The Fifth Sacred Thing:
Our Green Plan for Production

The Fifth Sacred Thing envisions streets turned to gardens.

The Fifth Sacred Thing shows us a vision of a positive, resilient future, where at least one city has achieved environmental balance and social harmony.  Applying the ethics and principles of permaculture to the production of The Fifth Sacred Thing will embody the message of the film and generate ecological, social and financial returns.

Why do this? First and foremost, because it’s the right thing to do.  And fortunately, doing right will bring back enormous rewards—financially as well as spiritually.  Here’s how:

These values will attract high-quality people to work on the production and inspire them to do their finest work.

By ‘walking our talk’, we will create enormous public relations benefits and attract a huge following of supporters.

Each environmental group or social agency we link to expands our web of support—people who will spread the word about the film and bring others to see it.

Reducing waste will reduce costs.

We will  set a new bar for green production in the film industry.

Each innovation we create can be a focus of news stories and blogs that will publicize the film.

In solving our problems, we will potentially find solutions, develop systems and create spin-offs that are applicable to other productions and industries.  These are also potential sources of additional income.

The cost of living our values will be a small percentage of the overall cost of a big-budget film, and will be offset both by savings and PR.

We will contribute to the overall health of the planet and its people.

Permaculture for the Film Business

Permaculture is both an approach to ecological design and a global movement.  Begun by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the 1970’s, it now has practitioners and projects all over the world.  The ethics and principles of permaculture can be applied to everything from gardening to business planning, guiding us in creating systems that meet human needs while regenerating the environment around us.

Permaculture Ethics:

Care for the earth:

The Fifth Sacred Thing will set a new standard for ‘green’ film production, going beyond ‘carbon neutral’ to ‘earth positive’: creating inspiration, education and resources for ecological regeneration.

Care for the people:

The Fifth Sacred Thing will go beyond fair labor and hiring practices to create positive benefits for the larger community.

Care for the future:

By presenting a positive and hopeful vision of the future, The Fifth Sacred Thing will inspire action and optimism.  The production will invest some of its operating costs in resources that will provide ongoing benefits in the future.

Permaculture Principles

Abundance Springs From Relationships:

Build a network of beneficial relationships within the company, with other ventures, with artists, technicians, workers, performers and audience.

Cherish relationships—treat people well at every level.

Develop links and networks—look for ways to involve other organizations with mutual benefits.   Every link you make multiplies your impact.

Catch and store energy:

Use renewable sources of energy—solar, wind, etc.

Find ways to capture the enthusiasm and good will that surrounds a project, to help people feel involved and connected.

Money is energy—look for ways to spend it that will multiply its impact and build interest and good will for each project.  For example—buying food locally on a location shoot can create good will for the project in the area and provide more fresh and healthy food for the crew.

Close loops:

Produce no waste.  Look for ways that ‘waste’ can be a resource.  Re-use and recycle materials.  Donate materials to other organizations to create partnerships—for example, used building materials to Habitat for Humanity or similar organizations.

Use onsite, re-usable, renewable and recyclable materials.  Avoid the use of toxic substances.

Stack functions:

Every element in a system should serve more than one function.

A website, for example, could promote the film, give people resources for going deeper into subjects the film presents, provide a platform for people to engage and bring their own ideas and creativity to bear on aspects of the story world—which in turn will build relationships, ‘buzz’, and audience.

An internship program could help train disadvantaged youth and solve social problems, create strong relationships within the community, provide useful services at low cost, and generate good public relations.

A portable solar power unit built for one film could be re-used, loaned to nonprofits to generate good PR, taken to festivals such as Burning Man as good film promotion, sold at the end of production or donated to a school or organization.


Every crucial function should be provided by more than one element.        Have multiple streams of financing and potential revenue, multiple sources of energy.

Always have a plan B.

Plan for catastrophe—Have a backup location for an indoor shoot in case of bad weather outdoors.

Work smarter, not harder:

Begin by observing, analyzing and designing.  Observation, forethought and creativity will save time, money, effort, energy and materials.

Put things in the right place to facilitate ease of use.  Things used most frequently should be in the most central location.

Do things at the right time and in the right order.

Value creativity—an unlimited resource.  The problem is the solution—solving problems will lead to new opportunities and create new resources.

How we will put these principles into practice:

Abundance springs from relationships:

We begin the production with a wealth of helpful relationships:

Executive producer Philip Wood has extensive networks in the Bay Area film, technical, arts and music communities.

Writer and producer Starhawk has enormous networks in the environmental community, the global permaculture network and the Bay Area ‘green’ networks.  A permaculture designer and teacher herself, she heads up Earth Activist Training which has trained hundreds of students in permaculture design.  Earth Activist Training partners with a community-based organization, Hunters Point Family, which runs violence prevention and food justice programs in Bayview Hunters Point—a low-income neighborhood of San Francisco plagued by unemployment, drugs, gangs and violence.  Starhawk trains at-risk youth in permaculture and environmental leadership skills, in conjunction with three community-run gardens that provide food in a neighborhood with no supermarkets or access to fresh produce.  The program includes media training, where youth learn video and audio production to document what they are learning.

