Published on: 30 March 2016 in Industry

Sustainability: a director’s responsibility

Reading time: 4 minutes and 4 seconds

Steve Smith, Vice-chair of our board, provides guidance on how best to stay green while working on productions, ensuring the director takes an active role in keeping things eco-friendly.  

As a television director I’m passionate about sustainability and I always try and behave in the greenest way I can. For the past two years I’ve been working as an albert ambassador trying to help encourage the productions I work on to be as sustainable as possible. I also help teach carbon literacy to the industry and I’ve seen first hand how this training is a great way to make progress.

When production teams have the opportunity to think about problems and solutions then action usually follows, and quickly. I urge people to get on that training if they can, its good fun and can open people’s eyes to both the enormity of the problem and the innovative solutions that are available on hand. It’s currently free to anyone working in the industry and you can enrol by following this link on the We Are Albert site

“Having now analysed carbon footprints for numerous productions two key areas always stand out; production travel and power, these seem to be the most carbon-hungry activities”

Some directors might take the stance that sustainability is the responsibility of the line producer or production manager. I believe as a director, leading a creative team, it is important we are instrumental in creating awareness across the production and encouraging people to think differently about how they make their shows. Having now analysed carbon footprints for numerous productions two key areas always stand out; production travel and power, these seem to be the most carbon-hungry activities.

When it comes to power, it’s both the power to run a production office and the power of running our studios that has the biggest impact. Approximately 13 tonnes of carbon emissions are associated with the production of one hour’s worth of content, almost 60% of this comes from electricity. The industry has a tendency to focus on tangible environmental impacts but its electricity where the largest impact lies and where we must focus our attention.

Using new low-energy LED lighting is one solution and should always be encouraged - but the single most important thing any of us can do - both at home and in the workplace is switch to a renewable energy provider. We hear a lot from the government about switching energy provider and it’s something I did years ago when I switched to Ecotricity. There are now several green energy providers and as more people switch, the tariffs come down so there is no excuse to buy dirty “brown” electricity.

The BAFTA albert consortium have just announced an exciting new green energy initiative for the industry. The Creative Energy Project will help support the creative community’s transition to renewable electricity, reducing carbon emissions and saving costs across the industry.  The project aims to make renewable electricity affordable for creative organisations with the ultimate goal of increasing the amount demanded and produced in the UK.  Purchasing certified renewable energy collectively results in a better deal for the industry and ultimately leads to a reduction in dirty brown power.

As part of the project Michelle Whitehead has been appointed to the role of Project Delivery Manager to consult with the creative community, studio, post-production and other facilities companies to obtain consumption and monetary data, and to work with energy brokers to find the best possible supply deal.  Michelle comes from a production management background with experience in outside broadcast, studio drama and magazine shows.

If you would like to be part of this exciting project you can get more information about what to do next here.

I realise that as a director, we are rarely, if ever, responsible for where we buy our production power. But we do have the ability to gently lobby the people we work with to see if we can encourage them to make a transition to a greener future. Climate change is one of the biggest things we need to worry about. The international community recently made some strong commitments for carbon reduction but we must all now support these targets.

If you can help the industry switch to renewable electricity you will be helping to make carbon reduction a reality.

If you can’t influence where you work, at least make that personal switch to green energy at home.

Have Your Say

Daniel Cormack

I went to an event at BAFTA called "Greening the Screen" set by the UK Film Council (as was). The first thing they did was give out a load of wooden USB sticks, unbidden. Then the impressionist Alistair McGowan came and gave a very stern lecture about all the things we could do to save the planet, like having recycling bins on set. I raised the issue of when, as a runner, I had to go on a 13 mile round trip because the DoP had a sore throat and wanted to be molly-coddled with some lozenges. He umm-ed and ahh-ed and equivocated. Thrift and enterprise is the bedrock of what I do. But if someone is going to persuade me to allocate time or money or resources to uneconomic activity then they better do it from a pretty firm and consistent position or else, to be completely frank, they can fuck off. When you boil it down our industry is wasteful and extraneous to the basic task of living a happy human life. We could save the planet by taking our jamboree of vanity and ponzi scheme of ego and just not doing it.

Steve Smith

Hi Daniel - Our industry is very wasteful but it doesn't have to be that way. That's why carbon literacy training is so useful - it helps individuals who work in our industry start to become aware of the problem and also how we can change our actions to help make the industry more sustainable. We can only be responsible for our own actions - and that's why I do what I can. It seems pointless attacking BAFTA and Alistair Mcgowan for doing their bit - perhaps you would be better off attacking the people who continue to do nothing as climate change gets worse. As I said in my article the single biggest thing people can do - both as individuals and as company owners is buy green energy. Best wishes Steve

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