Recycle, restore, reuse

Carefully created set decorations, such as the Sun King Louis XIV’s bed chamber in Versailles or a picturesque café in Provence or a student’s digs in the high-rise district often end up in a landfill after the director calls “cut” for the last time. Therefore set designers in France want to put an end to this waste of resources. The goals of the Eco-Déco creative network, which is supported by the industry collective Ecoprod, expressed its goals in its charter.


In order to maximally reduce the environmental impact of set design, it is necessary to ex- change information about innovative methods as well as environmentally friendly products and materials. Eco-Déco wants to create a laboratory/workshop where manufacturers can present their products and where users can share their experiences. A green list with eco-friendly products and materials and their corresponding supply sources is also planned.


The reuse, storage, and recovery of standard set decoration elements form the basis of sustainable set design. Circular value creation comes with ecological and economic advantages. The longer materials remain in the material cycle, the more resources are saved and waste and carbon emissions are avoided, which results in more economic benefits.


This principle served as an orientation for Philippe Boulenouard, a master carpenter who not only builds sets for French feature films by directors Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Claude Zidi but is also responsible for the introduction of the standardization of set construction in the film industry with his Les Trois Portes storage.


“Panels have the same standard dimensions so that they may be reused for set decora- tion”, says William Abello, one of the founders of Eco-Déco. “Thus, we save precious work time, but we consequently need more storage space.” Since creatives can’t afford expen- sive Parisian rents, they have been forced to move to the banlieues for cheaper commercial space. Based in the Paris suburbs Bagnolet and Montreuil, La Ressourcerie du Cinéma collects, restores, and rents recycled scrap lumber, doors, windows, flooring, and tiling. An interactive online catalogue offers a glimpse of the various styles, colors, and shapes of available windows, doors, and painted backdrops.




Matthieu Genin’s organization Arlequin Matériaux rescues recyclables from construction debris containers so that these materials can continue to circulate. The production designers are aiming to introduce legal regulations ensuring that every film studio will supply separate containers for different streams of waste. Ecoprod estimates that about 22 percent of all carbon emissions generated by a film production result from set decoration.


According to a recent Ecoprod study, the ecological footprint of the French film and media industry came to about 1.7 million tons of carbon emissions in 2018, which is equivalent to an automobile circumnavigating the earth 33,000 times. „Unless the audio-visual sector adopts more sober alternatives, the pressure on resources and the necessary reduction in greenhouse gas emissions will lead to a sudden, uncontrolled reduction”, the study concludes.


The economic and environmental resilience of the audio-visual sector depends on implementing organizational, technical, and behavioral solutions. Ecoprod will support creatives in this transition process, which will also offer new opportunities, developments, and possibilities for cooperation.


Photos: © William Abello/Eco-Déco

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