These connections give us a huge pool of talent to draw from, for everything from interns to gardeners to inventors and artists.

The Sets:

The Fifth Sacred Thing is set partly in a San Francisco of the future that embodies ecological balance.  The streets are transformed into gardens with running streams, lined by fruit trees and filled with art.  Energy is provided by solar panels, solar films and wind generators which are decorated to become works of art.

Garden plants, flowers, fruit trees will need to be grown ahead of time.  We will contract with local, organic nurseries to grow the plants, giving priority to businesses in low-income areas.  As vegetables reach their prime, they can be harvested to feed crew and cast and replaced as necessary.  After the shoot, remains can go back to community gardens to be composted.  Remaining plants and trees can be donated to community gardens, school gardens, etc.

(Abundance springs from relationships, close loops, waste as a resource.)

The solar panels, films and wind generators needed for the sets can be live, wherever feasible.  They can generate electricity to help power the shoot, feed electricity back into the grid to offset power costs, and at the end of the shoot, be sold to recover their costs or donated to a non-profit for a tax benefit and good will.  The cost of a large ‘buy’ of solar panels would most likely be comparable to the cost of labor to fabricate fake panels, and be offset by savings in energy and potential resale, as well as the tax rebates (30% currently) for renewable energy.

(Catch and store energy, stack functions, abundance springs from relationships.)

One of the sets includes an aquaponics greenhouse—an integrated fish farm and vegetable growing system.  A real system can be set up for approximately $20,000.  It could be built as an educational project with youth from Hunters Point Family or similar organization, designed to facilitate the shoot, and made operational to provide food for the cast and crew.  At the end of the shoot, it could be donated back to the organization for a tax benefit to the film company and become an income and food-producing venture for the community.

(Close loops, re-use and recycle, stack functions, abundance springs from relationships.)

The sets are filled with climbable sculptures, murals and mosaics.  The Bay Area is a hotbed of art and sculpture, much of it centered around the Burning Man festival and community.  Many existing pieces could be rented, at a lower cost than building.  Specific pieces might be commissioned and later donated for a tax write-off.  The production might partner with Precita Eyes, an arts organization that has created hundreds of mural projects around San Francisco.  Murals and mosaics could be created for the film by arts education projects, at similar or lower cost than having them done by set painters.  Their ‘look’ would be more authentic and perfectly suit the film—and money so spent would help fund the organizations, creating enormous good will.

(Use local resources, close loops, catch and store energy, stack functions, abundance springs from relationships.)

Materials:  Recycling of materials is already standard ‘green’ practice in the industry. The sets will use building materials, masonry, paving, pond liners, pumps, etc.  Sets will be carefully deconstructed at the end of the shoot—an opportunity to hire local companies and provide on-the-job training for disadvantaged youth.  Materials will be donated to programs such as Habitat for Humanity or to local community projects.  San Francisco has an artists’ resource center where odds and ends can be donated.

Some sets might be partly built of recycled materials—for example, the destruction in the Southlands could use a lot of waste chunks of concrete which could afterwards be re-used in natural building projects.

(Re-use and recycle, waste is a resource, abundance springs from relationships.)

Models and props:

We will seek an agreement with the City of San Francisco first, then with other museums and educational institutions for a permanent display of the models of the transformed city used in the film.  Possible venues might be a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station—possibly Powell and Market near the Tourist Office, the Airport museum, or an educational institution.

Such a display would be ongoing publicity for the DVD and downloads of the film long after its theatrical run.

Costumes, props and wigs:  At the end of production, props wigs and costumes could be donated to high-school drama departments or local theater companies.   Some might conceivably be sold on Ebay, offered as prizes for web contests associated with the film, or donated to nonprofits for raffles or silent auctions.

(Re-use and recycle, abundance springs from relationships.)


Film production uses a huge amount of electricity.  This can be mitigated:

On the outdoor sets:  By using real solar and wind generation wherever possible.

At the office: San Francisco has a program that helps to subsidize retrofits for energy efficiency and renewable energy that could potentially subsidize solar panels at the production offices.  Rental and lease agreements could be negotiated with this in mind.

Sound stages, special effects and post-production facilities:

Companies could be encouraged and aided to install solar panels or wind generation.  Working in conjunction with a program like Hunters Point Family’s Environmental Leadership training, interns could do free energy audits for partner companies and help them find the most cost-effective retrofits and the resources to do it.

However, it is unlikely that every company we want to work with will be in a position to do this.  This is one area where we may need to purchase offsets—or create our own.  For example, if we can do a huge buy of solar panels at a good rate, systems could be donated to nonprofits giving us a double tax benefit–a rebate on the panels and a tax donation credit.

On location:

The Fifth production will build a portable power system—solar panels and wind generation on a towable trailer that can be brought to location sites to provide power.  A backup generator could run on biodiesel or methane.

