Let’s start by addressing the naysayers. Perhaps the first question is: why?
Why should you care about making your set “green”? What’s the point of creating an eco-friendly production? Why should you care?
I will say the first thing that comes to my mind.
Have you ever been to one?
Let’s not leave this as our legacy.
As a producer, I try to always leave a location better than how I found it. I am sure you do the same as well.
So why would we leave the planet worse than how we found it?
We all know how much trash gets generated in production. If we can take just a little bit of time to save enormous waste, shouldn’t we all do it?
How recycling helps:
- Conserving world’s finite natural resources. (Some of it is in short supply!)
- Protecting ecosystems and wildlife.
- Reduces the exploitation of vulnerable communities (like displacing those living around forests or rivers)
- Save energy (Making products from recycled materials requires less energy than making them from new raw materials.)
- Cuts climate-changing carbon emissions. (Keeps potentially methane-releasing waste out of landfill sites.)
- It creates new jobs for the economy!
Our small actions can make a big impact on the environment.
The earlier we embrace “going green” as an industry, the better we do for public health and the planet. I hope you will see you can go green easily and get inspired to lead by example.
Confession, I learned a lot while researching ‘green sets’ and I realized some of the things I previously assumed were not correct. This is a must-read for everyone in film & video production.
What you and I can do starts with understanding the basics of waste management (reusing, recycling, compost, landfill etc.). We get to inspire all departments to be conscious about reusing & recycling and encourage everyone to be part of the solution early on.
Myth vs. Reality
Myth: Even if an item shouldn’t go in the bin, it will get sorted anyway.
Reality: False. Non-recyclable items are not accepted curbside.
Non-recyclable items contaminate recyclables.
- Recyclable items placed into garbage containers are hauled to a landfill and cannot be recovered effectively.
- Recyclables stuck inside plastic bags are at risk for never making it through the recycling process.
The right thing to do is to put the right recyclables in the recycling container and non-recyclables into garbage containers. Recyclables with the greatest impact are bottles, cans, paper, and cardboard.
Another myth for line producers is that going green ‘seems much more expensive’.
However – that’s not entirely correct!
Here in this eye-opening report by Emellie O’Brien, in Green Production Guide for producers, it is proven that it is not the case.
Let’s brainstorm for the independent producer with budgets under 1M with the simplest example.
At first glance, perhaps calculating the bottled water cost may seem cheaper than buying an affordable water dispenser. Here is a new calculation I would invite you to consider:
- Calculating the cost of trips by your crafty team or your PA/time expense (also losing a person on set.)
- Their gas reimbursement/cost expense
- Paying for the trash collection / another cost expense
You will be surprised how many microtransactions can be avoided by just going green from the beginning.
The price tag should not be the only consideration. One should also consider the savings in the long-term.
‘Going green being expensive’ is a myth. Your recycling is not going to break your budget. There are ways to be conscious of both the budget and the planet.
Three Rules to Recycle Right
- Recycle clean bottles, cans, paper, and cardboard.
- Keep food and liquid out of your recycling.
- No loose plastic bags and no bagged recyclables.
You can start recycling right now.
- Grab two containers: Set your recycling container next to the trash bin. (It can be repurposed boxes or reusable bags)
- Label both containers!
Remember to free your recyclables. No plastic bags.
Start getting in the habit of putting these containers together in your productions, don’t make your crew walk to recycle.
Four 4 R’s
Refuse: You can cut down on your waste simply by refusing to buy single-use plastics.
Reduce: Part of throwing away less is buying less, and being more mindful as a consumer.
Reuse: Before tossing out your trash, consider whether it can be repurposed as something else.
Recycle: Recycling is the last resort in the waste management hierarchy.
Tips To Go Green in Film & Video Production
Refusing to buy bottles and recycling plastic and paper is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a lot we can do to reduce, reuse, and recycle on film & video production.
Below, I took a few points from GreenProductionGuide.com > PGA Green’s ‘Unified Best Practices Guide’ published in 2014.
The basic principles behind “greening” a production include
- preventing landfill waste
- conserving fuel and energy,
- avoiding toxins and pollution,
- saving water
It is important to identify priorities and challenges before the production begins. Make the commitment, and engage everyone in the conversation early.
