20,000 plastic water bottles. That’s what 20th Century Fox lot employees were using per month, according to a study performed by their Sustainability department a few years ago. Per month! If you include all the people working on productions on the lot, that number goes up to 70,000.
That’s one of the shocking and informative statistics I learned during an eco-panel session over the weekend at the 4th annual Producers Guild of America’s Produced By Conference on the Sony Pictures lot in Culver City, CA. Don’t worry, there’s a happy ending to the water bottle story, which I’ll get to later.At the conference, the “PGA Green” Initiative pulls together many of its volunteers and tries to make the event as eco-friendly as possible. This year, it instituted an e-waste recycling drive where attendees could drop off unwanted electronics. All the items go through processes to separate various metals and plastics, which are then repurposed for use in other products. So the plastic from your computer components could end up as part of a child’s car seat!Upon signing in, all attendees received a pre-washed aluminum reusable water bottle and PGA Green, with full cooperation from Sony, made this conference a plastic-free event! PGA Green also launched the new “iamgreenPGA” pledge, asking all members of the entertainment industry to commit to using eco-friendly methods in their productions. The entire pledge, which all can sign, is found HERE.At the PGA Green booth I checked out a charging station, which was a solar hybrid energy system, supplied by Green Galaxy and Maddox Defense. I plugged my phone into a power strip plugged into a solar array which was originally created for our troops in Afghanistan.The green session, “Greening Screens: Sustainability and Innovation”, was generously sponsored by two companies whose business is helping productions reduce their environmental footprints – Production Resource Group (PRG, supplies entertainment and event technology, particularly energy-efficient lighting) and Crown Disposal (takes care of recycling and composting on sets and on location).
The panel was composed of top experts in the Sustainable Production world, moderated by PGA President, Producer Hawk Koch.Shannon Bart: Sustainability Production Manager, NBC/UniversalLisa Day: Director, Energy Initiative, 20th Century FoxJane Evans: EVP, Physical Production, Focus FeaturesJohn Rego: Director of Environmental Sustainability, SonyMatthew Toomey: Manager, Production Administration, Columbia PicturesThe panelists discussed the ways they’re making their productions, lots, and offices more eco-friendly, as well as some of the challenges they’re facing and often have overcome. For example, let’s get back to that water bottle statistic. Lisa Day’s team created a sculpture containing all the bottles consumed in two weeks and prominently placed it on the lot for two weeks. It accomplished the team’s goals – awareness and desire for change. Lisa said that within days of the display, she received calls from Fox department heads who expressed dismay and incredulity about the numbers…and had the water bottles replaced with water stations. Most of the studios have switched to water stations, not only on their lots but on location shoots as well.Shannon Bart stressed the importance of implementing policies with department heads during pre-production. The entire panel agreed that the changes have to come from the top. It’s up to the producers to make sure policies are in place and that everyone understands & implements them.Jane Evans has managed to put an eco-line in the budget of all of Focus Features’ productions, and said, “Even a few thousand dollars is helpful.” All the studios have policies in place, although they may vary slightly. A short list includes reusing sets, composting wet waste, donating leftover food to local farms to feed their animals, driving solar golf carts, renting hybrid vehicles (50% of carbon is from fuel!), using various blends of biodiesel to run trucks and generators, having electronic distribution of all paperwork. Using energy-efficient lighting (LEDs) is extremely helpful as 58% of energy used on-set is lighting. Matthew Toomey relayed that Columbia used 100% LED lighting on their film, Think Like A Man, and saved $5,000 per day on energy and labor costs. That’s huge! And we all know that ultimately in our industry it all comes down to the bottom line. The truth is, you can be green and save money.While the studios are all extremely competitive when it comes to “box office”, they regularly meet and share environmental innovations and information. This philosophy could be useful to any industry – helping one another become eco-efficient is just as important as bringing in the other green.
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PGA Green - Winner of 2011 EMA Green Production Award, recognizing the PGA's strategic leadership role in promoting sustainability within the entertainment industry.