The power unit could then be used on future productions.  When not in use by the film company, it could be rented out or loaned to non-profits for special events.  It could be brought to festivals, outdoor concerts and gatherings as good PR for the film.

(Catch and store energy, redundancy, stack functions, abundance springs from relationships.)

Care and Feeding of Cast and Crew:

The company will contract with community gardens, urban farmers, local growers and caterers to provide fresh, healthy, organic and delicious food for cast and crew.

Food will be served on real plates and dishes whenever possible.  This creates another opportunity to partner with local artists to design plates and mugs with the film logo or images which could also become a spin-off product to be sold.

When disposables are used, they will be compostable.

Cast and crew will be given water bottles and mugs—another potential spin-off product.  Water and other drinks will be provided in large containers, not plastic bottles.

Food scraps will be collected and composted at community gardens, or fed to a methane digester to produce gas which can be used for cooking or energy generation.

The company will build a portable compost toilet/methane digester unit which can be taken on location.  It will be clean, pleasant, and odorless—unlike the usual port-a-potty.  The methane can be used for cooking or for energy generation and the residues can be further composted and used to grow trees or ornamental plants.  This unit will be a prototype that can also be taken to festivals as promotion for the film.  The design can be replicated to provide another potential spin-off business—such units would be invaluable in natural disasters as well as outdoor gatherings.  The cost of building it would be offset by savings on port-a-potty rentals and servicing.

(Waste is a resource, use local resources, stack functions)


Affordable electric cars are on the verge of coming to market.  Cars purchased or leased by the company should be electric or hybrid electric—they can be charged by solar panels and their price will be partially or fully offset by savings on gas and fuel.

After the production, they could be resold.  The company might also  partner with ZipCars or City Car Share or a similar company that provides car-sharing services in the Bay Area—either to lease cars or for resale of cars.

Trucks and trailers can run on biodiesel—the cost will be somewhat higher than regular diesel.

For short runs and for on-set transport, bicycles can be provided for those willing and able to use them.  After production, they could be donated to local programs or resold.

(Catch and store energy, use renewable energy.)

Inspiration and Education:

People will come away from viewing The Fifth Sacred Thing saying, “I want to live there!”  We can provide the knowledge and resources they will need to create their own vision of the future.  Not in the movie itself—because a movie must above all, be a drama, with the story as the driving force.  We can’t stop in the middle to deliver a treatise on rain catchment or how to build a worm bin.  The vision of the city will be glimpsed as the context for the action.

But the film will generate enormous opportunities to educate people.  We will have a website where people can take a virtual tour of the city, lingering on parts that interest them and delving into the details.  On the website, we can provide links to other organizations and resources.  Each organization then has a stake in promoting the film.

We can provide short ‘how-to’ videos that can be made, at low cost, by trainees in local youth media programs.  The film company can help fund the programs—generating good will and potential tax deductions.  The trainees will gain experience, exposure, and connections in the industry.

The website will be rich in interactive experiences: ‘wikis’ where artists can create their own versions of painted wind generators or sculptural play structures, programs that can guide a viewer to design their own permaculture garden or plan their own version of an ideal city.  Spin-offs would include a variety of games that could also generate revenue.

The project will also educate and inspire everyone involved in the production and marketing of the film, and all those who hear or read about it, providing a living example of how to do a big, complex project sustainably and profitably.

(Work smarter, not harder, value creativity, stack functions, abundance springs from relationships.)

What’s the downside?

The program will need careful oversight and skillful management.

It will need its own producer and staff.

It will involve the company in more complex relationships and projects than an ordinary film.

It will need legal support to draw up agreements and contracts with a variety of organizations, and experts to negotiate with city and county regulations and permits.

Summary of benefits:

The Fifth Sacred Thing’s applied permaculture program will reduce our carbon load, save energy, and create regenerative resources that will contribute both to ecological health and social justice.

The project will attract high-level talent in every area who will be thrilled to work with us.

The program will save money by saving energy, reducing waste and reducing costs.

It will generate financial benefits by producing income-generating spin-offs and tax credits and deductions.

It will create incalculable benefits for marketing the film.  The positive PR will be enormous.  Every organization we partner with or link to will have a stake in promoting the film.  Youth, artists and activists are great social networkers and will create enormous positive ‘buzz’.  Every innovation will be great material for news stories and blogs.  By ‘walking our talk,’ we will attract not just fans but passionate supporters.

And it’s the right thing to do!


2 Responses to Our Green Plan

  1. This is such an exciting project based on this amazing book. This is the way of the future for our planet, this is the direction we need to take to change the culture of our current society, to bring true values back our lives. Thank you.

  2. I do not leave a response, but after reading a few of the responses on
    Our Green Plan | The Fifth Sacred Thing. I actually do have 2 questions for
    you if it’s allright. Is it simply me or do some of the responses come
    across like they are written by brain dead folks? 😛 And, if you are posting at additional places, I’d like to
    keep up with everything fresh you have to post. Would you make
    a list of every one of your social community pages like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

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