Artists for the Earth

Box Office Blowout: Greening Hollywood

Television and film take us to far-away worlds and put us in other characters’ shoes where we can all escape for a short period of time. Movies and television shows do an important service to those of us who especially need the break! Recently large productions like Oppenheimer are ”blowing up” in the entertainment industry, with eye-catching visual effects and a star-studded cast. Although a bomb was not actually used, drums of fuel were set on fire to mimic the historical explosions and while it is undoubtedly true that these box office extravaganzas produce truly eye -catching visual effects, it’s not always for the good of the environment.

In the United States, film and television productions generate about 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, while major motion pictures produce 2,840 metric tons – so collectively just under 3000 metric tons. To put that into perspective, in 2020, consumer materials like personal products and household goods collectively accounted for 90 million metric tons. So, although the entertainment industry produces far less emissions, it remains an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to protecting the environment. Which is why it is heartening to see production companies, studios and directors starting to make efforts to do their part.

Which Industry Titans are Getting Greener?

Marvel’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 perhaps helped to set the agenda – when way back in 2014 creating a sustainable environment on set by reusing or donating about 49.7 tons of materials, which diverted nearly 52% of all production materials away from  landfills. Not only did they act sustainably on set, they also helped off set as well by donating 5,862 meals to local shelters and participated in restoration and tree planting in New York’s East River Park. 

Marvel is not alone; other production, network and distribution platforms are actively moving toward a greener film and television industry. One of them is NBC Universal. NBC has introduced multiple initiatives to take more proactive steps toward sustainability in the fields of energy, waste, and recycling. About 50% of NBC sets are now lit with LED lighting, which uses about 75% less energy than incandescent lighting and is even more cost effective. 

NBS actively repurposes sets and props across series and movies too, where it can.  In fact, going way back classic shows such as The Office and Scrubs shared hospital so they didn’ need to build separate ones.The production team of the Good Place aimed for a zero-waste set – with active recycling, a composting program, filtered water dispenser stations, a dedicated sustainability PA and they even had solar-powered talent trailers! Downton Abbey, Fast & the Furious and a whole raft of other NBC productions have since aimed to be more  consciously sustainable.  

In 2019 alone NBC Props, Set Dec, and Wardrobe departments donated over $11,000 worth of toys, clothing, and furniture to organizations serving children and families in need and their excess catering companies donated an estimated 39,470 meals from 69 different productions. Finally, nearly all NBCphased out the use of plastic water bottles and digitized most scripts and documents to prevent paper waste. Lastly, NBC

Netflix too is apioneer of sustainable production as well. Specifically, Netflix aims to cut their total emissions in half by 2030. In 2021, Netflix reduced 10% of their emissions. 

In 2022, Netflix curated “Sustainabiliity Stories,” which includes over 200 series, films and specials that educate viewers on climate and sustainability. In addition, Netflix is making their productions greener and more sustainable with blockbusters including Glass Onion, Don’t Look Up, and Our Planet. For fuel and energy usage, Netflix intends to use more electric vehicles, clean mobile power, renewable energy, and “supplier incentives” to encourage energy providers to invest in more sustainable energy.

Plastic is Not Fantastic

Then, there’s plastic on set! A new adaptation of Spiderwick Chronicles is making waves in the world of sustainability and plastic use because Kat Koiro, the director of the show, believes that seeing plastic bottles in films and television encourages the use of plastic by the audience. 

As a result she completely eliminated  the display of plastic water bottles and products on the set and just like in her other shows – like the film Marry Me – she replaced plastic materials, like water bottles, with reusable options, like thermos flaks or mugs. 

As viewers, you may think we can’t make much of a difference, but it is our job to watch out for the Earth as well. By adopting some of the practices that film sets are using, such as LED light usage, recycling, and more, we can make a collective effort to slow climate change. You can also help by supporting organizations like EARTHDAY.ORG. Our theme for Earth Day 2024 is Planet vs. Plastics. Learn more about why we are fighting to End Plastics, and sign the Global Plastics Treaty today.