Climate Hub: A Route Map to Sustainable Production in the Creative Industries

Within the framework of the 25th Thessaloniki International Documentary Festival, the second meeting and discussion of the Climate Hub, the Festival’s new initiative towards the goal of sustainability took place on Saturday, March 4th, at Warehouse C. The keynote speaker in the discussion "A Route Map to Sustainable Production in the Creative Industries" was Maria Adela Konomi, founder of OnMaterials, an online platform for the sharing and creative reuse of materials from the creative industry. The discussion was moderated by the sustainability coordinator of the Festival, Emma Doxiadi. 

Initially, Ms. Konomi introduced herself to the audience and talked about the OnMaterials platform, its creation and use. "I am a cultural manager and my background is in the field of cultural production, more specifically in modern art in which I have already worked. It was from my experience in this field that the idea of creating OnMaterials came about. OnMaterials is essentially an online sharing platform that aims to creatively reuse materials from exhibitions, film productions, theater performances and other cultural events through making them available to artists or other initiatives and organizations from the creative industry." 

"It is a non-profit and informal initiative so far, which I aspire to develop further. It was launched as a pilot project under the START - Create Cultural Change grant, funded by the Robert Bosch Stiftung and run in collaboration with the Goethe Institute. I was given the opportunity and the funds to realize my idea within 6 months. So, I started to build my idea and my team and to organize a series of workshops to see how the project could work. Over the last three years we have been planning a series of workshops and experimenting with different initiatives in terms of reusing materials from cultural productions" she explained.

Konomi stressed that the OnMaterials initiative is mainly based on the idea of networking. "This initiative works through a network. All these years we have been basically trying to build a network that has two sides. On one side are the cultural organizations that have the materials and on the other side are the artists or the people who need these materials. I come from the field of modern art, but I wonder if we could extend the network to other areas of the creative industry. We are generally trying to reach out to people from different fields in the cultural sector to get involved and work together on new strategies" she pointed out.

Emma Doxiadi then took the floor and posed questions about the process and the reuse of a material in OnMaterials from the moment the material is made available for reuse until its final delivery to the interested party. "I will provide you with an example to give you a practical understanding of how we work,” said Ms. Konomi. "The Goethe Institute contacted me a month ago. They had an exhibition they wanted to uninstall after two weeks and they had five large plywood panels from the exhibition available for reuse. We informed our network about the availability of the materials and within a week 4 people expressed interest in obtaining the materials. We facilitated and actually expedited the process of making the materials available to those interested. However, OnMaterials can help in other ways as well. For example, if someone wants to do an exhibition in a month and is looking to get a particular material, they can post their request on our platform and they might find the item they are looking for" she explained.

In response to a question from the audience, Konomi also talked about the different types of materials that the platform repurposes. "We have accepted and repurposed plywood, large quantities of fabrics, metal beams, plexiglas, and glass. We're mostly talking about virgin materials" she explained.

Konomi emphasized, however, that OnMaterials does not focus on sterile reuse of materials, but aims to reuse them creatively. "We are not a materials recycling center. We are a platform that seeks to promote creativity in the use of materials in terms of sustainability. This circularity has creativity at its heart. It puts you in the process of thinking about how you can creatively use a material, what possibilities it has" she pointed out.

Doxiadi then asked the speaker about the idea of a circular economy, which is embraced by projects and initiatives such as OnMaterials. "In essence, the circular economy goes against what we do as a society now, the philosophy of take, use and throw away. We ask ourselves how we can reuse a material. Ideally this process should be done from scratch. That's what a circular economy is to me. Pacing value on materials and the idea of circular utilization from the beginning of production and wondering how this material can get a new life and a new use. And this is what we are trying to communicate through the project" said Konomi.

