Curbing Production Waste with Film Biz Recycling’s Eva Radke

August 8, 2014

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome back to Green is Good, and I’m so honored to have my friend back on the show, Eva Radke. She’s the President and founder of Film Biz Recycling, and you can check out all the cool things Eva’s doing at FilmBizRecycling.org. Welcome back to Green is Good, Eva. EVA RADKE: Thank you for having me, John. I’ve missed you. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Oh man, I miss you, too, but I’ve been following you and you’ve been blowing it up. You have been blowing it up in Brooklyn and I’m so excited and I’m so proud of what you’ve been doing. Before we get into all the cool things that you’ve been up to over the years and the awards that you’ve won, I want you to share though for our listeners that didn’t hear our first show together about five years ago now, I want you to share a little bit of the Eva Radke story, how you even came to this place and you started this amazing company, Film Biz Recycling. EVA RADKE: Okay, I’ll put it in a nutshell for you. So, I was in the film industry, mainly in the art department, for 15 years. I saw a lot of our props and wardrobe and stuff going into landfills. I knew that it was wrong. I knew that there were families that needed these items and I knew putting it into landfills was wrong, creating pollution and not on my watch so the first thing I did, I started an online group so we could share things virtually. Then I realized it also needed a place to go so we got a brick and mortar space. That’s when you and I first spoke. It was 2,100 feet up two flights of stairs. Five years later, we’re in 11,000 square feet and we have 11 employees and we’re diverting waste in 11 different cities using that platform that we used before. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Unbelievable, and I’m so proud of you and so excited for you, but there’s even some bigger news. This year, you won the EPA’s Environmental Media Award for Environmental Quality. What does this really mean for you, for your company, and for all the hard work you’ve put in over the years? EVA RADKE: It was the ultimate validation, I have to say. When you have no model, when no one has done this before, when you don’t have anyone to guide you in the right direction because it’s a new idea, you don’t know if you’re a fool or if you’re a genius or on the right track and so when the EPA reached out to this for their Environmental Quality Award, I was stunned and surprised and happy for the entire industry. Obviously, the EPA is going to recognize the efforts of reuse and redistribution and keeping things out of landfills as an industry as a whole, then yes, let’s keep going and it’s a great way to convince others in the industry that aren’t quite hip on what we’re doing yet that what we’re doing is legitimate and we’re actually making a difference. I have to say it’s my proudest moment. JOHN SHEGERIAN: It’s like one of the coolest websites on the planet. For our listeners out there who want to follow along like I am, it’s FilmBizRecycling.org so Eva, for our listeners out there that didn’t have the benefit of first learning what you were doing when you started your company, what are you doing actually? What is the business model and what are you doing every day? EVA RADKE: Okay, so our input into our warehouse is a very niche market. It’s only from film, television, theater, any sort of production where you like build a circus and you tear it down. We take all of our materials in, most of which goes to our charity partners. For instance, we have a women’s shelter that gets our towels and appliances and things that they need to run a house because they’re starting their lives over and they need these packages. Anything that is animal related goes to our shelters so we divide it all up. If we need to recycle it, we take it to the e-waste warehouse. If it’s clothing, we take it to a textile recycler that we’ve partnered with so we just make these strategic partnerships and take everything in, send it down the right chute, but to create revenue for ourselves and pay our rent, etcetera, etcetera, we also have an amazing shopping experience of 11,000 square feet in Brooklyn where you can come shop the props. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow, so when shows are done using clothing and props and furniture, they all go to you? EVA RADKE: We’re open to do that. We definitely don’t capture 100%. I wish that we did. I probably would need a bigger warehouse, but since 2008, we’ve collected over 500 tons and it’s about 10 tons a month now that comes in and at the end of the week, there’s only half-a-bag of landfill. It’s like tape and photographs and chip bags and that’s about it, so we find a good home whether it’s recycled, reused, redistributed for every single little bitty thing down to the last toothpick. JOHN SHEGERIAN: For our New York listeners or our listeners in the New York metropolitan area that want to come to your warehouse, if they come to your warehouse, what’s the experience gonna be like? Give us the virtual tour of the store right now today on the show of the warehouse. What’s it gonna feel like and what can they buy or see in your warehouse today? EVA RADKE: Well, first of all, it’s a visual extravaganza. This all comes from film and television and from the art directors’ eye so it’s all really amazing. There’s like vintage furniture, trees painted bright orange. There’s flora everywhere. We have wonderful clothing straight from the 80s that we’re having a party for on Friday. We have artwork and we have vintage phones and media. We have everything from VHS to records and we have tape decks, lighting, carpeting, neon. Crème de la crème of the most beautiful and interesting, it’s here. I have heard more than 10 times that this is people’s happy place. This place is gorgeous. It’s interesting and fascinating and it’s a look into sort of the bowels of the film industry. What do we do with all this stuff? It’s unbelievable. I can’t wait for you to come in here. