Last spring, in an effort to reduce my contribution to the plastic pollution problem, I wrote to the SAG Awards asking them to switch to digital screeners only.
This January, SAG-AFTRA encouraged their members to Go Green offering an online portal with the ability to opt out of plastic screeners, plus five other ways members can reduce their carbon footprints. It marked a step in the right direction, but the initiative didn't go as far as it could.
If SAG were serious about eliminating plastic waste, like the Television and Film Academies, they too would have switched to digital screeners exclusively. Barring that, SAG could have at least reduced their plastic footprint by implementing a bit of behavioral economics.
What is Nudge Theory?
Instead of designing choices based on how leaders and officials believe people should behave, nudge theory proposes that we should design choices based on how people actually behave.
For example, actors should sign into the portal and opt out of plastic screeners, but as evidenced by my recent post on Instagram, some of my followers were still not aware they could stop receiving DVDs, even though I'd featured the Go Green campaign in my Stories and SAG had included it in the bodies of multiple emails.
Since actors don't actually opt-out, SAG could have adopted an opt-in policy, nudging members into the desired behavior (less waste) by making digital screeners only the default.
Actors should sign into the portal and opt out of plastic screeners, but some members were still not aware they could stop receiving DVDs.
Nudge Theory's Role in Reducing Plastic Waste
When Reusable LA wanted to reduce takeout trash (think extra ketchup packets, single-use plastic flatware, and napkins), they turned to nudge theory and campaigned LA City to create a law that would encourage Angelenos to #SkipTheStuff.
The ordinance, which goes into effect fully on April 22, requires restaurants and delivery services to provide extras only at the customer's request. Those who want these items can opt-in, while most customers will opt-out by default, generating the more desirable consumption behavior with the least amount of effort.
Legislation passed in LA County, however, doesn't quite go that far. Under this ordinance, restaurants and delivery services can ask customers if they want takeout accessories. Research shows that people are more likely to take the extras if asked, defeating the intention and the science behind the legislation and causing confusion between City and County rules.
Since actors don't actually opt out, SAG could have adopted an opt-in policy, nudging members into the desired behavior (less waste) by making digital screeners only the default.
The Continuing Saga of SAG Screeners
The discrepancy between LA City and LA County parallels the differences between SAG and the other voting bodies' commitment to reducing plastic waste. And in both cases, if we are to earnestly fight plastic pollution, we must make the most sustainable choice the default option.
I recently attended a webinar from the Plastic Pollution Coalition at which SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher spoke passionately about refusing plastic water bottles, so I know our leader cares about this issue. Now we, as dues-paying SAG-AFTRA members, must lobby President Drescher and our elected union reps to institute a zero-waste policy. Such a change would be the first step toward a more sustainable future for screen acting.
Help Me Reduce Plastic Waste in Hollywood
Even if all DVD production stopped today, we'd still have to deal with all the existing screeners collecting dust on coffee tables around the world. So I decided to turn this trash into treasure.
I’m collecting discs that will be rendered unwatchable and sent to my friend Jill, a mosaic artist. If you'd like to contribute to Jill's artwork and my little social experiment, drop me a line.