April 22, 2020

VDA Re-Purposing Initiative #VDAgivesback

Remember a few years back when everything in the events industry had to glow? Glow bars, glow tables, even glow sofas! As any trend-conscious company did, VDA saw the need, and added custom glowing décor into our inventory! We turned to a material called coroplast, or corrugated plastic, due to its translucent appearance, and relatively inexpensive price tag. The material could glow brightly and didn’t cost an arm and a leg to replace.

Despite coroplast’s versatile nature, one thing quickly came to our attention… it is not a recyclable plastic material!

VDA searched around to see if there was a facility that we could send our coroplast to be recycled and disposed of properly, but we were unsuccessful. We found ourselves with piles of this non-recyclable material, and as a socially conscious company, it seemed irresponsible to continue to put it into the landfill.  

VDA then decided, well, if we can’t throw it away, can we give it away?  And thus began the VDA Re-Purposing Initiative!  

Launched in 2014, the VDA Re-Purposing Initiative was spearheaded by former VDA scenic charges Liz Breda and Julia Jerome. The VDA Re-Purposing Initiative was launched with a goal of supporting and strengthening the Arts in the local community by extending resources and materials that would otherwise end up in the landfill.

What started out as an email list with a few names on the roster, has grown, with time, to a Facebook group with over 900 members. The past several years, VDA’s Re-Purposing Initiative has expanded participation by reaching out to local theatre, artist, and upcycling groups, as well as public schools, children’s camps, and educational programs like Parts and Crafts and Fireseed Arts. Small theatre groups such as Wholetone Opera Company have been able to produce shows on shoestring budgets thanks to the Initiative. 

VDA’s Paint Shop Manager, Helen McCarthy, has taken the reins of the #VDAgivesback Initiative since joining the VDA team in 2017.

Helen has been doing a lot to grow membership by cross-posting about the Initiative in communities and organizations that she is already a part of, such as local upcycling groups, and even the regional, Boston based “Burner” community, which annually sends a troupe of folks to the iconic Burning Man Festival.  

I sat down with Helen to learn a bit more about the VDA Re-Purposing Initiative. 

O: What sorts of materials do you distribute through the program?  

H: Current design trends are leading to a lot of very sleek lines, so we’re seeing tons of acrylic, Plexiglas, and Sintra boards. Companies are constantly rebranding and updating their fonts, so a lot of times, letters don’t get reused again if they’re the wrong font or spacing, or if there’s a new vision for the company, so we end up with lots of dimensional letters and a lot of old fabric graphics when those get rebranded.

American Family Happily Institute uses VDA material for its public events to promote values of acceptance, equality, and empathy in a time of cultural upheaval.

With the newly acquired, 10,000 sq. ft. of additional warehouse space, our warehouse crew has been purging the depths of our scenic elements. We most recently turned up a bunch of cacti. We have a lot of theatre roots at VDA, so we’ve found a bunch of interesting, unique pieces that get distributed through the Initiative.

O: What are the goals of #VDAgivesback Initiative? 

H: With the Re-Purposing Initiative we are enabling arts and supporting the local community while keeping things out of the dumpster and out of landfills – those are the prime objectives.

The entertainment industry can be very wasteful, because we custom design and fabricate a lot of items, and can’t or don’t reuse them.

As an artist, materials are expensive, and the search for materials is always a battle. When you’re making your living as an artist, wherever you can keep those costs down, it’s important. Being able to play, and learn, and figure a new material or technique out is huge!

It’s fun to see the items we shared, through the Re-Purposing Initiative, getting new life out in the world; it’s a great feeling knowing we contributed to this amazing art and we’re able to keep “x” number of materials out of the dumpster!

All we ask for in exchange for using our materials is pictures! We want to see how the pieces are getting integrated into the artists’ projects!

The VDA Re-Purposing Initiative has really become a part of the fabric of our culture. So much so, that we tied the notion of sustainability and environmental consciousness into this year’s holiday gift giving initiatives! We’ll be sharing reusable stainless-steel straws, and cards printed on 100% recycled paper! For more information on the VDA Re-Purposing Initiative, please visit our website or Facebook page or give us a call at 617-628-1200! 

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