→ the filmmakers and funders
→ producing team (Line Producer, UPM and Supervisors)
→ department heads
During your pre-production meeting, announce the intention and solicit input from department heads regarding ways to make their department greener.
It is essential to and circulate educational information and resources to all cast and crew and communicate green goals and strategies for the production.
Set up the production office and stage facilities to encourage waste reduction
Choose paper made from at least 30% post-consumer recycled content. Print double-sided.
Purchase reusable water bottles for cast and crew, portable water dispensers, waste receptacles, and corresponding signage
Educate crew on proper waste disposal, sustainable practices, and promote conservation early on.
Encourage tablet use over hard copies.
When renting vehicles, notify vendors in advance of your choice to use bio-fuels and alternative fuel vehicles (hybrids, electric, flex-fuel)
Art & Set Materials
Choose biodegradable materials, such as canvas, paper, wood and cardboard, and materials with high percentages of recycled content.
Repurpose wood sets and set dressing when possible.
Think of wrap during prep, and prepare a list of local schools, theaters, or arts organizations who can take donations of used sets and materials.
Consider coordinating the shooting schedule to allow for reuse of set walls, platforms, and lighting grids.
Use screws, instead of nails or glue, so that construction materials can be easily salvaged.
Never rinse excess paint down the drain. Start an “excess paint” bucket to be disposed of as hazardous waste.
Consolidate like colors of unused paint, clearly label the cans and donate them or use them on future production.
Compost any plants that expire.
Location & Signs
Try to make all signage out of recycled or recyclable materials.
Use only elastic bands or string to hang signs on trees—never staples, thumb tacks or tape, all of which can severely damage trees.
Set up recycling bins next to all trash containers with clear signage detailing the materials appropriate for each bin.
Compute progress statistics and share lessons learned to keep crew engaged and to re-energize the team.
Offer incentives to cast and crew for their environmental efforts
Promote electronic communication and limit the paper offering to when it’s specifically requested.
Eliminate plastic water bottles from your production. Research convenient water systems that help conserve water and reduce waste, while keeping the cast and crew hydrated and healthy.
Source water locally whenever possible. Visit waterfleet.com for on-site potable water solutions.
Maintain watering stations in the following locations:
- In the production office
- By the set
- At the craft service table
- By camper/truck parking
- In extras holding
- In the hair/makeup trailer
- In the wardrobe truck
Never use Styrofoam!
Grab a reusable travel mug for coffee runs, and never purchase coffee in a Styrofoam cup.
Purchase organic and Fair Trade Certified™ coffee and tea, and choose bulk sizes to avoid excess packaging.
Unplug the coffee maker when it’s not in use.
Order takeout lunches from restaurants that serve in recyclable or biodegradable containers.
Organize food recovery of catering leftovers with local shelters
Throw food in the compost bin.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, which is more than 25% of all food prepared in the US. Once in a landfill, the organic matter becomes increasingly hot and produces methane gas, a greenhouse gas.
Add compost bin in the following locations:
- Staging area close to camera
- Craft service tables
- Base camp
- Catering area
- Shop and construction spaces
- Extras holding areas
Compost the following:
- All Fruits and Vegetables
- All fish and meat products, including bones
- All food products without packaging
- All bakery items
- Cuttings from the floral/green departments
- All soiled or un-recyclable corrugated paper
So, all the dirty tissues and napkins that you can’t recycle can be composted!
Recycle expendables that can’t be reused.
Sash, zip cord, and black wrap are recyclable.
Make sure there are clearly labeled receptacles for these items on set.
Donate your Duvetine to local organizations and film schools.
Establish scrap gel, scrap film, and dead battery collections
Outline a waste management plan with department heads
Reach out to other productions that might be interested in purchasing any bulk materials.
Think of wrap as an opportunity to repurpose or donate materials, including lumber, scenery, paint, and props
Recycle all wood, nails, and screws that can’t be donated.
Recycle all scrap metal.
Oversee striking of sets and material disposal, offer waste diversion efforts compliant with studio’s policies
Dispose of batteries and compact fluorescent light bulbs as hazardous waste with a certified hazardous waste vendor, and donate or recycle electronic equipment.
Visit recyclenation.com for finding local recycling facilities.
Create a sustainability report and get it out as far as possible – make your green success stories known!
Thank you for reading this.
Feel free to share it with your fellow producers and encourage them to go green.