Orange is the new green at Nickelodeon—at least, according to Kate Remsen, Burbank-based project coordinator, avid environmentalist and founder of Viacom’s West Coast “Eco-Lodeon” initiatives.
Remsen came to Viacom in 2013 as a Comedy Central intern while studying film and television at Loyola Marymount University. After graduation, she began working as executive assistant to David Steinberg, the senior vice president of animation production at Nickelodeon. “I always wanted to work in entertainment,” said Remsen.
Viacom fulfilled her career goals. Unexpectedly, it became a venue to actualize her passion for environmental sustainability—something she might not have been able to do at other media companies.
In 2016, Remsen, who had long devoted time outside of work to environmentally focused causes such as the California Wildlife Foundation and the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Conservancy, partnered with Nickelodeon for a sustainability initiative, “Eco-Lodeon.” She pitched an idea to Nickelodeon Vice President of Core Services Vicki Fenton: replacing throwaway products with reusable mugs and glasses. Her concept focused on cutting cost, as well as benefiting the environment. By Remsen’s calculations, the company would save more than $5,000 each year by eliminating disposable cups.
Fenton and Burbank Facilities Director Jack Kinman liked the idea. They began by removing the facility’s generic disposable cups and replacing them with reusable drinkware. Each employee also received a reusable Nickelodeon mug. Any other paper products, such as plates and cutlery, were swapped out for compostable “eco-products.”
This support was imperative for Remsen to turn her vision into reality. She advises employees looking to enact company change to do the same: “Take advantage of upper management, and reach out for support,” said Remsen. “Do your research beforehand, so all they have to do is say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’”
In 2017, Nickelodeon Studio’s renovated office space was complete—and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certified. Burbank’s campus reduced its energy consumption by more than 50 percent with glass walls shedding bountiful sunlight into the five-story building, as well as LED light fixtures. The studio also boasts a massive courtyard and Zen garden.
This eco-friendly facility provided an ideal laboratory for Remsen to amplify her greening efforts. She devised informative signs using images to explain the new recycling system—using images rather than text, so young children and other visitors who were not fluent in English could understand.
“The hope is that people will take that information home with them,” said Remsen. “It’s amazing to see what can be recycled and what can’t. You’d be surprised at how strict recycling laws are.”
In April, Remsen implemented a new recycling and compost program and introduced it with an Earth Day Fair for employees. She worked with a colleague, Nick production assistant Morgan Bell, to invite 11 eco-friendly nonprofits to Burbank’s Earth Day Fair last April. One group, Santa Monica’s Bay Foundation, gave away eco-friendly lightbulbs and faucet attachments to help reduce energy and water use. Viacom provided organic, locally sourced ice cream and succulents (small, easy-to-care-for plants) as symbolic gestures of sustainability.
Most recently, Remsen began working to reduce food waste and simultaneously end hunger in her local community.
“In our Nick Café, any unused food is donated to Chefs to End Hunger,” explained Remsen. “The nonprofit works closely with the LA Midnight Mission [a Los Angeles-based homeless recovery program]. Any extra food from any of our events that involve a catering service is also donated.”
Burbank employees have reacted well to these changes, according to Remsen. She hears frequent buzz about the recycling endeavors—and everyone loves their new mugs. While it’s gratifying to know she satisfied a company need and made her coworkers happy, Remsen takes the most pride in giving back to future generations. After all, Nickelodeon is kids-first.
“It’s not just about making children’s entertainment,” said Remsen. “It’s about making a more sustainable world for our kids.”