The motion picture industry has a significant impact on the environment. Each production (with an average $70 million budget) emits 1,049.90 metric Tons, uses 46.2 Trees to create Virgin Paper, generates 638,291 Pounds of Waste, consumes 101,618 Gallons of Fuel and uses 74,000 Single-Use Water Bottles (data as of September 2022). However, in recent years, the industry has recognised the urgent need for sustainable practices and has been actively implementing strategies to reduce its carbon footprint.
This blog explores the sustainable strategies employed by motion pictures to minimise carbon emissions and highlights the organisations involved in these initiatives.
What influences the amount of carbon emissions on a movie set?
- The number of cameras used to shoot
- Temporary or permanent production sites for future films
- The use of virtual backdrops
- The use of electric or hybrid vehicles
- Food donations to local shelters
- Having multiple filming locations - The use of single use plastic or reusable drink bottles, and
- Is the production a large or small one. Let’s bring a few elements into focus Productions Large productions are having a significant larger impact on emitting carbon. Having a larger budget, it also opens the opportunity to hire sustainability coordinators, watching over the production's emissions and implementing specific strategies to reduce the emissions. On the other hand, smaller productions are working in a more conscious way, due to the nature of being smaller or the need to work with a smaller budget.
Emilie O’Brien, an eco-manager, states that most of the time, having a sustainable production relies on who is producing the film. Every film is able to practice sustainability with minimal change, but it all depends on who is in charge. Emilie is the co-founder of Earth Angel (see below) and helps productions by monitoring and assisting in making sustainable efforts. Production Sites More and more film productions are reducing costs and carbon emissions by using virtual backdrops instead of travelling to multiple locations. (Ie. The Mandalorian, The Lion King (2019), The Midnight Sky, Bullet Train, Red Notice, The Batman, Ford v Ferrari) or setting up production sites that can be used for multiple movie or tv productions. Food and Goods It is logic to understand that larger production deploy larger film crews and therefore require a catering suited for the number of people involved. Usually food waste was sent to landfill, but more often these-days the food is sent to shelters, reducing the carbon footprint tremendously. Film sites are also using reusable drink bottles, instead of single use plastics. Which organisations are taking the lead?
Green Production Guide (GPG), created by the Producers Guild of America Foundation (PGA) and the Sustainable Production Alliance (SPA) in 2010, addresses sustainability in the United States’ film industry.As being one of the largest organisations, they have partnered with major studios such as Disney, Amazon, Viacom, and Netflix, who have made active changes to become more sustainable. In Australia, GreenShoot Pacific is a sustainability consultancy that offers services to the film, television, and entertainment industries. They provide sustainability strategies, carbon footprint assessments, waste management plans, and guidance on sustainable production practices.
Screen Victoria, Screen Queensland and Screen NSW, along with AusFilm are suggesting small initiatives around sustainable film making, but Australian film has still a big gap to cross in comparison with the film industry in US and Europe.
PEACHy, which is a collection of sustainable practices for every department on a production to follow in order to be considered sustainable.
Components the film industry becomes more sustainable in
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
One of the key approaches taken by the film industry to reduce carbon emissions is the adoption of energy-efficient technologies and practices.
Movie sets have started implementing energy-saving measures such as LED lighting (ie. Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom), which consumes significantly less energy compared to traditional lighting.
Furthermore, the industry is increasingly embracing renewable energy sources. Solar panels are being deployed on film sets to generate clean electricity, reducing reliance on fossil fuel-based power grids.
Additionally, renewable energy credits are often purchased to offset the emissions generated during production. Production Practices Film production entails a range of activities, including transportation, construction, and waste management. To address their carbon emissions, the motion picture industry is implementing sustainable production practices to reduce its environmental impact.
a. Green Transportation:
Production companies are encouraging the use of hybrid or electric vehicles for transportation to and from film sets. Carpooling and the use of biodiesel fuel for generators and trucks are also becoming more common. These measures help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with transportation.
b. Eco-friendly Set Design and Construction:
Sets are being designed and built with sustainable materials that have a lower carbon footprint. Recycled or reclaimed materials are utilised whenever possible, reducing the need for new resource extraction and minimising waste generation. And as indicated above, sets for ie. Call of the Wild are made for permanent usage.
c. Waste Management and Recycling: The film industry is adopting comprehensive waste management strategies to minimise landfill waste. Recycling programs are implemented on set, encouraging cast and crew to recycle paper, plastic, and reuse ie. water bottles. Composting food waste is also gaining popularity, or donating food to shelters, further reducing the environmental impact of film production.
Carbon Offsetting and Green Certifications To compensate for unavoidable emissions, motion picture productions often invest in carbon offset projects. These projects aim to reduce emissions elsewhere, effectively neutralising the carbon footprint of the film. By supporting initiatives like reforestation or renewable energy projects, the industry is taking steps toward achieving carbon neutrality.
Additionally, the industry is seeking green certifications to demonstrate its commitment to sustainability. Certifications like the Environmental Media Association's Green Seal and the Sustainable Production Alliance's Sustainable Production Certificate recognise and encourage environmentally responsible filmmaking practices. Education and Awareness
A very crucial aspect of sustainable filmmaking is raising awareness and educating industry professionals about the environmental impact of their work. Film organisations and associations often organise workshops, seminars, and training sessions to promote sustainable practices.
The Green Film School Alliance (GFSA) is a collaboration between film schools across the country to integrate sustainable practices in film at an educational level. GFSA launched the program Earth Angel. Earth Angel is a program that focuses on changing industry with practical and inventive new solutions to implement on production sites.
Most people who work on production sets see their environmental impact during filming or once filming is over. Audiences however, do usually not realise this waste exists.
Earth Angel provides a variety of services that circles around four key areas; strategy, staff, stuff, stats. Their help extends to ie. sound stages, production vendors, film offices, and production itself. Sometimes they will provide an eco-production assistant, or consult on proper waste management, and eco-footprint tracking.
Since 2013, Earth Angel has helped reduce emissions in the industry by 21.1%, donated 129,201 pounds of materials, saved clients over $1.2 million, avoided 8,500 metric tons of greenhouse gases, diverted over 4,800 tons of waste, and donated over 125,000 meals to the local communities.
Their client roster includes The Amazing Spider-Man 2, The Whale, Black Panther, Sharper, Spielberg’s The Post, Emmy-winner The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and Lin Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights.
The motion picture industry has recognised its environmental impact and is actively working to reduce carbon emissions through sustainable strategies.
By prioritising energy efficiency, renewable energy adoption, and sustainable production practices, the industry is taking significant steps towards mitigating its environmental footprint. The use of carbon offsetting and green certifications further demonstrates the industry's commitment to sustainability.
As filmmakers continue to prioritise sustainable practices and raise awareness, the motion picture industry can serve as a catalyst for positive change, inspiring other industries to embrace greener alternatives.
By doing so, we can collectively work towards a more sustainable and environmentally conscious future.
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