Lights, camera…action for nature?

Indirect effects of the film industry include the CO2 emissions caused by movie productions and the use of materials linked to deforestation. The more direct effects include the damage caused by crews on set.

A single soundstage can lead to 4,000 hectares of deforestation, according to research from UCLA. This is due to the use of 'lauan', a lightweight plywood which is easy to work with, but often unsustainably harvested from rainforests. 

To put that in perspective, a common sports field is 1 acre in size, and one hectare is 2.47 acres. This means one sound stage can be responsible for destroying an area equivalent to about 9,000 sports fields. 

When we think of entertainment, we imagine movies, art, concerts and shows. What doesn’t immediately come to mind is how the industry is contributing to the loss of biodiversity and how we can help lessen this impact. As an example, let’s take a look at one of the most popular industries in the bunch, the film industry.

The motion picture industry has come a long way from the old black and white silent films to the box office blockbusters we have today. In that process movie productions also started having greater effects on the environment. Of course, the impact varies for each film production, but there are a few root issues that contribute to environmental degradation.

Media outlets reported that the production of Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) left tire tracks on an untouched, fragile landscape in Namibia. Film sets also have been criticized for the amount of waste they generate and leave behind. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017) was accused of spilling chemical waste into a creek in Australia.

In recent years, we have seen a shift to more eco-conscious filmmaking. Studios in Vancouver, Los Angeles and London are incorporating sustainable production practices that consider not only environmental but also social and economic issues.  

Hollywood’s most influential production companies. including Netflix, Disney and Sony Pictures, established the Green Production Guide in an effort to shrink the industry’s carbon footprint and environmental impact. The guide offers a “A Note to Producers” with checklists for being “green” on and off set as well as an online toolkit that includes a worldwide database of vendors that provide sustainable goods and services. Also, it offers resources such as the Production Environmental Accounting Report (PEAR), the Production Environmental Actions Checklist (PEACH), Sustainable Production Infographics and sample memos to help communicate sustainability efforts to cast and crew. 

Sustainable Film Production 1
This shift has led production companies to create their own initiatives, such as NBC Universal’s Green is Universal initiative, which uses infographics, like this one, as a signature tool of the programme.

In addition, we’ve seen an emergence of organizations dedicated to helping lessen the environmental impact the industry has. Two organizations that have helped productions with waste reduction, clean up and recycling of material are Earth Angle and Keep it Green Recycling. Film companies have also gone as far as adding eco-consultants to production teams to ensure green practices are being considered. As a result, we have films such as The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which saved almost US$400,000 by going green, and Tomorrowland, which followed a comprehensive zero waste initiative.

The steps taken by some in the motion picture industry are encouraging and provide an example for the entire entertainment sector, whether it be music, museums, zoos or others in the industry. Through their efforts, movie industry innovators are showing that not only is a sustainable transition possible, it is already happening.



More Information:

Business and Biodiversity

Action Agenda

Edward Norton: UN Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity