Your guide to a sustainable production
When you’re working flat out to hit production deadlines, thinking about the environmental consequences of your productions can seem like one demand too many. But the reality is that going green doesn’t have to make you feel blue. There are lots of simple measures you can take to reduce your carbon footprint and have a positive impact on the environment.
Below is a list of ways you can make a difference. Before we look at the guide though, we will start off with providing you with three ways in which companies can address the challenge of creating an eco-friendly framework.
Introduce Effective Green Management
Companies that have a good track record in this area generally have a green policy that is endorsed from the top down. Senior managers should agree on objectives and responsibilities both in the office and at the outset of production. Crew is more likely to respond if there is encouragement to do so and if they see their managers leading by example. It also helps if you have an individual responsible for sustainability so that people know who to turn to (this is valuable if you have a lot of freelancers who are unfamiliar with company work practices).
Adopt A Sustainability Mindset
Most sustainable companies abide by the 3 Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - and they should be adhered to in that order. In other words, don’t use as much the quantities of materials that you used to; think about how to adapt what you already have and make sure what’s left is recycled. Only resort to throwing things away with the regular rubbish after you’ve considered the above three steps. And remember, many of these measures will save money as well.
Map Out All Areas Which Impact The Environment
Think about how sustainability can be introduced into all the moving parts of a production, such as the office, transport and location. If you really want to make a difference you could ask service providers like caterers, couriers and post-production what commitments they have made to green production.
So, without further ado, what are the key action points a producer can carry out to enhance their environmental credentials?
Action Plan A: The Office
Space: Ask yourself if your office is too big. Is it feasible to reduce the space you use, thus limiting your energy consumption?
Lighting: Obviously you should turn off lights when they are not needed. But is it also possible to configure the office so that less lighting is used, perhaps by changing seating arrangements?
Equipment: Computers, TVs, DVD players and mobile devices are all energy hungry. So switch them off instead of leaving them on standby. Bring your IT support into the green debate so they can advise on which machines are most energy efficient and what needs to be done to put machines in power saving mode.
Temperature control: Don’t overheat the office during winter time. Conversely, consider opening windows in summer instead of using air-conditioning. If you do use air-conditioning, however, make sure windows are closed so it can work efficiently. Not all companies have control over the heating but if you do, consider reducing the temperature by a notch or two.
Stationery: Production can be a paper hungry business but it doesn’t need to be. Print on both sides of paper and use draft mode so less ink is consumed. Where possible use laptops and projectors in meetings and only give paper handouts to people who really need them (also encourage sharing). Try to avoid endlessly printing out new versions of scripts. Make sure you are using recycled paper and that all paper is put in a recycling bin when it is finished with.
Apply similar thinking to envelopes, reusing them when possible and recycling if not. Don’t forget to apply the same rigour when you move out of production and start marketing the show to audiences and the trade.
Tapes, Discs, Printer Cartridges, Batteries etc: A lot of companies are shifting to digital workflow, which is clearly a step in the direction of sustainability. But in the meantime reuse tapes and discs where possible. Printer cartridges and batteries need to be disposed of correctly, though it is best to re-use batteries.
Food and Drink: Encourage staff and crew to avoid using disposable cups and cutlery. At a strategic level, investigate whether it is possible to source food and drink locally.
Action Plan B: Transport
Limit Staff Car Usage: To quote the old adage - Is your journey really necessary? If possible, base yourself close to where staff live. Ask your employees and crew to walk, cycle or use public transport when they come to the office or set. If they have to use cars, try and encourage car-sharing.
Production is a collaborative business but where possible look at whether staff can work from home some of the time. Consider whether your approach to meetings can be adapted to be more environment-friendly. Can meetings be held via video-conferencing or conference calls? If not, is the meeting venue easy for everyone to get to by public transport?
Optimise Your Use Of Other Vehicles: When using vehicles in your production prioritise low emission modes of transport and encourage fuel-efficient driving techniques. Try to plan so that you aren’t returning to sites for one-off activities that might have been rolled into a single journey.
Trains are more efficient than cars so try and book early to get the cheapest tickets. Avoid flying if possible. Where you can, transport people in groups and plan journeys to be as efficient as possible. Coaches or mini-buses could, for example, could be used for cast and crew.
