Green Leaders: Setting an Example

By Martha C. White September 22, 2008, 9:00 AM EDT

As senior vice president of special projects at Universal Pictures, Hollace Davids says her high-profile premieres prove that green events are doable.

Photo: Ramona Rosales for BizBash

This is the first in a series of four profiles of planners who are committed to eco-friendly events.

In 2007, Hollace Davids created an eco-friendly premiere for the Steve Carell comedy Evan Almighty. After the event, though, the senior vice president of special projects at Universal Pictures realized she had the chance to make all of the studio’s events more eco-friendly. “Once we set that precedent we didn’t want to go backwards,” she says. “These high-profile events are excellent opportunities to highlight the fact that going green is doable.”

The 4,000-guest Evan Almighty premiere used recycled paper and soy ink for invitations and other printed materials, and recyclable and biodegradable tableware. Fresh fruit and baby trees in the centerpieces were distributed to guests after the event. Guests also got the chance to purchase a tree that would be planted to offset the carbon footprint of their attendance, and the reusable gift bags included a sheet of eco-friendly tips and a CFL lightbulb, donated by Universal’s parent company, General Electric.

For subsequent events, Davids has tried to include many of those same green elements. She’s switched almost exclusively to recycled paper and soy inks for printed materials, and she tries to coax actors and other V.I.P.s to be picked up in Lexus hybrid SUVs instead of traditional limos.

Although getting stars in hybrids is easy, Davids says it’s often tougher to get other planners on the green bandwagon, because they think green options are tougher or more expensive, or that a comprehensive effort to go green is the only option. “Even if there are 50 things you can do and you do two, that’s better than zero. I mean, certainly you can do recycled paper, and that’s not astronomically different in terms of money.”

That said, Davids acknowledges that sometimes green options are pricier. She says she’s lucky that her parent company gives her the leeway to choose everything that’s greener—from tableware to transportation—even if it’s not always cheaper. “We’re in a very enviable situation in that we have the commitment of our company, so we have flexibility in terms of cost.”

She hopes that growing demand and greater use of eco-friendly vendors will eventually bring the price down so that a greater percentage of event hosts will be able to find green choices within their budgets. “That’s the way supply and demand goes,” she says. “The more people that make green choices, the more it should become easy to do so.”

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