Unpacking the Truth About Hollywood's Impact on the Environment
Mon, April 19, 2021

Unpacking the Truth About Hollywood's Impact on the Environment

Most film production of Hollywood films creates carbon emissions, footprints, and tons of human resource that would cost harm to the environment. / Photo credits by tupungato via 123rf



“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” the $1.3 billion blockbuster, didn’t impress critics and even posed immense problems to the environment, noted Kyle Raymond Fitzpatrick of news platform Vice. Preproduction for the movie started in 2015, in which the film’s writer took a cross-country road journey to hash out story details, including a four-week working trip in Barcelona. In 2016, scouts began searching for potential international shooting locations, trekking to Peru and Ecuador and constructing massive sets on a soundstage in England and Hawaii.

Producing the movie required “flying hundreds of staffers” from various departments like art, creature effects, special and visual effects, editing, and costuming to different parts of the globe. This also included staffers who were involved in producing licensed products related to the film. The film production, therefore, resulted in waste and carbon emissions. 


Hollywood’s Cases of Environmental Destruction



It is understandable that every movie and TV show is dependent on electricians, designers, carpenters, and the like working in offices and workshops in support of actors, camera people, directors, and writers. While people do not tend to think of the entertainment industry as an actual industry, they need to be aware that its actions cause environmental destruction.

British film organization BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) finds that producing an hour of television content—be it fiction or non-fiction—produces 13 metric tons of carbon dioxide, according to Barclays of business news site Broadcast. The said figure is equated to the average amount of carbon dioxide an American generates in one year. For some, the numbers highlighted in the report might just be a “drop in the bucket.” After all, there are more carbon-intensive industries out there. 

In an estimate by the United Nations, worldwide travel produced 900 million tons of carbon dioxide as of 2018. According to critics, the film and TV industries, which have individuals expressing their concern about climate change, generate an “unacceptable amount of waste” that is not in accordance with the “perception of the business.” 

Aside from the everyday operations of film production, there are more examples of productions inflicting harm to the environment. The crew of the 2017 movie “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” dumped chemical waste into a body of water in Queensland, Australia. While filming “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015), the staff inflicted damage on sensitive areas and endangered cacti and local reptiles on the African Atlantic coast. In 2011, a contractor hired for the production of “The Expendables 2” damaged a protected bat habitat. 

Is this something new? Not at all. “The Beach” (2000) ruined Thailand’s Maya Bay Beach while the production crew of “City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold” trampled a park land near Dead Horse Point in Utah. The 1924 film “The Vanishing American” brought bison from the Great Plains to Catalina Island, California. The crew failed to remove the animal from the island after production wrapped up. A non-native species, the bison continues to live in Catalina Island until today. 



Less Talk, More Action

Founder of Earth Angel Emille O’Brien wants to stop the film industry from causing further harm to the environment. Earth Angel, a consultancy service for film and TV, is dedicated to making Hollywood’s film productions greener. O’Brien stated, “We can be such a progressive industry in our content, but it’s just that we’re not always practicing it.” 

A production studio can purchase millions or tens of millions of dollars worth of products for a show. Every set made for a film or show is accompanied by an “impact, carbon footprint, a supply chain, and a lot of human resources,” asserted Zena Harris, the founder of Green Spark Group. Hollywood should speak to the public about the issue at hand. What’s the point of talking about environmental awareness when the industry itself is not taking any action? 

Hollywood needs to do better. Thus, O’Brien recommended film production staff to establish an “eco department,” which is in charge of “keeping a set clean.” Producers should hire “Eco Production Assistants” who are trained by Earth Angel to mitigate the environmental impacts of production in small or large ways. This can range from putting up stations for recycling, composting, and waste or forging strong relationships with local waste companies. 


A consultancy service for film and TV dedicated to making film productions greener, Earth Angel, recommended film production staff to establish a department that will be in charge of keeping the set clean. / Photo credits by Danil Roudenko via 123rf


The Film Production of America stressed how studios— not film productions— all over the world are reducing waste. Walt Disney Studios and Sony Pictures Entertainment promote year-round green efforts like conducting donations toward conservation and encouraging productions to use more sustainable products. However, Aaron Matthews, the BAFTA head of industry sustainability, argued that it’s not enough to address the problem. 

How to make going green more appealing? By justifying that being environment-friendly saves money. Another way is to lobby for tax credits for green productions in major film markets like California and New York, according to O’Brien.

Lastly, audiences should applaud the industry for taking small steps in going green. Since Hollywood loves awards, green organizations may grant sustainable products a statue or a plaque. However, change will occur if the viewers demand it. O’Brien remarked, “No individual is going to choose to watch [something] because the production was made sustainably.”