Increase Efficiency Among Logistical Support: Courier services is an area where you would do well to ask your service provider about their green credentials. Do they use low-emission cars or, better still, motorcycles? Try and plan so that you aren’t having to book extra trips to deliver single items. Similarly, try to use people and services such as catering that are local.
Action Plan C: Studio, Sets, Props and Wardrobe
Studio Lighting: The biggest energy users in studios are the lighting and air-conditioning required to keep the studio cool. Control lighting energy consumption and that should have a knock on effect on air-conditioning. The key people in controlling lighting efficiency are the lighting director and the studio facility itself. They will know if there is a Low Energy Lighting (LEL) solution that will work for your production.
General Behaviour: As well as studio lighting, general green-aware behaviour such as turning off lights/equipment and shutting doors will help reduce energy consumption. Once again, the use of rechargeable batteries is recommended. Check with studios that there are recycling facilities on the studio floor and gallery.
Props etc: Producers should consider buying props or costumes rather than hiring them if they think they can be reused (assuming there is somewhere to store them). When buying props, the green-friendly solution is to buy second-hand if possible. In the case of rented costumes, check with the supplier to see what approach they take with regard to cleaning chemicals.
As for props and sets that need to be built from scratch, consider the source of the material used. Look for green indicators such as FSC or Fair Trade logos on materials. Similarly with paints, ask suppliers about low and zero VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) paints that use water instead of chemicals.
As a general rule, try to make sets using existing construction materials rather than buying new stock. Consider how the set will be disposed of after use. Also store paint safely or dispose of it correctly by contacting a waste management company.
Make-up and hair: Are the products used by your make-up and hair team organic or Fair trade? Do they have packaging that can be recycled? Where possible use washable towels and bio-degradable cleaning supplies.
Action Plan D: On Location
Pros and Cons Of Location Work: The good news is that location work requires few sets and less lighting than a studio. The bad news is that it can involve a lot of travel, particularly now that producers are forced to chase financial incentives. As a result, environmentally-conscious production companies need to plan carefully to minimise the negative impact they might have when filming on location.
Travel Planning: Location choices may be driven by budgets, but it’s still possible to find ways to limit impact. Group travel, for example, may prove cheaper and more efficient than allowing everyone to make their own way separately. Choosing accommodation near to the location can also reduce negative environmental impact once filming is underway. Also keep in mind that modern hotels tend to be more environmentally friendly than older alternatives (though maybe not so quaint).
Impact On Wildlife, Plant Life, Local Culture: Part of a producer’s environmental responsibility is to avoid damaging the location where they work. As part of the location planning process, advice should be taken from relevant authorities before any final decisions are taken. At the end of a production, all efforts should be made to return the location to its previous state.
Use Of Generators: Most generators are diesel hungry and should be used sparingly to avoid spewing out too many CO2 emissions. Have a clear idea of what you’re using the generator for. If it’s to keep food refrigerated overnight then it’s probably an inefficient process. If it’s to run trailers, ask your cast to share. As with all service provision, look at alternatives, for example generators that run on vegetable oil or solar power.
Catering: Food and drink on set has three main environmental impacts: waste, food miles and the power required to cook it. Buy food from local catering firms if possible because this benefits the area where you’re filming and reduces food miles. Tell caterers that you would like both the food and the way in which it is delivered, packaged and prepared to be as sustainable as possible. If there must be imported food, attempt to purchase fair trade goods. Buy in bulk to reduce packaging but don’t order more than you need.
If there is waste, separate it into types so it can be recycled. Plates, bottles, cups and utensils also create waste so aim to deploy re-usable ones instead.
Give your cast and crew re-usable water bottles with their names on and ask everyone including leading cast and technical staff to use them. If senior figures are seen using personal water bottles then others are more likely to follow.
Waste disposal: Make sure there are recycling and composting facilities for food waste, plastic, glass and paper/ cardboard. Ensure that whoever collects the waste is a registered waste management company and, if possible, is locally-based.
Miscellaneous: If the location area is large, provide bicycles to transport cast and crew. If you plan to use fire effects or explosions, ask the specialists on your team to explore the most environmentally-friendly options.
Finally, follow best practice from the office, such as printing all documents double-sided, use rechargeable batteries and turn equipment off when there’s nobody making use of it.