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is so cool. I’m coming this year and I’m coming this summer and I can’t wait to go for a tour and I’m just so excited because what you’re doing I think is so important for our important and it’s so important for all of us in terms of a sustainable economy and a sustainable world. I think it’s just so great and talk a little bit about you just had the Golden Dumpster Awards. What is that and what are they and who’s won the Golden Dumpster Awards? EVA RADKE: Well, we had our second annual Golden Dumpster Awards and I have to say this is the perfect fantasy of mine. It’s a little tongue in cheek. The entertainment loves to pat itself on the back but we recognize people, productions, and businesses for environmental achievements so for instance, Emily O’Brien of Earth Angel, who’s boots on the ground diverting the waste on films herself. She started this little company, an ecopreneur, and we recognize her because she is providing us with metrics, which is something we really need. Metrics are so important. We really recognize the PGA who out a fascinating report that proved over and over and over again that going green in film will save you green. They said no more excuses, producers. It’s not more expensive to go green, to be sustainable. Pulp Art Services, they produce a recycled product that replaced the PVC that Phoenix used so it was like 40,000 gallons of oil are now saved because of this recycled paper product. Then, Noble Lumber, which is our local lumber company in town, switched their lewon to only FSC-certified lewon, which is huge so when we see that our peers are doing these and making these strives, we have to recognize them and it’s a great excuse to get all of these green babes and babettes and dudes in the same room with a cocktail dress and a drink and celebrate and energize us to keep going and go on further. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Of all the stuff that you get out of just the New York studios and all the New York television and movies that’s being filmed or do you also get stuff from other parts of the country and other parts of the world? EVA RADKE: Just New York. If someone said, ‘I’m in LA and I want to give this to you,’ I would say, ‘Just give it to your local reuse,’ because the carbon to get it to me isn’t worth it. I don’t want that. I want it to be local. JOHN SHEGERIAN: But it’s just so amazing how big you’ve grown the business and it’s just New York based and it’s just so fascinating, from 2,700 feet to 11,000 square feet. That’s just a great story and all the awards and this year’s EPA Environmental Quality Awards is just amazing. Talk a little bit about this year’s upcoming in the fall the Eco Expo. What is that, and who’s gonna be there in the fall and what does that all mean? EVA RADKE: Well, this will be our fourth year of The Golden Dumpster and now we do the Eco Expo in November and that is just an industry-centric outreach and education evening out so last year was lumber and so this year, we’re gonna talk about fuel. We’re gonna talk about trucking. We’re gonna talk about biodiesel so we’re inviting the teamsters. We’re inviting the generator companies. There’s some that will never go bio, they say, and some that are trying really hard. They’re going B5 or B10 so we just want to have this conversation. We talk about idling. I’m actually gonna have a visual like here’s what a cubic ton of carbon looks like. It’s this size and every five minutes is this so we’re just gonna make it easy to understand why when we say stop idling, it isn’t because we’re bossy. It’s because it’s important. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Got it. For our listeners who just joined us, we’ve got Eva Radke. She’s the President and founder of Film Biz Recycling. To check out more of what she’s doing, it’s FilmBizRecycling.org. Eva, when I first met you, you only had a couple of employees. How many employees do you have now? EVA RADKE: We have 11 now, 11 wonderful, wonderful guys. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So, now since you are the big boss, since you are the President and founder, talk a little bit about being an ecopreneur, a woman ecopreneur, a leader in sustainability. What’s your management style with your 11 employees as you grow and continue to scale your business? EVA RADKE: I would say that my management style is first of all, I’m gonna hire people who are genuinely good people who believe in what we’re doing because I think you can teach anybody everything and then what we do, once we do that and we get them trained, I give them a challenge, I give them creative freedom, and then I get out of their way with the knowledge that I still have veto power. I think that when you are satisfied with your work, you put more into it. I’m not a micromanager so I’m not really sure if my femininity plays into this but I like to feel like we’re a family and that we’re an organism and people’s lives are going to go into their work and their work is gonna go into their lives and if that’s seamless and it’s not painful and people can cry at their desk or have a bad day or need a day off or whatever it is, of course, because we’re all humans that work here and without that human element, you’re not going to have the greatest customer service. I want people happy. Their happiness is important to me and in fact, I remember there was someone who just wasn’t quite happy. I was like, ‘Well, we need to work on finding you another place to go that you will be happy,’ and I really feel that way. I guess I care a lot about who comes in here because their little pixie dust goes everywhere and it affects everybody. The way I see it is we’re a living organism and the health of it is up to me. I have to feed it. