Video production has arguably become one of the most influential industries in the world, meaning media companies need to be more conscious about the impact they have on people and the environment. Right now, prominent media companies are already setting the stage for sustainable business practices in the industry, so it is imperative that smaller companies follow suit or they may fall behind and miss out on the opportunities that come with being green. Luckily, there are a variety of green initiatives your media company can pursue that can be tailored to fit your budget and goals, and yield cost savings and other benefits. This article will discuss the top green initiatives for video production sustainability.
Reduce Carbon Emissions from Production
TV and film production generates immense amounts of CO2 emissions through fuel, air travel, housing and utilities. The Sustainable Production Alliance conducted a study from 2016 to 2019 to determine what aspects of video production create the highest output of carbon emissions. What they found was that on average, across large and small productions, fuel use was the number one source of emissions, followed by utilities, air travel and housing.
Lower Fossil Fuel Use
Fuel is required in many aspects of production, from transportation to on-set generators, so it is critical that you take steps to use more cleaner, greener fuel alternatives to power these items. If budget allows, transition to electric vehicles and research clean fuel options for heavy duty vehicles like biofuels. This may be an ambitious investment for some companies but it will ultimately pay for itself in the long-term.
Diesel generators should be replaced by electrical grid tie-ins, an energy system that combines renewable energy with the electrical grid and stores excess energy to be used for larger products or for credit. However, if you are shooting on location, a battery generator offers a portable energy source that produces zero emissions and is also quieter and more convenient. There are even solar powered generators that exist on today’s market which would be ideal if you are working in a sunny climate.
Additionally, lowering your company’s fossil fuel dependency can be accomplished simply by adjusting habits and improving efficiency during production. For example, make sure your production projects are precisely on track with the schedule and avoid idleness or delays. Not only does improving production efficiency keep your crew and talent organized and your project running smoothly, it prevents unnecessary use of generators and other equipment.
Improve Utility and Building Energy Efficiency
Installing a grid-tied electrical system with a renewable energy source is a great way to sustainably power the utilities of your companies as it can store excess energy to be used elsewhere or to generate a credit. However, it should be known that renewable energy storage technology is still in development.
Investing in energy efficient utilities is another great way to lower fossil fuel use and reduce emissions. This includes installing automatic sensors for lights, sinks and toilets to conserve both water and electricity. LED lighting and instilling better energy use habits company-wide are other simple initiatives for improving energy efficiency.
Properly sealing and insulating your building prevents the need to use extra energy to regulate indoor temperatures. If you really want to test the airtightness of your building, then energy auditors can conduct a blower door test to identify potential air leaks that could be causing increased energy costs and uncomfortable drafts.
Reduce Air Travel
Depending on the size of your company, air travel can be an extremely important aspect of your operations. Use video conferencing or phone calls for meetings whenever possible to reduce flying and long distance travel. And if possible, avoid hiring employees or taking on clients who live too far from your base of operations. You could also expand your operations by networking and forming partnerships with other studios in multiple locations.
If none of these options are feasible, then do your best to travel in the greenest way possible, whether that’s by commuting by electric vehicle or choosing the most sustainable hotels and airlines. Also, simply keeping a record of your company’s carbon footprint is a great way to begin monitoring emissions created by air travel.
Rent or Buy Durable Equipment
Buying high quality, durable equipment that will last is a great way to ensure the sustainability of your company. However, if money is an issue or if you only need to use a certain piece of equipment only a few times, it is better to rent equipment than to buy it cheap. Finding equipment made from refurbished parts is another great way to green your gear. Use rechargeable batteries whenever possible and recycle non-reusable batteries properly.
Donate used equipment to other media companies, school film programs, charities or even non-profit media organizations. If donating isn’t an option in your area, research to locate an electronic recycling program to avoid tossing your old camera or microphone in the landfill. Websites such as Earth911 and Call2Recycle can be useful tools to find electronic recycling programs near you, as well as recycling programs for many other materials.
Updating your gear can be a hassle, however it is completely worth the time and money to invest in something as it will not only help the environment, it will also save you money in the long run.
Get the Most Out of Your Sets, Props and Wardrobe
Set design, props and wardrobe are all aspects of production that can create a lot of unnecessary waste. Luckily, there are plenty of ways this waste can be greatly reduced and even eliminated in some cases. Set pieces and props can be made from all sorts of materials, much of which can be recycled or repurposed. The most basic method would be simply using the same set piece or props for multiple productions or modifying or painting over them to create something new.
