“The leaders of every single industry organization I deal with feel strongly about sustainability.”
Zena Harris first learned about corporate sustainability 20 years ago while she was working for a large corporation. “I was frustrated with how things were being done, and I knew there had to be a better way.” After studying organizational psychology, she decided to pursue a master’s degree in sustainability and environmental management from Harvard University.
In graduate school, she realized that the film industry was lagging behind when it came to sustainability, and so she started to do some research to develop some best practices. It just so happened that she moved from Boston to Vancouver, where she discovered a strong film and television industry. “It was a right-place, right-time scenario. I started to work on set, focusing on sustainable production work. I could see where the gaps were, and I made it my mission to fill those gaps and help the industry transition.”
Zena started Green Spark Group to help educate people in the film industry around sustainability. “When I talk to people about climate change, it’s so overwhelming for them. There are so many things to do, but I try and put their mind at ease. If you just think about two or three things you can do right now, that makes it more manageable. That’s how we change behaviour.”
Changing behaviour is an education process. Most recently, Zena’s been trying to shift people’s ideas around donating food. “For a lot of them, they get hung up on a perceived barrier. So I’m sharing stories about how other shows are donating food, and if I give them one good example, they get behind it.”
Zena believes people need to tell their stories to inspire each other about what’s possible. The Reel Green initiative focuses on bringing people together to inspire and catalyze a movement that will transform an industry. “The way our industry has been able to become an icon and shift our culture in various ways is through storytelling and inspiration. We need the data, but people need to hear it in inspiring ways.”
B.C. is known as a sustainable production centre, recognized for the resources and efforts put toward sustainability – and it has become part of the dialogue in Vancouver. Organizations like CreativeBC are stepping up to help spread the word. “Creative BC provides a space to discuss sustainability. They spend time being thoughtful about how this could best be incorporated in the industry. They are willing to get out there and talk about it, both locally and internationally.”
What is needed now is scalability when it comes to educating everyone around sustainable practices and their impact. The more we talk about this, the more people become aware. “This industry loves a challenge, and we need to challenge them to do more. We really do need to act more urgently. There’s a big crisis on our hands and we all need to act a little bit more mindfully, with more intent to reduce our impact. It’s such a creative industry that when you empower people with information and give them the tools and resources to act on their ideas, great things can happen.”