Green Spark ignites local film industry

July 25, 2016

Sustainable production is an emerging trend in the motion picture industry, with film hubs around the world organizing local industries to incorporate greener practices on set.

Vancouver’s Green Spark Group is leading the charge on the home front, where spending on film and TV production is a $1.25B industry. Founders Zena Harris and Aza O’Leary are two enterprising professionals with a passion for the planet and an eye for business. Harris earned a master’s degree from Harvard University in Sustainability and Environmental Management and O’Leary is a communications professional who has worked in the entertainment and media industry for 15 years on 20+ major film and television projects.

The motion picture industry began focusing on sustainable production in 2006 when the University of California Los Angeles released a report focusing on the motion picture industry in the LA area but the UCLA report generated considerable attention worldwide. Major film hubs began identifying best practices to help lighten a production’s environmental impacts.  For example, Reel Green BC was founded in 2006 as a valuable resource for local productions looking to green their operations.

The industry has progressed in their sustainability efforts since 2006 and media corporations have set goals to measure greenhouse gases throughout their operations, including film productions. This is true also with indicators such as waste, water, and donations. While their intentions are good and many studios have set goals, creating a level of consistency has been difficult to maintain. There remains much room for improvement within the industry but Green Spark and other like-minded groups have really stepped up their support in the past decade.

“The business case for sustainability has been well established in many industries,” says Harris. “The motion picture industry is no different; incorporating sustainable production practices can save money.  For example, reusing construction material saves in landfill tipping fees. In many cases, the fee to haul away recycling is less than it would be to haul away the same amount of waste to the landfill. Productions save money by using gallon water jugs and refillable water bottles as opposed to single use plastic water bottles. Efforts like this can add up. The Amazing Spider-man 2 (Sony Pictures) has done a great job of publicly celebrating its sustainable production work. This blockbuster was filmed in New York City, hired an independent consultant to “green” the set, and by incorporating sustainable production practices, saved an estimated $400,000.”

“Understanding the issues and talking more about sustainability, identifying areas for improvement has benefits such as encouraging innovation with products and solutions to fill the existing gaps,” says Harris.

Here are six things Green Spark are helping Vancouver productions do – and you can too!

  1. Plug into the grid
  2. Use a bio-blend fuel and do not idle
  3. Recycle and compost
  4. Minimize use of disposable items
  5. Find ways to reuse materials and/or donate
  6. Use sustainable or “green” products and services

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