Greening the Festival: GreenMBA student report

On March 3-6, 2011 the first ever San Francisco Green Film Festival premiered, with a goal to inspire environmental action through media arts. Another important aspect to a Green Film Festival is that the event itself was Green.

So, what does it mean to be a Green Event?

Dominican University of California GreenMBA Candidates Robin Carew, Angela Bohl, Sasha Fedulow attended the SF Green Film Festival to find out more: “We were very curious to learn the festival’s greening efforts, especially since this is the first film festival in San Francisco to target green-minded audiences over the course of four days. What were some of the considerations to choose the event locations? How do they integrate technology? Do they practice green choices in their offices? What model do they set for other events? To help understand the answers, Rachel Caplan, the Founder and Executive Director of the SF Green Film Festival, shared their green practices in this Greening Report.”

San Francisco Green Film Festival 2011 Greening Report by the students of the Dominican University of California GreenMBA April 11, 2011

Venue Selection 

Festival Venues: Landmark Theares Embarcadero Center Cinema & the Bently Reserve. When considering venues for the 1st Annual SF Green Film Festival, the relative location to public transportation was a factor. In San Francisco, the public transportation options considered were:

  • Public Transportation: BART, MUNI, Ferry Terminal, CalTrain
  • Bicycling: Market Street/Embarcadero green bicycle lane
  • Walking: Local hotels, restaurants and amenities within walking distance
  • Parking: Near major freeways with free parking on weekends

Opening Night Gala  

Opening Night Green Carpet Gala

photo by Tommy Lau

The opening night gala was held at the Bently Reserve, which has LEED silver certification. Guests entered on a “Green Carpet” made with FLOR tiles, which are made of recycled content. The venue was decorated with lighting on the walls and ceiling from low-energy LEDs.

Several of the the art installations were created by artists of Recology’s "Artists in Residence Program" creating sculptures from materials reclaimed from SF dump. Another art installation from the Surfrider Foundation was a surfboard within a plastic wave, made of trash found on the beach. "Bag Monsters" were roaming the crowd to instill the perils of single-use plastic bags. There were environmental photo exhibits from Douglas Gayeton and Jake Gescheidt, and a bicycle-powered DJ set from Rock the Bike.The guests had the opportunity to pedal the bike which powered it (and the music!) 100%.

Guests enjoyed food and beverages, including beer, wine, liquor, and soda, provided by local, sustainable vendors (see full list here). The beer was served from kegs, so there were no beer bottles to recycle. There was no plastic serving ware or utensils. This was especially powerful, having just watched "Bag It". All glassware, plates, and silverware were rented. There were bins for compost and recycling (none for landfill). Leftover food was taken home by festival team members - none ended up in the compost. Water bottles were not provided, a tap water station was provided instead.

One more detail item: Rachel Caplan, the Founder and Executive Director of the SF Green Film Festival, and Daniela Rible, the Deputy Director, wore vintage or second-hand dresses to the gala. 

On-Site Food & Beverages 

At each on-site location, local and organic soups, salads, sandwiches, coffee and more were provided at the “cinema café” . Cinema Café is run by students from a local culinary academy. Guests were also encouraged to fill their own water bottle at the provided taps at the Bently Reserve. The Landmark Theatre has water fountain available near the restrooms for refilling, too. Landmark Embarcadero Cinemas and onsite recycling includes: courtesy cups, drink cups, popcorn bags, straws; the popcorn in composted. The festival provided compostable-only products on-site at the Bently Reserve (100% corn cups, 100% recycled napkins). They used coolers/ice used to chill beverages, with no on-site refrigeration. With all these considerations and the effort of the festival’s planning, the total waste at the end of the four day event was:

  • 3 x 96 gallon recycling/blue bins
  • 4 x 64 gallon compost/green bins
  • ½ of one x 96 gallon landfill/black bin

Festival merchandise

Marketing Materials 

The SF Green Film Festival took much consideration with their marketing materials. For example, all their posters, programs, and paper materials where printed on 30% minimum post-consumer recycled paper. They practiced minimal printing and shipping whenever possible, and used electronic communication as a preference. For festival signage and sponsor materials, the festival organizers were creative in mounting them on old poster-boards from the Landmark Cinema, so no new foam core or cardboard was used. The organizers also thought ahead: they provided drop-off box where guests could deposit their passes to be used again next year. The only vinyl banner they had contains no dates on it so that it, too, can be used again each year. The 'Green Tenacity Award' given to filmmaker Fredrik Gertten for "Bananas!*" is made from local, reclaimed wood. Festival


