Many people think of industrial businesses as big contributors to poor air quality, but did you know that Hollywood is second only to petroleum manufacturing when it comes to air pollution in the metro Los Angeles area? Here's a look at why film and television production can be so hard on the environment and what studios can do about it.
Waste On Entertainment Sets
Hollywood sets (and that includes films shot on location elsewhere) are notorious for outrageous amounts of waste. Craft catering service throws away uneaten food every day, trash is often disposed of in bulk without recyclable materials being separated, and little if any effort is made to use sustainable materials in set construction.
This might not seem like a big deal, but when a film or TV series is shot, hundreds of people are involved in every aspect of the production each day. Just the amount of gray water (recyclable water from things like hand washing) created on-set in 24 hours is huge.
Hollywood's Carbon Footprint
The impact of Hollywood can be felt even further in its carbon footprint:
- Trucks are left idling for convenience, rather than shut off between use.
- Fuel consumption is high locally, traveling to locations, and promoting productions.
- There is heavy energy use on-set for lighting, heating, and electrical devices
Not every production has to be so devastating to the environment, however. Food leftover at the end of a day's shoot could be given to homeless shelters and food banks or even composted. Efforts could be made to use green materials whenever possible in set construction, and more films could be made locally, rather than using massive amounts of jet fuel and producing emissions by flying to exotic locations.
Sound stages could be better insulated to reduce heating costs. A considerable amount of energy could also be provided by solar panels, especially in sunny California.
Waste management experts from companies like A & S Sanitation Services could be consulted to find out the best ways to reduce the amount of trash created while filming.
One area where studios are making some headway is in designating a team of workers to assist with green efforts. These staff members help keep recyclable materials separated from other waste and remind idling vehicles to shut down their engines.
Some films have even gone a step further in improving sustainability. The Matrix sequels, for example, employed The ReUse People, a nonprofit that is dedicated to reusing materials and reducing solid waste.
Film Biz Recycling in New York City is another nonprofit group that takes leftover materials, furniture, props, and clothing from the entertainment industry and donates them to charity, sells them in their retail shop, or rents them out to other productions. In the last seven years, they have kept 500 tons of material out of the waste stream in New York. They even provide downloadable signs for productions to help designate recycling containers and idle-free parking zones.
While a handful of actors and entertainment executives have stepped up to demand more sustainability in the industry, there is one more sector that needs to weigh in. Film goers who spend billions at the theater every year need to demand that Hollywood maintain a lower carbon footprint and increase their green initiatives.