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Environmental sustainability and film

Date:08 August 2022
Author:Green Office
Author — Margarete Schweinitz
Author — Margarete Schweinitz

Have you ever considered the environmental impact of films? In this blog, Margarete looks back on her panel discussion with 3 lead environmental media scholars. Organized to create awareness about the environmental impact of films, Margaret discusses the issues behind unsustainable production and possible drivers for change.

Many of us love to watch movies. Perhaps the latest blockbuster or independent art house movie. We watch them either in the movie theaters or from the comfort of our homes using the latest streaming platforms. While we enjoy following the characters on their latest adventures, we are often unaware that our entertainment has an environmental impact. 

That is one of the reasons why I organized a panel discussion to raise awareness of the environmental impact of film. To have a successful discussion, I invited three leading environmental media scholars. Dr. Hunter Vaughan, Dr. Judith Keilbach, and Jennifer Sandoval from the organization Earth Angel, which focuses on the sustainable production of movies in North America, joined me.

The impact of movie production

At the beginning of the discussion, it was clarified that we, as viewers, are not the culprits in this dilemma, but the responsibility for this problem lies with the big corporations producing films and policymakers. 

When producing movies, CO2 emissions go through the roof – which is one of the biggest issues in the film industry. For example, by traveling and material transportation, using single-use plastic, and single-use of materials. These carbon emissions are high and - most importantly - avoidable. 

While we won’t stop watching movies and also producing them, making movie production more sustainable should be easy. Is it easier said than done? Many companies do not think it is their responsibility and are reluctant to change. In the Netherlands, there is no structure within this industry for sustainability yet, while other regions in the world are already implementing sustainable ways to produce audiovisual content. 

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Possible solutions

An initiative that is already in place is the ban on the use of Diesel generators in Vancouver. Additionally, the city offers incentives. The most effective incentive is money because, while everyone thinks that shooting green is more expensive, doing the math actually shows that it does not have to be. As this example shows, popular shooting and production sites can assert power by just implementing certain policies that force production companies to work more sustainably. The power lies with them. However, each location and region in the world has its own challenges. As emphasized by the speakers, global change is not possible yet as responsibility is not equally distributed. 

Change at different levels

Change can also start on an individual level by talking to other people. Are you working on an audiovisual project and would you like to change things up to produce more environmentally friendly? Start talking to your team members and look at what is possible to implement more sustainable ways of producing. For example, swap the single-use cups for reusable ones, separate your trash, implement sustainable behavior in your scripts, etc. It all starts by talking to people and raising awareness, especially by educating the next generation of filmmakers to adopt a more sustainable way of producing. In the light of the current climate crisis, talking about and especially implementing sustainable ways of producing movies becomes more and more important. Only then can we tackle the problem and implement the change we want to see!

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Film production

Hi! I am Margarete and I followed the Honour’s Program “Leadership: Making the Difference” next to my Master’s program in Film and Contemporary Audiovisual Media. During the program, I learned how to step up and talk about important subjects that will hopefully inspire others to learn more about sustainability and film.


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