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GOING GREEN - Animated About The Environment: Pixar's Sustained Effort To Go Green

Posted By Amanda Jones and Biz Thorsen, Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The world knows Pixar Animation Studios for its hit films, like Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and Inside Out. But most don’t know about the studio’s eco-friendly practices. What began as a grassroots, employee-led effort 11 years ago has grown to a group of more than 100 employees called the Green Team. Their mission is simple: to encourage environmentally conscious actions from employees and the studio as a whole, as well as the local community surrounding Pixar in the East Bay area. 

The studio’s leaders have championed Green Team practices over the years, turning them into studio priorities. Ed Catmull, Pixar founder and president, served as the team’s executive sponsor until he retired this year. He passes the role to SparkShort Purl producer Gillian Libbert (p.g.a.), who helps shepherd Green Team initiatives from concept through implementation. “We put so much into every aspect of our filmmaking; it must also pertain to our environmental practices. It’s something we have to do because it is morally and ethically the right thing to do,” Libbert says.  

When it comes to Green Team initiatives, diverse perspectives matter. Animator and Green Team member Alli Sadegiani says, “Our members come from all over the studio. Environmental issues are so universal and multifaceted that it’s important to have as many voices and departments represented as possible.”

Interacting With Employees

At a studio with more than 1,200 employees, raising awareness about and reducing waste consumption is a key part of the Green Team’s environmental efforts.

Production Coordinator and Green Team member Biz Thorsen says, “It’s easy to ignore your consumption. We ask people, during Earth Week especially, to stop and notice.” Earth Week festivities range from environmentalist speakers and documentary screenings to local sustainable vendors. It’s also the time the Green Team aims to put its yearly agenda into action.  

A rather shocking Earth Week art installation in 2012 hung a week’s worth of disposable coffee cups in the main atrium, motivating a one-third reduction in paper cup usage by 2017. The installation in 2018 introduced the replacement of office trash cans with centrally located waste stations throughout campus. Not only did the initiative encourage better recycling and composting habits, but it also eliminated 1,300 plastic liners per day or 47 miles of plastic a year.  

The Green Team keeps busy well beyond April. They partner with the Pixar Cafe staff to promote Green Mondays, to highlight plant-based menu items. They also celebrate Bay Area Bike to Work Day, providing free bike tune-ups and complimentary smoothies for bike commuters. The team maintains an internal website, and all new-hire orientations include a Green Team introduction, encouraging people to join.

Interacting With the Studio

The Green Team credits a lot of its success to the support of the studio’s Facilities team. Pixar was the first company in Alameda County to supply compost, recycling and landfill waste stations. Facilities engineer, Brian Torres, makes sure to provide specialty recycling for common landfill items like batteries, electronics, light bulbs, ink cartridges, Styrofoam and plastics. These efforts pay off in a big way. In 2016, 59% of waste was diverted from landfills; by 2018, landfill diversion rose to 82.6%. Also in 2018, Alameda County StopWaste awarded Pixar’s Green Team with the Business Efficiency Award for Excellence in Waste Prevention & Reuse in recognition of their efforts. 

Patty Bonfilio serves as the new head of Facilities & Operations. She shares the team’s passion for creating a more sustainable daily operation of the studio, always seeking the newest technology. From water resources to energy use, Patty has had a profound impact (see side column).

The Cafe is another trusted partner of the Green Team. Chef Jennifer Johnston has always sought more sustainable, environmentally friendly practices. They transfer produce from biodiesel delivery trucks to cafe storage in reusable containers to reduce packaging waste. Their dishwashing machines use high heat sanitizing methods rather than chemical sanitizing that would go into the water supply. All single-use wrapping is compostable or recyclable. As Johnston says, “These decisions can’t happen in a vacuum. You have to spend just as much time getting the word out as changing the practice. And it has to be a core company value. Hopefully when employees leave here they’ve bought in; they’ve adopted the thinking on these practices and how it can translate to their own everyday lives and communities.”

Interacting With the Community

The Green Team is involved with the local community with cleanups, volunteering at the local elementary school lunch hour and teaching kids how to sort their food waste. Manager of Facilities Operations Pete Schreiber is another core member of the Green Team. “Participating in the local business community, exchanging ideas, what works, what doesn’t—it’s invaluable,” says Schreiber. 

Last year the studio hosted the first annual Day of Service for all employees to volunteer for a day in the community. The Green Team connected employees with the Oakland Zoo, the Golden Gate Audubon Society and Waterside Workshop.

Dreams for the Future

The Green Team has big dreams for the future. Their continued goals include finding a solution to the paper waste still used in the script department, removing any remaining plastic water bottle use, reducing lighting pollution at night, eliminating all single-use plastics studio-wide, switching to solar energy (actively underway) and making each film’s production carbon neutral, labelled with an official EMA Green Seal.

 

Additional Studio-Wide Improvements/Practices

Water

  • Pixar uses reclaimed water campus-wide. More than 65% of water is reclaimed. Faucets and toilets are all low-flow.

Cafe

  • All cooking oil is recycled and converted to biofuel.
  •  All food waste is scraped into a compost bin.
  • An on-site edible garden supplies the cafe with a portion of their veggies and herbs.
  • All single-use supplies (plates, bowls, utensils) are compostable.

Bathrooms

  • Janitorial supplies are EPA- and LEED-compliant, including facial tissue and roll towels.
  • Toilet paper and seat covers are 100% recycled.
  • All supplied feminine hygiene products are organic and sustainable.

Grounds

  • Office supplies are reused, passing from show to show.
  • Broken furniture and construction waste are recycled.
  • There are two E-Waste campus drives a year.
  • Tree and bush trim waste are composted off-site and used to make industrial compost.

Energy

  • Almost all common-area lighting is now LED technology
  • Exterior windows on campus are tinted and window film has been added on the south-facing windows to cool the buildings.
  •  The studio runs Bloom fuel cells to offset electrical usage, uses outside air as a form of “free-cooling” for their buildings, and an energy-efficient cooling system for their main data center. 

 

- Photos courtesy of Pixar Animation Studios

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