With an increasing number of filmmakers starting out their careers after studying cinema in school, it’s interesting to investigate what trends towards environmental sustainability are taking place at the University of Toronto (U of T). Although Kay Armatage, acting Director of the Cinema Studies Institute at Innis Town Hall says that U of T’s program “is primarily…academic…we do not teach filmmaking here”; the University does count among its graduates Atom Egoyan, David Cronenberg, Don McKellar, Arthur Hiller and Norman Jewison.
The Cinema Studies Institute follows some office protocol for reducing, reusing and recycling and they will discuss adapting better environmental practices within their program in the fall. But as she shared, some simple facts prevail: “the professors still like to read a paper that is printed and tangible versus reading it on the computer screen.”
Next stop, the Centre for Sustainability, which has a mandate of reaching beyond just the film community to all the different departments within U of T with education and implementation. Beth Savan, the Sustainability Director and Research Director at the Centre for the Environment at U of T, says that they are “committed to developing a culture of sustainability at the University of Toronto that is integrated and reflected in all its functions and operations, and also results in tangible environmental, economic and social benefits.”
Savan is working closely with Chris Lea who is the Director of Facilities at Hart House, the ominous architectural glory that houses the majority of the international documentary film festival events for Hot Docs, and many Toronto International Film Festival private par- ties. Lea has worked at Hart House for the past six years and is deeply rooted with an environmental sustainability mission. He has over a decade of experience in environmental work and was the leader of the Green Party of Canada (1990-96) where they advocate environ- mentalism as the key to a sustainable society.
Situated in Lea’s bailiwick is the Hart House Film Board (HHFB), which has a few hundred members, all aspiring filmmakers in various genres. With a recent relocation of their edit suites and office space, Rick Palidwor, the Program Advisor, working with Dagny Thompson, the Technical Director, and myself, as the Environmental Sustainability Director for the Film Board, decided to follow my lead and take the first steps in making the HHFB environmentally sustainable.
With the help of Chris Lea and his enthusiasm to make the best choices that are environmentally sustainable, the Film Board was able to purchase chairs from Herman Miller, whose company philosophy is to create lean manufacturing, reduce cost and improve efficiency in manufacturing. The HHFB painted the walls with NO–VOC paints made by Sico, an environmentally friendly Canadian company. (Paints can be made from highly carcinogenic or neurotoxic compounds that send polluting smog and headache inducing fumes into the atmosphere, which we, in turn, breathe.)
Creating a safe indoor air quality in spaces where one can be editing for hours is very important to one’s health and ability to have a sustainable work session. Palidwor also feels that since the Film Board at Hart House works with a lot of young students, “we have a chance to instill green habits at the beginning of their filmmaking careers and if we start to change the habits of the next generation now, we can lay the foundation of a more sustainable future for this industry.”
Chris Lea is fully committed to the Hart House Sustainability Plan, “as an initiative that will require Clubs and Committees to be much more mindful of the waste and greenhouse gases their activities generate, and to think about educational opportunities that they might have as they think ahead for the future,” thus leading Hart House and U of T into a more sustainable future.