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Green Inside and Out of the Classroom

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Larry Engel

Teaching green and working green, SOC film professor and environmental filmmaker Larry Engel has been selected for this year’s Green Teacher of the Year Award.

"Filming and working green means that you must be mindful of your carbon or environmental footprint,” Engel said in an email. “This means that from preproduction through postproduction and distribution, the filmmaker or producer should implement an environmental plan that reviews every aspect of production and seek to minimize excessive contributions to climate change."

For Engel, this means asking questions like if scripts need to be printed, if you can hire locally and if you really need a car to travel from place to place.

"Being systematic about your approach not only creates a viable plan that all can buy into, but it will also save you green, that is, money," Engel said.

On a $75,000 budget, Engel said he was able to save $5000 by going green in his short about potatoes, "Potato Heads: Keepers of the Crop."

Engel applies and teaches his green filmmaking philosophy in his classes.

"I never print a syllabus, an assignment or test, or handouts… I turn [off] lights when we’re not using them. I don’t allow anything that creates trash… So no plastic water bottles or soda cans," he said. "[I] try to make them more mindful of their impact on the environment, from their assignments and productions."

In discussions in class, Engel reminds his students to be aware of their footprints in environmentally sensitive areas.

"I talk about filming in the desert and recognizing that our literal footprints may have an impact," he said. "In some areas, there is a black mat covering the ground. I thought that it was nothing but dirt. However, a scientist once told me that it was actually a biomass and was very fragile. So I made my crew make sure they walked in one another’s footsteps to minimize damage."

Engel has been in the business of teaching and filmmaking for almost 40 years with 250 projects under his belt. His documentaries have appeared on several outlets, including PBS, the Discovery Channels and National Geographic. He is passionate about environmental and conservation issues and works with several regional non-profits with students in his courses.

Engel will also be honored for Outstanding Service to the University Community in a Tenure Line Appointment in the 2017 American University Awards.

The winner of the award is determined by a committee of CTRL and the Office of Sustainability Staff.