Working on a Cool Documentary Project for Audi

Last week, I published several photos and social updates indicating that I had visited a landfill in the Salt Lake City metro area to help document Audi’s carbon offset program for the new A3 e-tron launch this fall. The hybrid car is a game changer for Audi, but perhaps what is most impressive is the company’s commitment to do more than just produce a sustainable car. The offset program addresses the carbon produced during the manufacturing process and the first 50,000 gas powered miles driven in an e-tron.

That brings me to the Trans-Jordan Landfill. It was an incredible experience seeing how a landfill that produces toxic methane gas – which is 25x worse for the environment than CO2 according to the EPA – turns that gas into a clean energy source.

Geoff Selfie in Landfill

I won’t lie, it smelled really bad. And the setting between two beautiful Rocky Mountain ridges was surreal, especially with seagulls flocking to peck away at the garbage. I wore a clear poncho to avoid getting pooped on by the thousands of birds. But it was in this bizarre setting that something special happens.

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These orange cones mark wells, places where parts of the landfill are full with trash and the methane is pumped out of the land. They move the gas to a facility maintained by Granger Energy on site where massive turbines turn the gas into electricity for 4500 homes in nearby Murray, UT. While toxic, the methane can be turned into a profitable source of alternative energy and help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

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In addition to the methane program, the Trans-Jordan Landfill employs Esther Davis (pictured below). Esther was our guide during the trip, and she helped educate us about the landfill, how it recycles, and the methane to energy program.

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Part of Esther’s job is to educate local school children. We attended a couple of the classes and watched the kids go crazy as a few larger items of trash were destroyed by bulldozers.

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These kids were pretty amazed to learn how their trash is turned into energy, and also how little their community recycles. It’s good to see a general concern for the environment in today’s youth. The sentiment provides hope for the future, particularly with my daughter Soleil. At four years old she is already concerned about the environment and wants to protect pollinators. I look forward to explaining the Trans-Jordan Landfill methane-to-energy process to her when she gets a little older.

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All in all, it was really quite amazing to see this story unfold in person. Just starting out with the Utah sunrise coming through the gas pumps on top of the landfill was incredible. Then watching the seagulls fly into the landfill to pick at the refuse while children watched the bulldozers manage our waste was esoteric to say the least. Finally, the tremendous sound of the massive turbines working to turn toxic gas into alternative energy was powerful.

The Trans-Jordan Landfill trip was part of a larger documentary film being produced by VIVA Creative on behalf of Audi. This will also include a trip to Kenya, Africa later this month to document a second project in the carbon offset program. It’s definitely an honor to be part of the team, and producing the secondary content for the effort. More to come.

Sunrise Over the Trans Jordan Landfill

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I visited Salt Lake City, documenting the Trans-Jordan landfill for Audi and their carbon offset program. I/Tenacity5 became part of the VIVA Creative documentary team producing content for the #3Degrees carbon offset program. This program offsets the first 50,000 miles of gas driving for a new Audi A3 e-tron, a new plug-in hybrid electric coming this fall.

The Quality Boom

Strong professional writers, photographers and videographers should be thrilled. Content and social network noise increasingly impact online success, making quality an increasingly necessary component to succeed. That means experienced professional producers will be in demand.

Consider the rise of new markets for quality stories. Cont3nt.com has built a place for content creators to submit their stories. Note the word stories. While photos are the baseline, journalists are looking for the comprehensive package of photo/video AND story.

The demand for better photos is a direct result of mobile snapshots (and the smartphones that people view them on), but the zeitgeist is creating a market for higher quality images. Anyone (including Chicago Sun-Times journalists) can shoot a photo on an iPhone, but most smartphone photos look flat at best.

The same could be said for video. Vine may be the home of six second shorts shot on your phone, but high quality pieces win the day.

One complaint I hear frequently when talking to my more senior colleagues is that many young communications professionals display poor writing skills. Finding quality writers to succeed in the content marketing era is difficult.