The festival organizers limited the number of products available for sale. And, the products they did have for sale were t-shirts and reusable grocery bags. The festival t-shirts were 100% organic cotton, fair trade, and made in USA. Festival reusable grocery bags were courtesy of ChicoBag

Festival Hotel & Tranportation 

Festival guests stayed at the Hotel Carlton, the first hotel in the US to receive the prominent LEED-EB O&M Gold certification, and only hotel in SF to use solar panels. Festival guests were transported from the airport and hotel in hybrid/electric plugin vehicles courtesy of City CarShare

Digital Media 

All festival films were shown on DVD or Blu-Ray. Did you know that digital distribution–DVDs, while not a green medium, saves expense and has a lighter carbon footprint than making celluloid film prints, which may cost as much as $2000 each? As Digital Discs are used, their carbon footprint compared to 35mm the average pounds per shipment, shipments per year, mileage and vehicles used are greatly reduced. Shipping a DVD in mailbox and postman pick up, has no additional gas cost. Mailed DVD’s with postage is at around $1.10, in paper DVD case, while Netflix Dvd’s arrive perfectly in just an envelope no case. A 35mm movie is made of essentially the same film you use in your 35mm still camera at home, but it’s used vertically, and there are four perforations per frame instead of still’s eight perfs per frame. The film moves at 24 frames per second through the camera, and in the end the negative is cut up and glued together to make the edited film, and prints are made from that. There are 16 frames per foot; a 112 minute movie is over 160,000 frames and is over 10,000 feet in length! A film print is usually shipped on six to eight reels in two cans and weighs fifty to eighty pounds. Digital projection also offers advantages over traditional film projection such as lack of jitter, flicker, dust, scratches, and grain. offers increased flexibility with respect to showing trailers and pre-show advertisements and allowing theater owners to more easily move films between screens or change how many screens a film is playing on, and the higher quality of digital projection provides a better experience to help attract consumers who can now access high-definition content at home. A thread on cost and materials of a used 35mm film. 

More about the chemicals used in digital media: Chemical Composition of Photographic Film: Photographic film is a sheet of plastic (polyester, PET, nitrocellulose or cellulose acetate) coated with an emulsion containing light-sensitive silver halide salts (bonded by gelatin) with variable crystal sizes that determine the sensitivity, contrast and resolution of the film. When the emulsion is sufficiently exposed to light (or other forms of electromagnetic radiation such as X-rays), it forms a latent (invisible) image. Chemical processes can then be applied to the film to create a visible image, in a process called film developing. Also see this TED Talk and from Kodak. More about DVD’s: Wikipedia and from FujiFilm

Festival Office 

The festival office implements many green practices. Of the festival core team, very few own a car. Most of the team commutes to the office using public transit or works remotely. The team’s weekly status meetings are facilitated via Skype. The festival's main work space is in a green building with natural lighting, CFL or LED light bulbs, low flow toilets, low VOC paint etc. Furnishings are second-hand or donated. The office has used only 2 reams of recycled paper in the past 12 months, which they source from green suppliers. They take many measures to be a paper-free office. For example, they use paperless processes, such as electronic surveys, film submissions, volunteer applications, event registration—these are all exchanged using electronic forms. The used ticket print-outs from the festival will be reused in the office as scratch paper. To clean the office, only green products are used. All serving-ware is reusable or compostable, no disposables/plastic. The office has a large, reusable glass lemonade jar for office water station. The organization uses a local ‘green’ bank, New Resource Bank. The organization also runs a sustainable web site using the open source platform Wordpress and green web hosting by HostGator


“As students of the GreenMBA, we had a fantastic opportunity to attend and observe the greening practices of the SF Green Film Festival. The event had impact on its guests, by simply showing them green choices, and that small changes can make a big impact on the guest experience, and have a lower impact on the environment. We are looking forward to attending again next year.” --- SFGFF thanks the students of the GreenMBA for compiling this report.