Being green is no longer simply desirable to large companies, it is a requirement for those, both in the public eye and benefitting from the public exchequer, as is the case of the UK film industry. Large organisations make large footprints and can afford a dedicated staff to reduce these footprints. There is, now, little excuse for those with detailed data sheets showing comsumption and waste generation information going back several years. The question as always, is what can be done, once you know how far you have to go.

The film industry has long considered itself wasteful, the truth is, there are far more wastful industries, luxury goods retailers for instance, produces enormous amounts of packaging waste and allow for hundreds of miles per item of delivery, both from manufacturers to outlets and from online stores to customers as well as in special trips in cars to outlets by customers, per single item purchased. Film on the other hand, is centrally produced with no wholesale packaging or distribution and is a product of considerable monitary value relative to the waste input involved. Further to this, film and TV delivers its high value product to its customers with almost no environmental impact whatsoever, unless one becomes embroiled in the issue of microwave radiation etc, which is really beyond the scope of my immediate topic.

The issue of conservation and sustainability comes back into relative importance however, if you roll back from the delivery side and look at the Art Department, props and set construction. This might, at first, appear to be an argument for filming more on location but actually, the enviromnental impact of multiple locations and greater numbers of large vehicles as well as crew vehicles involved in location shoots, would seem to far outweigh the consumption and waste of a set build. Set builds are centralised, usually convenient to prop houses and other art department supply outlets and have large resources on sight, which would otherwise have to be hauled around the country on large diesel trucks.

Set building, can be a perfectly well balanced environmental practice, if one can first be aware of and then adhere to, some simple supply and reuse principles.

1 Why recycle wood when you can simply reuse the timber componants?
2 Why use Far Eastern timber without a second thought when there are locally grown and certified stamped sustainable alternatives available as per Greenpeace or the FSC
3 Why break up and destroy flattage, rather than store (at a premium) and reuse virtually all flattage for several years.
4 Why use unsuitable materials such as MDF to make cheap one-off flats just to adhere to budgets that do not consider all factors.
5 Why use new vinyl wallpapers rather than water based printed papers
6 Why purchase cheap flooring, rather than hiring higher quality flooring for the same cost
7 Why use all roller finishes rather than ‘some’ spray finishes which use fractional amounts paint
8 Why build everything in studio, rather than needing to heat and light much smaller premises with work shop prefabrication of components
9 Why not encourage the sharing of resources between several construction interests, rather than creating undue competiton whereby all parties must own and maintain duplicate infrastructure, while only using 20% or 30% of their capacity.
10 Why design sets without concern for the materials used or the waste created. There need be no loss of creative scope in a sustainable construction process.
11 Why not support the sourcing of sustainable set construction materials, specifically for the film and TV industry.
12 Why not support the discemination of information regarding the supply of more environmentally friendly construction materials
This list could go on and on. Perhaps I will extend it in future but the general idea is there. It is not a big deal to improve our footprint but it conflicts somewhat with the current process of selecting a set building company or construction manager, giving little little deference to that company’s or individual’s capacity to conserve while maintaining quality production values.

A slight change, might render great rewards to the environment but the film industry must decide as a whole to set guidelines to help and reward those who innovate.

Michael Mulligan