Target and EcoSet: TV Commercials Can Be Green Too

Many retailers these days have made significant progress in reducing their impacts on the environment. From implementing alternative energy to fuel their operations to carrying eco-friendly products, retailers are increasingly going green. However, Target and eco-consulting firm EcoSet, are taking it further by making television ads eco-friendly as well.

Target, which already carries a number of eco-friendly products, has teamed up with EcoSet to produce TV advertisements that are more environmentally responsible. The firm claims to have the ability to prevent 90% of waste produced on the set from ending up in landfills without interfering or costing production crews time or extra money. Also, since TV ad shoots last only a few days, crews usually do not take the time or put in the effort to clean up after the shoot. With tight schedules, why clean up if it takes up as much time as the shoot itself? This is where EcoSet comes in.

EcoSet is comprehensive in achieving its goals. On the set, there is not a single plastic water bottle; everyone is given a reusable, stainless steel water container. For Target shoots, everyone gets a red bottle labeled with a Target logo. Filtered water dispensers are provided for everyone to refill their water containers when necessary. How many times do people open a water bottle, take a sip, put the bottle down somewhere, leave, then come back and wonder which bottle was theirs? Then, just to be safe, they open up a new, sealed water bottle, and might repeat the whole process again. The use of reusable water containers and water dispensers would help eliminate this problem, which wastes water and plastic.

EcoSet also provides numerous recycling solutions. Waste from the set and office are recycled. Hazardous and electronic waste are also properly disposed of or recycled.

EcoSet also has composting bins to compost any food waste, which can be a big problem. In some cases, this problem has prompted groups to launch campaigns against production crews that waste food. For instance, Australian chef Matt Moran was angered when the prosciutto-wrapped chicken dish he prepared as a demonstration was tossed into the trash by a crew member.

Although the profanity-laced incident was admittedly staged, it emphasizes the problem with food waste. Chef Moran later explained, “I was more than happy to be involved in something so controversial if it meant that the message of food waste would be brought to the top of Australians’ minds.” Food waste can be used as compost; however, some chefs, especially those that spend much time and effort putting together dishes they are proud of, may be irked at the sight of their labors being composted and used to feed plants instead of being enjoyed by people.

Speaking of food, all dishware and utensils used on the set are either reusable or plant-based. Plant-based utensils are composed of renewable materials such as rice, corn, potatoes, and sugarcane. These utensils will biodegrade within 100 days, compared with traditional plastic utensils that take hundred or even thousands of years to decompose, taking up space in ever crowding landfills. These plant-based utensils usually conform to DIN CERTCO, ASTM, and ISO standards, assuring that they actually decompose in a timely manner as claimed.

Lastly, EcoSet has helped Target donate construction materials that are no longer needed on the set to various art and education organizations. Materials have been used for a variety of projects. Cindy Saucedo Smith, program coordinator for the organization ArtStart, has seen kids use materials such as silver cooling tubes as part of robot costumes. Says Smith, “The kids can go crazy when they see stuff like that, so we’ll hold on to it for the fall and see if there are suggestions for eco-costumes.”

As retailers may launch TV ads that claim how environmentally responsible they are, it is even better if producing these ads are green as well.

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Spotlight on HBO Documentary: “Mann v. Ford”

A new documentary that recently debuted on HBO illustrates how, once again, large corporations can take advantage of the “little guy” and, unfortunately, get away with it.  

Maro Chermayeff and Micah Fink’s documentary, Mann v. Ford, follows in a line of other like documentaries such as The Last Mountain, Inside Job, and many others.  This particular story, however, focuses on the Ford Motor Company and the Ramapough Native American tribe living in the woods of Ringwood, New Jersey.

As it turns out, this particular story begins in 1955, when the Ford Motor Company began working at a newly erected factory located in Mahwah, New Jersey (just a short drive away from the city of Manhattan).  Because of the company’s size and the power it held, many of the company’s dirty little secrets went unmonitored.  An example of such would be the car company’s knack for producing (and disposal of) large of amounts of toxic materials.  These materials included dioxin, arsenic, lead, Freon, and automotive spray paint runoff. 

By 1967, the Ringwood forested areas had become the elected dumping ground for the now truckloads of waste leaving the facility.  As for the native Ramapough tribe…they were left as victims to decisions that were out of their hands.

While the poisonous grime quickly infiltrated the tribe’s every day lives and dealings, the declining health of the community began to take its toll.  By the time 1971 rolled around, the dumping had stopped—but not because of the sudden emergence of the Ford Company’s conscience, instead it was because the plant had to be shut down. 

Where Ford got to pick up their bags and head out of town, the people still living in the area were left contaminated and unable to give up the land they held for multiple generations. Due to a collective low income rate and health issues, the natives were left to stew in all sorts of un-pleasantries like cancers, kidney problems, skin conditions and rashes, missing teeth, and diabetes.

It became such an issue that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) became involved with the site.

Gathering behind an important member of the Ramapough populations, a gentleman named Wayne Mann, the filmmakers show how the Ramapough people gathered around their newly erected hero.  Mann emerged as their go-to representative to help lead their fight through the tough court system.  

Mann, it is noted by prosecutor Vicki Gilliam, was also chosen not only for his charisma and standing within the community, but also because of the stylistic “man vs. large corporation” feel that his surname added to the mix.

And according to Chermayeff, Mann also viewed the crimes as more than just simple negligence of their operations—but rather as a meditated attack against his people.  In other words—a hate crime.

“He feels there was an intentional disregard for his community,” states Chermayeff in an interview to HBO.  “They were selected. Ford didn’t dump on a middle class community down the road.  They chose where they were going to dump and did so continuously: mines, rivers, even on people’s lawns.  And they did so because it was a powerless community—Native American, poor, and lacking any political clout.  That’s the basis for environmental racism.”

Over the five years that the documentary covers, it eventually finds its ways into the courtrooms.  However—where it may be expected that in some Hollywood-like style, the judge would rule in favor of Mann and his peers, sparking explosions of jubilance throughout the courtroom and the streets—this is, sadly, not the ending that they all got. 

Instead, the case was lightly brushed off, with the judge urging the two sides to reach an agreement outside of the courtroom.

Although the turn of events seem clearly unsuccessful on the part of the prosecuting team, it just shows that once again those with the deeper pockets beat out those with the louder voices.  

Even so, Chermayeff hopes that at the very least, the case will inspire many other people to become educated on the things that are taking place within their own communities and what they, as citizens, can do to make their environment better.

For more information on the film, visit the documentary’s site on the HBO homepage:

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