The demand for quality writing is one of the primary reasons Erin Feldman became my first hire at Tenacity5. I learned to value quality writing from team members at Livingston Communications and Zoetica. People who work well on a timely basis are more important than yet another account executive.

I believe that demand for quality content will make hiring writers and designers a higher priority than account staff for agencies and consultancies. Regardless of story type — video, photo, written or a combination — we will live and die by quality.

Hybrid Weavers

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Notice the focus on complete stories at Cont3nt.com. I don’t think companies, journalists or content creators are looking for brilliant work in a singular tactic anymore.

Sure you can create the epic photo that is shared across the world, but invariably a story accompanies the image. You can write the most beautiful prose and publish it, but if there are no visuals or video the story will have a limited audience.

Even video requires a story, a screenplay. That usually requires the videographer to write a basic story before shooting.

Content publishers — media companies and corporations alike — realize the need to produce complete stories with multiple types of media assets. Agencies and consultants that can’t provide comprehensive storytelling will need to build networks and teams of diverse producers to fulfill client needs. The same can be said for media companies.

Hybrid content needs drove me to sign up for not one, but three professional photography training classes via National Geographic and Nikon. While most folks are nice to me and compliment my photography, I need the basic fundamentals to transcend from the periodic brilliant shot to consistantly decent photography. I can use these photos in my own work (as I frequently do with blog posts)

It’s all part of providing comprehensive content. Online communities prefer quality hybrid content.

How are you serving this need?

Photos taken last night in Alexandria, VA.

Crowdsourcing My Chevrolet Volt Test Drive

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On Tuesday, I will test drive the new Chevrolet Volt, the highly talked about electric vehicle that will be released this year. In addition to its place as on of GM’s cornerstones of the future, the Volt is supposed to be an incredible emissions saver, delivering 40 miles on a full charge. 75% of Americans drive less than 40 miles everyday. The car then uses it’s gas engine to deliver a hybrid performance.

What better way to test drive the car than to crowdsource it with your input? In partnership with the Live Earth blog, the test drive will be filmed by John Taylor using a flip camera. Let us know what you’d like us to find out for you. We’ll post the film on Thursday.

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Geoff Livingston is a regular contributor to the Live Earth blog.

Five Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

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It’s one thing to acknowledge the climate change crisis, it’s another to actually change behavior. So here are some simple ways that I have changed to reduce my personal carbon footprint.

1) Eat less meat: One quarter of greenhouse gas emission have been created by the livestock industry. It takes many, many times the amount of grain to create that one pound of beef or chicken, than one pound of vegetarian food. While I like a great steak still, I have committed to eating vegetarian every other day, and trying to eat meat only once on the days that I do partake.

2) Buy a hybrid: It’s important to pay a little extra to support new environmentally savvy technologies. I did, albeit a Toyota Highlander Hybrid, and it’s 28 MPG local far surpasses the 20 MPG I was getting in my Acura TL. Further my Ducati gets 52 MPG, and is my preferred “off hours” vehicle of choice.

3) Metal or plastic canteen: I’ve got three metal ones now. Carrying filtered water instead of buying plastic bottles represents a significant reduction in greenhouse gas. Americans consume so much bottled water that one could compare it to an additional 500,000 cars on the road.

4) Weatherize your house: Homes are responsible for 21% of greenhouse gases in the United States, so this is a big one. We actually bought a weatherized home right before we got married four plus years ago. Even with high gas prices, the house still rarely sees a heating or electric (AC) bill greater than $100.

5) Shut down your computer at night: If you are a blogger like me, it’s easy to leave your computer on. That way you don’t have to boot up in the morning, right? But you are hurting the environment for those precious two minutes of time. According to MIT, “the surge of power when a computer is turned off lasts a few seconds and is insignifcant compared to the sustained energy used in keeping it on during periods of inactivity.” Admittedly, I forget to do this, but mindful power consumption (including light usage) is a continuing effort in our house.

What would you add to the list?