty Chefs to End Hunger. Flowers were either composted or donated after being used.

Hershkowitz also pointed out the incredible platform for advancing sustainable initiatives the Oscars provides. As a large organization actively working to reduce its footprint, there are direct, positive effects on the environment. The publicity that goes along with this places “green” business practices at the forefront of discussion, and makes it a desirable trait for an organization or company.

It isn’t only the Academy and the NRDC getting in on the green action. Red Carpet Green Dress was founded in 2009 by Suzy Amis Cameron to be part of a new fashion trend: sustainability. Every year, a competition is held that asks designers for “more than just a pretty dress.” Entrants pay $50 to submit a sketch that raises eco-friendly awareness through fashion. (The fee goes to the MUSE School CA and the MUSE Global, another of Cameron’s projects.) The winning red carpet look is made from organic, sustainable, or recycled fabrics, and the winning designer is mentored by an established brand to help create the glamorous gown. This year, actress Olga Kurylenko will reveal the winning design, a dress by Alice Elia.

“As I reflect on the past five years of the campaign, my thoughts are immediately drawn to the challenges we’ve faced in creating these gorgeous sustainable gowns,” Amis Cameron said in a press release. “While there are still great strides to be made, it’s important to point out that there are a greater number of sustainable resources available to designers today than there were five years ago.”

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