Depending on the location of your company, set materials could be donated to other film companies to be used in their productions. Set pieces can be donated to schools and communities to contribute to theatre and film programs. The Material Reuse Center in California is a great example of an organization that accepts unwanted set materials, props and costumes.
Other organizations specialize in textile recycling and reclaimed metal and wood. And don’t forget local thrift stores that often accept all sorts of unwanted items. Just be sure that you are only donating quality, undamaged items to keep these materials from being thrown out anyway.
If repurposing or donating aren’t possible, then research textile or material recycling businesses near you to see if your set materials can be collected. Unfortunately, many items cannot be recycled but that’s why it is critical to contact a facility that specializes in hard-to-recycle materials.
Provide Sustainable Catering
Providing catering for clients, actors and employees is most likely a large part of your company budget and an area that cannot be skimped on. There are many ways to make your catering services more sustainable.
To start, opt for reusable silverware and dishes over single-use plastics and paper plates. To reduce plastic waste, water should be bought in bulk either in the form of recyclable water jugs or a water dispenser with jugs that are collected for reuse. While you may have to spend a little extra, providing crew members and clients with reusable water bottles helps avoid unnecessary plastic waste.
Whether it’s your own staff providing the food or if you hire outside caterers, make sure you know exactly how many people will need to be served in order to minimize food waste. Any leftover food can be donated to local shelters and nonprofits that accept it. For food waste that cannot be donated, look into starting a composting system to turn scraps into nutrient-rich compost. Note: This would only be practical for production projects at or close to your homebase studio.
Additionally, if you do use outside caterers, ensure they share the same mission as you and also strive to be environmentally and socially responsible. Choose local companies who provide locally sourced food that is grown sustainably and ethically. Finally, don’t forget that what food you serve also matters. Providing more in-season, plant-based options helps reduce the carbon emissions caused by meat production. Schedule one or more days during the production week to be meatless.
Sustainability in the Production Office
Your media company most likely has a production office where client meetings are held, editing is conducted and other important operations are carried out. There are many ways to make this space greener, starting with eliminating or reducing paper use. All documents should be shared electronically. This includes forms, contracts and even scripts that can be sent to portable tablets for actors to reference on set. When printing is necessary, ensure you choose the most eco-friendly paper products and inks, and have a scrap paper bin for people to jot down quick notes.
When managing waste, recycling bins should be installed at convenient locations throughout the office and should be well marked. Energy efficiency and resource conservation efforts like installing LEDs and low-flow faucets also apply to the office space. Be sure to turn off electronic equipment when not in use to avoid the extra energy that drains from phantom power.
You can even incentivize sustainability within the office. For each production project that is completed, an award could be given to the employee or team who showed the greatest initiative to be green both on set and within the office. Hold routine meetings to discuss your company goals toward sustainability and engage your employees by sharing your green mission statement and any educational resources on sustainability.
Advocate for Sustainability On-Screen
The opportunity to instill green practices doesn’t stop at production. The influence of video production is indisputable and there’s a critical opportunity to advocate for sustainability in film and media industries. According to a 2018 report by the Rocky Mountain Institute in cooperation with the Green Production Guide, renewable energy sources are underrepresented in the media. This should prompt film and TV companies to start integrating renewable energy into storylines or set pieces of the content they produce.
Supporting the integration of greener practices into society and our everyday lifestyles means showcasing and normalizing sustainability – clean energy, recycling, composting, electric vehicles, reusable water bottles and bags, etc. – within media and entertainment. Your company can start supporting video production sustainability by incorporating green thinking and green habits into current and future scripts and sets..
Conclusion: Video Production Sustainability Can Influence the World
Video production sustainability is necessary not only because the industry has a significant environmental impact but it also has an incredible influence on society and the public’s perceptions. There are actions your company can take immediately that will make an enormous difference. Not only will adopting green practices on set and in the workspace benefit the environment but video production sustainability has been found to yield cost savings and elevate company reputation, making it more attractive to potential employees, actors and clients. Not to mention, you will have a positive influence on all your viewers and may inspire them to be more sustainable themselves.
About the Author
GBB Green Ambassador
Jack Duncan is a content writer for Green Business Bureau who is pursuing a degree in the environmental sciences and community planning at Westfield State University. He is passionate about nature and environmental issues and loves spending time outdoors. His hobbies include hiking, running, photography and videography. After college, he hopes to travel and pursue a meaningful job in the environmental field.