Production designers can create new worlds that look amazing on screen. But the film crew sometimes leave behind a big mess. When production wraps and films set are destroyed, tons of garbage is produced. Instead of using stacks of Styrofoam or toxic plastic, there are eco-friendly materials that are already being used by other industries. Ecovative is an innovative U.S. company that has specialized in adapting natural processes for the creation of sustainable materials. With Myco Foam and Myco Board, this East-Coast production outfit has developed a cost-effective, eco-friendly mushroom material that can be used for packaging, furniture design, and even building construction. Ecovative’s technology, which it has patented in the U.S. as well as internationally, uses fungal mycelium to transform agricultural waste products into durable biologically-composite materials.
“Mycelium is an amazing material, because it’s a self-assembling material”, emphasizes Eben Bayer, CEO and Co-Founder of Ecovative. “It actually takes things we would consider waste — things like seed husks or woody biomass — and can transform them into a chitinous polymer, which you can form into almost any shape.” By using mycelium as glue, objects can be molded as in the plastics industry. “You can create materials with many different properties”, the Tech Pioneer points out.
“Materials that are insulating, fire-resistant, moisture-resistant, vapor-resistant — materials that can absorb impacts, that can absorb acoustical impacts.” Since mycelium is naturally fire resistant, it has earned a Class-A fire rating by ASTM E84, the standard test method for the surface burning characteristics of building materials. “This a huge benefit to set designers”, says Melissa Jacobsen, Ecovative’s Director of Strategic Communications, “because there is no need to add any toxic chemicals or source materials that have these additives.”
The recipe for growing Myco Foam may be compared to that of baking a cake with yeast. The ingredients, corn stover and mycelium, provided by Ecovative in a pre-mixed bag, can be brought to life with some water and flour and then be poured into any chosen mold. “You actually grow the mycelium through these particles, and that’s where the magic happens, because the organism is doing the work in this process, not the equipment”, explains Bayer. Once it’s done growing, the material will be baked to stop the growth process.
“Our vision is local manufacturing, like the local food movement, for production”, says Bayer who, together with Ecovative co-founder Gavin McIntyre, created formulations for use throughout the world by using indigenous regional agricultural byproducts. “If you’re in China, you might use a rice husk or a cottonseed hull. If you’re in Northern Europe or North America, you can use things like buckwheat husks or oat hulls.”
Because these materials are grown from agricultural byproducts instead of petroleum, they are 100% compostable. As a protective packaging product, Mushroom® Packaging is being used by companies like Dell. Furthermore, these Eco pioneers are manufacturing replacements for particleboard, plywood, and fiberboard. Ecovative binds particles together with natural resin so that the material is urea-formaldehyde free and environmentally safe. Current applications include furniture, work surfaces, molded furniture components, seatbacks, cabinetry and billboards. “Myco Board could make a great alternative for production sets”, concludes Jacobsen. “Today, we’re mainly making custom molded furniture components and other molded shapes, but we’re also adding larger panel production capabilities. Interested set designers should contact us to get the conversation started.”
“The time for half-measures and climate denial is over. Unless we move quickly away from fossil fuels, we’re going to destroy the air we breathe, the water we drink, the health of our children, grandchildren and future generations. If we’re going to avoid the worst of the impacts, then we’ve just got to act boldly. And we must act immediately."
Actor, Director, Producer, Environmentalist
"The media has a powerful role to play in the fight against climate change. Through films, television, and all media outlets, we must continue to deliver the message that solutions are out there and are happening now. We have to make it attractive for people to take action. Movies like Avatar, The Day After Tomorrow, and documentaries like Years of Living Dangerously, which I was proud to be a part of, have been very popular, reaching and inspiring millions of people. And I believe films in particular can really inspire and make people want to take action. It’s great to see some of my film-industry friends working with climate related organizations to push forward those messages."
„It‘s high time to reorganize film production in Germany in a ‚greener‘ and more sustainable way. So far, I am flabbergasted by how much our industry works in environmentally harmful ways.To this very day, it starts with until today one-sided print-outs of scripts, and then it continues with plastic bottles in production offices and lots of plastic waste with every catered meal, and it doesn‘t stop with the limousines that pull up to a red carpet.
For many years, people have sneered at me when I brought my own cup or I declined to eat cheap meat served on paper or plastic plates with plastic knives and forks. It would be great if the Green Shooting Card could change all that.“
Director (Ben X, Time of My Life)
„It’s absolutely great that filmmakers all over the world are trying to clean up their act, and are trying to film as sustainable as we possibly can. Still, I think we shouldn’t underestimate the incredible power of the moving image to also change the hearts and minds of people.
So, apart from trying to be more environmentally aware in our business, I think the big gain lies in how we might make everyone more environmentally aware. Yes, cinema can change the world.
I think filmmakers should start using the powerful weapon in our hands that is the camera.
Let’s not only try to do ‘less bad’. Let’s try to do right, and help drive the change that we all know needs to arrive.“
“We are living in a time in which we can’t afford to behave irresponsibly towards nature. The more important is it that film productions try to work as environmentally friendly as possible. A film team produces every day tons of garbage. I try to avoid using plastic cups on set, I bring my own cup, use ecofriendly cosmetics and avoid needless single rides.”
Photo ® Maddalena Arosio
Darren Aronofsky, Director, Noah / Jury President, 65th Berlin International Film Festival
“When we did Noah we knew we were making a film about the first steward of the earth, so we wanted to be good stewards ourselves. There’s so much waste on film sets. Because of groups like Earth Angel, we were able to change that a little bit.”
"As a TV and film producer I try to incorporate environmental storylines into my projects as much as possible. But it’s just as important, if not more, to ‚go green‘ behind the scenes! Therefore, I help run the Producers Guild of America’s Green Initiative.
We provide resources such as a Best Practices and a Carbon Calculator to help producers green their productions. We also partnered with all the major studios to create www.greenproductionguide.com which is a free green vendor database with over 2,000 vendors offering sustainable production solutions worldwide!"
Producer, Director and Visual Effects Supervisor (2001: A Space Odysee, Blade Runner)
"Trumbull Studios in Massachusetts is dedicated to being green as much as possible, including the use of LED lighting, solar power, and solar laptops. This is not just because our location has limited amperage and no three-phase, we believe we have a responsibility to our community and our planet to be a clean industry.
We are planning for digital photography in 3D 4K at 120 frames per second from remote and inaccessible locations that will not have available power. Solar is the way to go."
Dieter Kosslick, Director Berlin International Film Festival
„The Berlinale is already actively addressing the sustainability subject since years. We appreciate it very much that a growing number of filmmakers, among them this year‘s jury presiden Darren Aranofsky, is following green guidelines on set.“
Director of Photography (A Most Wanted Man)
‘I never have been told precisely what the rules are for shooting a green movie, but we are trying to do it. This is something new for me. Sometimes people overlight scenes at night. I don’t. If I can see with my own eyes, then it is enough for the film. In that sense I am a green DoP.’
Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons who stars in the Berlinale Competition entry The Night Train To Lisbon is a fan of source segregated recycling. „Especially in Germany you have done a lot for that. You are examplary in the matter of waste separation.“
The Hollywood actor travelled around the world to promote the environmntal documentary feature film Trashed by Candida Brady which deals with the global garbage problem: „We buy it, we bury it, we burn it and then we ignore it“, says Brady. „With Jeremy Irons as our guide, we discover what happens to the billion or so tons of waste that goes unaccounted for each year.“
Since the world premiere at the International Cannes Film Festival in 2012 Trashed picked up various nominations and awards at international festivals.
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