We are being told with increasing urgency that climate change needs to be tackled with drastic action. In London alone the video production industry produces 125,000 tonnes of emmisions every year. These emissions can come from energy use, travel, waste, water consumption and so on… Many production companies have started to recognise that it is crucial to tackle their impact on the environment. Even the BFI has issued a statement on sustainability. But as with all sustainability issues, we should all be doing our bit, even the smallest video production companies.
What can video production companies do to help reduce their carbon footprints?
During a video production, sustainability should be considered from the conception of an idea and all crew members who are involved should be on board. It should involve all of the key stakeholders including the director, film producer, production or costume designer, cast, and crew.
If this sounds far fetched, there are already lots of examples of huge blockbuster films making their productions sustainable. One of these is “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”. Sony employed a full-time sustainability manager which helped them divert a huge amount of waste from landfill along with saving an estimated $400,000 from their green efforts. You can read more about that HERE.
So, here are some elements of production which can go green, saving environmental resources and money.
Depending on he size of your video or film production, there could be a lot of crew and cast – amounting to a lot of journeys. Taking the time to make these journeys as efficient as possible will significantly reduce the carbon emissions of a production. Travel could be made more sustainable with improved route planning, carpooling, utilising public transport, reduced air travel and shipping props all at once.
Commutes and air travel can be reduced by using video conferencing where appropriate. You can also reduce travel emissions by hiring locally or working with other studios in multiple locations.
Sending runners out for small jobs is inefficient and will waste fuel and money! Make production more efficient by consolidating tasks ahead of time and making each journey count.
Social Enterprise and Community
Sustainability is not just about reducing your carbon footprint. There are elements of sustainability you can employ which will enrich communities and help create a better society for those communities.
Social impact can be reduced by creating clear guidelines for filming which reduce the impact on the local community. This involves communicating the hours which the area will be disrupted for. Efficient production schedules should avoid this impact becoming too disruptive for the local community. This will also benefit the production company by saving money.
Economically you can help by employing people locally – from crew to caterers. This also reduces travel costs and impact. With the people hired it is also vital but often ignored to make sure they are paid properly and work healthy hours.
Providing catering for clients, actors and crew may be a big part of your budget. There are lots of ways to make it more sustainable. Use reusable utensils – knives, forks and plates. Use reusable water bottles or cups, not single use plastic bottles. While you may have to spend a little extra, providing crew members and clients with reusable water bottles helps avoid unnecessary plastic waste. On “The Amazing Spider-man 2” production the sustainability directors, Earth Angel, estimated that they saved $20,000 to $40,000 in the long-term by using reusable drinks containers.
In terms of food, make sure you know exactly how many people need to be fed to avoid food waste. Any leftovers can be donated to shelters or food banks. If you use caterers, try to hire them locally and make sure they have the same sustainability ethics as you. Think about the type of food being served as well. Offering lots of plant based and seasonal options is a great way to improve your sustainability.
This is another cost saving alteration you can make to be more sustainable. Paper can easily be reduced on most productions by digitalising scripts and revisions, call sheets and office activities as well as printing double sided when completely necessary.
Another plus of this is that a digitalised document cannot be misplaced as easily and is simple to share with significantly reduced costs and carbon emissions. Only specific and sensitive documents need to be printed – even signatures can be digitalised so there is no need for huge amounts of paper.
A lot of aspects of production which we have spoken about already use fuel. For this reason it is important to be mindful of how clean your fuel is. Fuel will be used for transport and on set electrical requirements. On larger scale productions with the scope in their budget then vehicles could be swapped for electrical vehicles. Use rechargeable batteries whenever possible and recycle non-reusable batteries properly. These are investments that will pay for themselves in the longer-term.
If production is planned well and made efficient then this can also help energy consumption. For example, make sure your production projects are precisely on track with the schedule and avoid delays. Not only does improving production efficiency keep your crew and talent organised and your project running smoothly, it prevents unnecessary use of generators and other equipment.
If you have a production office then changes can also be made here. This can be done by improving energy efficiency in the building. Invest in energy efficient utilities like automatic sensors for lights and sinks. Also make sure your premises are properly sealed for insulation.
Set, Props and Equipment
Using durable equipment is key for sustainability. If you don’t have the budget to buy high quality equipment then try and rent it. Finding equipment made from refurbished parts is another great way to be greener. Updating gear can be expensive, but it is completely worth the money to invest, for yourself and the environment. When you are done with equipment, make sure to sell or donate it – to schools, charities or media companies.
Props and set can have a hugely damaging effect on the environment if not dealt with well. Get the most out of sets, props and wardrobe by reusing and repurposing items and materials. If pieces can’t be reused or repurposed then consider donating them. Failing that, make sure that materials are separated and recycled in an appropriate way.
On-Screen Sustainability Advocacy
Whilst the video production industry physically has an effect on the environment, it also affects the way people think and influences it’s consumers. Therefore, what is conveyed on-screen and in the press can have an impact on people’s behaviour and could help people to make more environmentally conscious decisions.
Additionally, adopting a more sustainable approach can improve people’s perceptions of your production company and its ethics, in turn bringing in more business. There’s a critical opportunity to advocate for sustainability in film and media industries. Renewable energy sources are not represented in media, they need to be normalised and advocated for. Film and TV companies need to start integrating renewable energy into content and storylines.
Overall, sustainability in video production will save money, your reputation and the world. Most people want to have a positive impact, and advocating for sustainability in film and television is something which isn’t yet done on a wide enough scale. Normalising sustainability can start with your company incorporating green thinking and green habits into current and future scripts and sets…