At Target's recent Halloween commercial shoot in Minneapolis, plastic pumpkins, artificial fall leaves, plastic gravestones and red, stainless steel Target-logo-embossed water bottles set the scene for a spooky and environmentally friendly set.
The water bottles are part of the Minneapolis-based retailer's partnership with EcoSet, a North Hollywood-based company with Minneapolis roots that helps with waste management and recycling during film productions. It sets up compost and recycling stations, and even a bin to recycle electronic waste such as batteries, film and CDs.
Commercial shoots have the potential to be particularly wasteful. Everything is temporary, built for that particular commercial with little to no shelf life afterward.
A typical commercial shoot generates nearly 1,000 pounds of waste, the same an average person generates in a year, according to EcoSet.
Since 2009, when Target and EcoSet began working together, they have diverted 56 tons of waste in 53 commercial shoots worldwide from Los Angeles to Minneapolis to Italy and the Caribbean. More than 40,000 plastic water bottles have not been used, because of EcoSet's stainless steel bottles.
"Eighty percent is either donated, recycled, composted or repurposed," said Megan Dobratz, client program strategist and environmental consultant for EcoSet. "Someone needs to be in charge of doing this, and we're able to take the burden off other people."
For Target, it is one small piece of a broad sustainability effort throughout the company. And each adds up.
"Many of Target's environmental initiatives -- like recycling at Target stores, offering our guests a 5-cent discount for bringing a reusable bag, or partnering with EcoSet -- all focus on small changes that can be made through a long-term commitment to sustainability," said Shawn Gensch, vice president of marketing in an e-mail.
The partnership "allows us to expand environmentally friendly practices into our production shoots through actionable steps that make an immediate impact."
From start to finish the EcoSet crew is on hand to help. Target shoots typically take one or two days, and EcoSet works with everyone from the production crew to the creative department to the caterers to gain a sense of what can be repurposed and what can be diverted.
Food is typically 50 percent of waste on a commercial shoot, so EcoSet's compost bin is a one-stop shop for uneaten food and paper plates. Film props such as wood, paint, set walls and wardrobe are taken to the Target warehouse for future shoots.
"We don't force anyone to do anything, but we try to help the crew make correct choices," said Kris Barberg, account manager for EcoSet. "It's composting, recycling and keeping a clean set, but it also goes further in people's lives."
EcoSet also helps find local organizations that could use items from the sets.
"Every time you look at a Target commercial they will probably wind up being of benefit to someone else who is in need," said Erika Backberg, donations director and sustainable business manager for EcoSet. "We divert things but also connect these amazing items to people and give it to them for free."
Youth and arts and education organizations have been past benefactors of the partnership, as well as independent film companies, schools, theatres and community shelters. Backberg said that whichever group can give the donations the longest life cycle is most sought after. Target has donated to more than 100 organizations through EcoSet.
ArtStart, a local group that makes reusable materials available for art projects for individuals working with children, received 4 pounds of silver cooling tubes from the Halloween commercial.
Cindy Saucedo Smith, program coordinator for ArtStart, said kids can use them for robot arms. "The kids can go crazy when they see stuff like that, so we'll hold on to it for the fall and see if there are suggestions for eco-costumes."