Sunday, June 21, 2009

An Interview with Michelle Vey, Director of "From Elegance to Earthworms"

(Michelle Vey and Albe Zakes at Terracycle)

If you think New York City is a cesspool of unsustainability, then this documentary "From Elegance to Earthworms", will show you otherwise. The "concrete jungle" as some deem New York, is in fact proving to be fertile grounds for green ideas and new innovations. If you dig a little deeper, as Michelle Vey did- you'll find New York to be ironically quite eco-friendly. Vey takes the viewer on a journey of New York's growing eco-consciousness by profiling a collection of seven eco-friendly companies. She was kind enough to tell me a little more about herself and the film, and what she learned. Clips from the movie are below.

Vey was inspired to make this film because she realized she could do more good by supporting those people she admired who are taking larger actions than herself. The inspiration continued throughout her process- Vey was truly impressed and humbled by what she found. “There were many businesses and people willing to make personal and financial sacrifices in order to do things in an innovative and creative new way. They found ways to conserve power and resources to educate and to promote a healthier way of thinking and living!"

1. What did you gain from making this documentary?
I gained a great sense of hope for our planet and faith in humanity. I met caring, conscientious people who followed their ideas with commitment and action and the results are very impressive. These are some of the most truly inspiring companies.

2. Tell us about the companies you interviewed featured in the film.
Loyale, is an eco-friendly fashion line that bridges the gap between style and sustainability. Founder Jenny Hwa, keeps a strict standard for current trends and exquisite tailoring without sacrificing the environment. Loyale uses fabrics made from bamboo, organic cottons, and low impact dyes. One percent of Loyale's annual sales are donated to Green Corp.

(Jenny Hwa, founder of Loyale)

Bird Bath Bakery spares no expense in keeping their bakery on the cutting edge of green. Their shop is wind-powered and built with reclaimed wood and walls made of wheat. They use a non-polluting rickshaw delivery system, and the ingredients in their amazing baked goods are locally grown and/or organic. Owner Maury Rubin is well known for turning environmentally friendly and delicious food into a successful enterprise.

(Bird Bath Bakery Delivery via a Non-polluting Ricksaw)

Terracycle is an incredible company that turns garbage into a useful commodity! They use recycled plastic bottles and "end run" spray-heads to package their natural plant food made from worm castings. Unlike competing products, this organic fertilizer is safe for pets, children, and the earth. Tom Szaky, the young owner and founder of Terracycle, quit school at Princeton University to pursue his dream of becoming a successful eco-capitalist.

Other companies featured are…

Camilla Boutique, which offers a distinctive collection of eco-friendly fashions for men, women, and children + accessories, gifts and home goods.

Blue Marble Ice Cream serves organic ice cream, baked goods and coffee + tea. They are devoted to small farms and local food producers and hope to introduce their customers to the benefits of eating local- both in terms of quality and environmental impact.

Mean Green Trucking is a full service, earth friendly (sun powered, vegetable oil fueled) interstate moving company that plants a tree with every move. They are in New York and Los Angeles and can move you to the places in-between.

Hawthorne Valley Farm is a diversified Demeter-certified biodynamic farm located in mid-upstate New York. They have been producing high-quality, nutritious food for more than 35 years. Their biodynamic farming practices reflect their commitment to protecting the health of the earth and all who live on it. They have educational and outreach programs which strive to raise awareness of the social, ecological, and economic importance of agriculture in our daily lives.

3. How long did it take to produce the documentary?
Because almost everyone involved in the film had a full time job, it took almost a year to complete.
(From the Film... the infamous polar bear with no where to go!)

4. What caused you to become conscious of Climate-Change, it's affects on the environment, and peak oil?
My awareness of the harmful effects of pollutants probably really started to take hold when I was in my early twenties, but it was still in the back of my mind. By my late twenties I was very concerned and felt passionate about wanting to make a difference. How that awareness evolved and grew is hard to nail down. Somehow the information seeped in from different sources and stuck.

5. What are you working on now? Or what's next?
I have not started any new projects yet… but I would like to make another documentary that deals with similar subject matter. I am continuing to educate myself in the area of sustainability and like to surround myself with as many people as I can that are involved in the green movement.

6. Will you be showing the film again?
Yes. The founder of Green Spaces, Jenny Nevins and I are working on putting together a screening on the rooftop of their downtown Brooklyn location some time this summer. There are a few more possible screenings in the works (no details just yet): The Sustainable Planet Film Festival- October 2009, The Solar Powered Film Festival- September 2009, and at the Brooklyn Public Library. There are also a few educators who have shown interest in using the film in their classroom as a teaching tool.

(Animation from the film by Harrison Willett)

7. Has your awareness of the environment shaped your food choices? If so, how?
I have always been into healthy food, but now there are so many more issues to be concerned with in the area of what we eat. Our consumption is shaping the planet. For example, fish used to be a healthy choice, but now there is a limited variety of fish that we can eat guilt-free. Our oceans are being over-fished and polluted at a rapid pace. We have to be careful to choose the right fish for our bodies and for the environment.

8. Has anything changed since making the documentary?
I am more and more inspired to support sustainable changes.

9. What would your top suggestion be to others trying to lesson their carbon footprint?
Take public transportation. Buy Organic products. Eat organic food and limit your meat consumption.

(Animation from the film by Harrison Willett)

10. What do you see for the future of NYC in five? 10 years?
In the pass couple of years it seems New Yorkers are starting to get on board with the idea of sustainability. I see signs of it in every area of life, from hybrid taxicabs and architecture, to clothing and food. New York is usually the place that things happen first, and is known for its fast pace and competitive edge. I can only hope it will try to keep up its reputation as a leader and aggressively transform into a cleaner and healthier place to live.

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