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Because Green is Good now, we’re so lucky it’s played nationally on Clear Channel coast to coast and then it’s updated on iTunes around the world, there’s lots of young ecopreneurs that want to be the next Eva Radke. What’s your advice for them? Say you had them in a room today and you’re teaching them how to be a great president or CEO or leader of your organization. What’s your one or two pearls of wisdom that you would throw out to them and say do this, it’s gonna be good? EVA RADKE: I would say the first thing you’re gonna have to truly understand is there are going to be personal sacrifices. If you’re not willing to make those sacrifices, if you’re not willing to dip into your bank account, if you’re not willing to put your relationship on hold, if you’re not willing to take a chance, that just is what it’s going to take and you are going to have to be able to take a punch and get up the next day. There have been plenty of times where I look at myself in the mirror with tears in my eyes and say am I a fool? What have I done? What have I gotten myself into? And then the next day, there is something to celebrate so it’s just keep on doing it, believe in it, educate yourself, but also realize you have to surround yourself with people that are smarter than you and people who believe in it. You don’t have employees. They’re all partners so I want to keep the strata of boss and employee as understanding that we all need each other. JOHN SHEGERIAN: What’s your strongest quality as a leader? EVA RADKE: I think that I’ve been through it and I’m human and that I’ve also been a really hard worker, that my standards are high but I’m also understanding, and I also feel like I can really judge people and see into people and know what their strengths are. I can pull their strengths out and use that. Whenever you have to replace somebody for when somebody goes back to school or whatnot, you’re gonna get a new person. Instead of trying to fit the job description to the person, have the person build their own job description so using their talents you’re gonna get the best of it and breathe a breath of fresh air into your mission. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Like I said, Eva, at the top of the show, when we first met, you were 2,700 feet. You’re now at 11. What’s the next step for Film Biz Recycling and if money was no object, what’s your dream project to take this organization to the next level? EVA RADKE: Well, I would love to be in Los Angeles, and I’d love to be in New Orleans. Those are some big hubs. I’d like to have a trucking fleet. If this is money no object question, boy, I could do that. I would like to be able to go to the set, pick them up. I would like to make it as easy for them as possible, take it back, deliver to our partner charities, to bring in more talent for development and outreach, to have monthly functions where we can really reach out to everybody in the film industry and empower them and tell them this is what kind of good we’re doing. It’s really having the ability to get the message out and to be in different cities and to franchise and to make it sort of a machine that every single person in the industry knows that no matter what project we’re working on, in the end, whether we’re winning an Oscar or a Rotten Tomato, my work is going to do some good. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Your work is always Oscar worthy. There’s no Rotten Tomatoes with you. What’s the next 10 years look like? How are you going to evolve this organization over the next 10 years? Do you really feel New Orleans and LA are in the cards and is it going to take five years? Is it gonna take two? What do you think are in the cards for you the next 10 years? EVA RADKE: You know, for instance, to get New Orleans and LA off the ground, there’s going to have to be a superstar in that city that wants to make that happen with us as a partner so it’s gonna take some money, honey, and I’ve got the time. Right now, NBC has recognized that we’re the easiest city to shoot green in just because Film Biz is here so I want someone to say hey, I want that for LA, or hey, I want that from New Orleans, and those guys over in New York know what they’re doing, let’s franchise this, so that’s where I kind of see this, city by city by city and also in the U.K. There’s so much going on there, too, so I would like to just connect the dots and string this all together so it’s a movement and a household name. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Got it. Eva, we’re down to the last couple of minutes here or so. I’m on your website, FilmBizRecycling.org. I love your website and what I love about it is on it, when you click the button to talk about your charity partners, it just explains all these amazing partners that you do so much good for. How did you come to choose all these wonderful charity partners? EVA RADKE: Sometimes it was proximity and whatever’s closest to us to keep the footprint smaller but for instance, Blissful Bedrooms, they redo bedrooms of severely disabled teens who never really leave their bedrooms too often so they make them super awesome and cool. We found each other on Craigslist. She was looking for paint and I was trying to give away paint. She came over and I saw what her mission was and she was just getting started and I said well, let’s be friends forever and so now, whenever they have a project, they raid our warehouse. They can have anything they want. Sometimes they approach us and sometimes we approach them and sometimes it’s a Google search. Sometimes it’s a meeting at a party. It just sort of all happens. We have these resources and we want to give them away. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s so cool. You’re such a leader in the sustainability movement and what I call evolution or revolution. If you could be EPA Director for a day, what would you change in terms of environmental policy that exists today, Eva, out there? What would you wave your magic wand and get changed with regards to our environment? EVA RADKE: Oh my gosh, there’s so much. If it was EPA Director of the whole wide world, my first thought is let’s enough with the plastic. Enough with the Styrofoam. Enough. It’s choking us. It’s killing us. Let’s innovate our way out of plastic and Styrofoam unless it’s something that biodegrades and isn’t choking our oceans, thus ourselves. If I was in charge of policy for the film industry, I would say no more throwing things away that can be reused because there’s a social benefit added on top of the benefit of not creating pollution in a landfill and wasting that opportunity. You know, that’s my answer to that. JOHN SHEGERIAN: I love it. I love it, and Eva, we thank you for coming back on. We can’t wait to have you back on a third time as Green is Good. For our listeners out there, support Eva Radke’s business, www.filmbizrecycling.org or go to her warehouse in Gowanus, Brooklyn. Eva, thank you for being the inspiring leading lady in the film and television industries. You are truly living proof that green is good.