The UK film industry is one of the largest, with official figures for 2020 showing a 2.4 billion pound spend for the film and high-end tv production, despite months of suspended filming as a result of Covid-19. Due to increase in budgets and inward-investment productions, it means that along with content being produced, the UK Film and HETV generate a large and continuously growing trade surplus which offers a large cultural contribution from global viewership. Therefore, it’s evident that the UK Film and television industry contributes positively to the economy as well as society, but how does it affect our environment? 


According to BAFTA, the British film organization, a single hour of television produced in the UK produces a staggering 13 metric tons of carbon dioxide, which is almost equivalent to how much CO2 an average American generates in a year. Moreover, according to the total carbon footprint of London’s screen production indurtsy is approximately 125,000 tonnes a year, although this figure doesn’t include emissions from international travel, or those associated with the distribution, sales and exhibition of films but it still paints a clear picture as to why we should start action on such a problem. 


For starters, being green saves you money! The UK film industry is one of the largest, and by hiring sustainability consultants, it's an incredible way to educate the industry on how they can play the part in protecting the environment. Sustainability consultants are experts in environmental policy and eco-friendly business practises. Their role is to advise businesses on how they can decrease their environmental footprint and make their production less harmful for the planet.

A woman who has influenced the film industries views on green production and the ideas of sustainability is Emellie. O’Brien. Since 2013, Emellie founded a business called ‘Earth Angel’ with a mission to “stop making entertainment at the expense of the environment, and instead Aries the cultural influence of the entertainment industry to effect positive social/environmental impact”. However, she admits that although her company is targeting a niche market, it has worked with some of the biggest names in the industry. For example; Director Darren Aronofsky employed her for movies like Noah, as well as working on the sets of blockbuster films like Black Panther, Ghostbusters, and The Avengers. 


Earth Angel has helped productions become more sustainable by educating crews on best practices, using eco-friendly products on set, minimizing waste, and tracking carbon footprint usage. By adopting these practices, O'Brien says, productions can save $60,000 to $100,000 on waste bills and make a lasting impact. For instance, a scene from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was shot in an area that was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. Amazingly, her efforts lead the crew to planting new trees and fixing public benches for the scenes. 


Moreover, a report with the collaboration of BFI, BAFTA albert and leading global engineering and design firm specialist Arup, set out a route map for positive action to achieve sustainable practises that support wellbeing, environmental restoration and economic prosperity. BAFTA albert is an online resource for film and television industries to take action on environmental sustainability. It introduced a calculator which estimates the carbon footprint of a screen production in order for the film/television production to keep track of their impacts. The BFI and industry have committed to supporting BAFTAs albert guidance and initiatives for greater sustainability in the UK film, television and game sectors, as well as having a requirement that all productions which receive BFI funding must complete and submit a BAFTA albert carbon calculation on completion of the project.


For example BFI have multiple sustainability targets that are annually reviewed such as: 


Waste management, which teaches staff on the use of recycling streams and maintaining a zero to landfill policy. 


Energy, and its aim for consumption to fall. This is currently being trialled due to the overnight shutdown of air handling units at the Master Film Store. As well as this a tragedy for renewables energy has been set, which means the company is committed to using renewable energy to power their properties. 


Other targets include biodiversity and its efforts to protect the surrounding environment of the set. For example the company partnered with local beekeeping trusts and now have four hives based on the BFI sites. Finally, resource consumption has been identified as an issue and now it looks to replace the use of paper towels at BFI head office with energy efficient dryers. This may seem like a small change within the first year, but it will be less impactful longer-term as the national grid transitions away from fossil fuels. 


Sustainability in the film and media industry remains a problem with the production of medium size feature films emitting between 50-1000 tonnes of carbon. It’s important to highlight the movies that carelessly impacted the environment negatively, for example crew on 2017’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales allegedly dumped chemical waste while filming in Queensland, Australia, potentially tainting local water. As well as, 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road damaged sensitive areas on the African Atlantic coast while filming, endangering local reptiles and cacti. 

On the other hand, companies as big as Walt Disney Studios and Sony Pictures Entertainment are promoting year-round green efforts, from donations toward conservation to pushing productions to use more sustainable products, like tree-free paper. And more recently it was said that the newest 007 Bond movie, ‘No Time To Die’, employed a sustainability consultant on its set to ensure greener production.


Hopefully, in the near future, when film and television production starts to boom again, the industry will take into account all the actions that they can take, in order to continue to create award-winning content for audiences, whilst being cautious of their large influence on the environment.