In response to a question posed both from Ms Doxiadi and the public, the founder of OnMaterials also referred to some common myths and misconceptions that still exist in this field of materials’ reuse in the creative industry, while at the same time addressing the concerns of producers about the practical costs of sustainable practices. "We often think that if we deal with such issues of sustainability and reuse, the quality of a production will drop or that we will have to compromise on the creative idea. This is a false impression. I certainly understand the issue of cost in a production and how much it concerns a producer who has to make quick decisions. But I think it is worth trying to address the issue of sustainability in this industry. We may not see the result right from the start, but we should persevere. Let's start with practices that are not so costly, such as sharing sets with other production companies, and then expand. We, at OnMaterials, offer our services for free, since it is an informal initiative so far. Those involved only cover the transportation costs, which are often shared" she pointed out.

The audience was then interested to hear about the challenges OnMaterials faces and its future plans. "Unfortunately, at the moment we don't have any space to store materials. It is a goal of mine to have a warehouse. All the facilitation and expediting of the process of acquiring, transporting and repositioning the materials is done by myself. You realize that if there was a storage area it would make the whole process much easier. My dream would be for this space to not only be a storage facility, but also a creative space where we can have workshops and discussions about sustainability. We would also like to expand our network and do more collaborations. We would also love it if organizations gave us more and better materials to reuse" she said.

Finally, in response to a question from Doxiadi, she stated she was optimistic about the future in terms of sustainability.  "In general, I notice that there is a willingness in people to listen and learn about sustainability issues. It's not that they don't want to follow sustainable practices, it's just that they usually don't know how or feel they don't have the power to change the things they want to change. Especially in Greece where there is no funding for such projects and economic conditions are generally difficult. The project, however, is currently almost self-funded. So I understand that there is interest and need for such initiatives. It makes me very happy and optimistic about the future. I feel the same about my presence here today. This is what Emma and I were discussing in the context of the introduction of the Climate Hub at the Documentary Film Festival. That it is our responsibility to communicate such initiatives and to slowly build this philosophy of sustainability in the field of culture. The public's willingness to be informed about such issues makes me optimistic for the future and gives me the energy and strength to continue" she concluded.

The program of the events of Climate Hub in the coming days:

Sunday 5/3

“Bottom-up circular economy, enabling making with an impact”

SKG Makers is the makerspace of the Municipality of Thessaloniki aiming to unite, empower and strengthen the maker movement. Based on circular economy principles, and by providing access to equipment and knowledge, the goal is to highlight creative and entrepreneurial efforts that can be sustainable as well as impactful. We open the debate on social environmental innovation, redefining the concepts of reuse, redesign, and recycling of materials by supporting the makers of the city.

Speaker Nikos Tsoniotis - SKG Makers

Monday 6/3

“Zero waste steps”

A conversation and a deep dive around circular economy and sustainability “buzzwords”.

Speakers Aravella Salonikidou, Lizetta Fotoglou - Zero Waste Thessaloniki

Thursday 9/3

"Energy communities as drivers for a socially and environmentally sustainable filming"

Α conversation on climate change and just transitioning to a clean energy system. We will explore the concept of climate change, energy communities, and how to ensure that the energy transition is fair, inclusive, and democratic. We will also explore the concept of environmental sustainability and filming – energy consumption and CO2 emissions in film production, and think on ideas on how energy communities can minimize the environmental impact of film productions. We will also look at social and political dimensions of community energy, and inspirational community energy initiatives in Greece, the Balkans, and the rest of Europe.

Speaker Dimitris Kitsikopoulos - ELECTRA ENERGY cooperative

Friday 10/3 

“Climate Change: the DOCument of sustainable choices

How we could contribute to the mitigation of climate change through the adoption of good circular approaches and practices in the various aspects of cinematic reality. A participatory meeting of (re)thinking and sharing ideas and applications.

Speaker Filippos Nachmias - InCommOn

Saturday 11/3

“Changing the stories of climate change

The climate crisis changes the lives of all of us on a daily basis. Its consequences are now visible and the stories surrounding it are endless and spread all over the world. Now, more than ever, we need a different, penetrating narrative. How can we escape from the classic narrative paths, tell different stories about the "bet of our generation" and touch the core of the matter?

Speaker Iasonas Kantas - WWF