The Guide to Sustainable Practices On Set

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

By: David Wells, Moving Picture Rental

The sheer amount of waste we experience daily on film productions is shocking. Huge volumes of wood thrown into dumpsters after a day’s use. Food from catering disposed of rather than sent to food banks. Hundreds of plastic water bottles, many barely consumed, end up in large plastic bags never to be recycled.

NBCUniversal is taking the lead to change all that! Green is Universal is NBC Universal’s ongoing sustainability initiative dedicated to raising environmental awareness and helping to nurture a healthy planet.

"Film and television production is fast-paced and transient, therefore, NBCUniversal created a simple, easy to use visual guide which illustrates sustainable production best practices." - Green Is Universal Blog

One example is a standout show already going above and beyond, amongst the many TV shows attempting to go green. The Magicians TV series on the Syfy Channel surpassed the NBCUniversal Sustainable Production Program this season. Watch and be inspired!

We read through NBCUniversal’s sustainable production practices and summarized below the main points on how you can set up protocols for production offices, stages and set builds, as well as on location, designed to lessen the impact on the environment.

Sustainability in Production Offices: Aim to reduce, reuse and recycle

While working at the production office try to reduce the use of print paper, tissue paper, reduce consumption of water bottles. Try to reuse each material and give it a second life. Perhaps cut the water bottle into a pen holder, and bring our own glass or mug to work. Lastly, after you use these materials try to recycle them and purchase them again from recycled sources.

"Starting when the Production Office opens, productions work to reduce, reuse and recycle. One key area is paper use. NBCU productions purchase paper that is made from recycled material and distribute information digitally as much as possible. For instance, Jurassic World achieved a 50% reduction in paper use when compared to a similar sized tentpole production." – Green Is Universal Blog

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Sustainability in Film Set Construction: Source sustainable materials.

During the construction of movie sets, the main driver of sustainability is to source sustainable materials. Constructing with woods that are FSC certified makes a difference. Using materials that come from recycled sources makes a difference too! And once you are done using the set, store it and give it a second life by using it again for sequels or other projects.

"For example, sets on USA’s Mr. Robotand Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, produced by Universal Television for Netflix, are made from plywood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).   In Vancouver, Fifty Shades of Grey also built sets with FSC certified plywood and faux walls made from recycled content material." – Green Is Universal Blog 

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Sustainability in On-Stage Shoots: Reduce energy consumption

When you are shooting on stage the main point is to reduce the energy you are using, and of course, try to reuse and recycle too. Using lighting that consumes less electricity can make a difference!

"When filming in Atlanta, Furious 7 utilized LED set lighting and tied into the electric grid in place of generators, avoiding the use of over 16,500 gallons of fossil fuel." – Green Is Universal Blog

Sustainability in Location Shoots: Reduce carbon emissions & give back

While shooting on location, look for ways to reduce carbon emissions and give back to the communities you are filming in. Try to use generators running on biodiesel, encourage your crew to practice sustainability (like recycling or reusing), and donate excess food or resources to local communities as a way to give back. All these things make a difference!

"For example, Trainwreck and NBC series Shades of Blue both used B20 biodiesel in their generators, and Sisters engaged the crew to be creative with sustainability practices by hosting contests like the “Green Crew Challenge.” Straight Outta Comptonfilmed in the Los Angeles area, donated 2,571 lbs. of excess food from crew catering, the equivalent of 1,936 meals, to local organizations." - Green Is Universal Blog

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Last Thoughts

It’s about time a major corporation steps up and leads by example. When will others follow? My guess is, the moment will come when cast and crew put pressure on productions and say enough is enough!

If you want to read the entire guide check out NBCUniversal’s sustainable production practices blog page and get inspired to do more towards sustainability on your next project.

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About the Author

Moving Picture Rental
Moving Picture Rental
Moving Picture Rental is your South Florida One-Stop-Shop for all your film and video production rental needs, serving the greater Miami area since 1987. As your on-site production partner, we share our collective film-making experience – guiding your team to the right gear and crew for the job. We provide digital cinema camera rentals, lens rentals, film lighting packages, grip truck rentals, post-production rentals, walkie talkies and expendables at competitive prices.

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