Best Practices for an Environmentally Friendly Production

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 Reducing environmental impact is on the minds of most people these days. Unfortunately once they are on set, the task at hand of shooting a great project takes priority.

Green production goals can easily fall by the wayside, especially if no one knows about them! Here are some simple ways to start the shift toward Zero Waste production. (Zero Waste is defined as 90% or higher diversion from landfill.) Since 2009, our friends at EcoSet Consulting have been setting new standards for better practices behind the scenes. Learn more about their full range of services here. And be sure to check out their Facebook and Instagram to see how they minimize waste and recirculate reusable materials.

1) With a Plan in Place, it’s not Waste

Develop a plan during pre-production. This should include a follow-through process for all impacts that you choose to manage during the course of your production. Placing a blue bin on set doesn’t mean anything is actually getting recycled. What specific materials are being collected? Where is it going? Who is managing it?

Communicate goals and expectations to all department heads well in advance of the first shoot day. Get buy-in from the Line Producer, First AD, Location Manager, Production Supervisor, and the entire production assistant team, and ask for their commitment in supporting and leading the initiatives. Communicate environmental goals on all call sheets, crew emails, and group distributions. Some of our recommended initiatives will have associated costs, so allocate part of your budget to sustainability as far in advance as possible, or you will not find the money for it once filming begins.


2) Avoid Single-Use Water Bottles

Production Manager - Problem Solver

By now, pretty much everyone has their own reusable bottle. Ask your crew to bring theirs from home! Provide bulk water from 5-gallon jugs. Jugs and dispensers are now readily available from most production supply rental houses, and refills of the jugs are pennies compared to the cost of bottled water. Each 5-gallon jug used avoids the use and disposal of approximately 40 plastic bottles. Repetition will lead to results. Make sure to remind crew to bring their bottles on every call sheet email, using signage on set, and during safety meetings or group announcements.

3) Provide Reusable Plates and Utensils

Production Manager - Problem Solver

Many production companies now offer ceramic dishes and reusable glasses and mugs in their offices. Extend this practice to set! Request your caterer to provide reusable plates and utensils for lunch. Ask your crew to bring reusable travel mugs from home. If reusables are not feasible, request that the caterer to avoid Styrofoam containers (they’re not recyclable) and to prioritize paper products over plastic whenever possible. With reusables, one meal for 100 people prevents approximately 20 lbs of waste from being generated.


4) Recycling Labels

Clear signage is critical for recycling bins on set. Busy crew hardly take the time to glance at a bin much less read a sign, so your visuals need to describe exactly which materials are being collected in which bins.
Click Here for Free Labels to Download and Print
Click Here for Labels For Purchase


5) Minimize Printing and Recycle Paper

Production Manager - Problem Solver

Purchase minimum 30% recycled-content paper (100% recycled-content paper is even better). Adjust margins and print double-sided to reduce paper use. Reuse single-sided printouts as a notepad or to tape up petty cash receipts. Plan to recycle paper and keep it separate from other recycling to prevent contamination. Each ton of recycled paper can save 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, three cubic yards of landfill space, 4000 kilowatts of energy, and 7000 gallons of water. (University of Southern Indiana)

6) Recycle Cans and Bottles

Production Manager - Problem Solver

Separate cans and bottles for recycling. In many communities, these items can even be dropped at a recycling center for a cash redemption value. That extra money can be a bonus for the crew member tasked with managing the drop off. Aluminum is 100% recyclable and an aluminum beverage container can be recycled into a brand new container within six weeks! (Tenenbaum Recycling Group)

7) Collect Electronic Waste

Production Manager - Problem Solver

Used ink cartridges, batteries, light bulbs, and other items like small electronics and their power cables contain toxic elements that don’t belong in the landfill. Collect these and plan to dispose of them appropriately. Ink cartridges can often be taken back to the point of purchase for credit or refilling. Use Earth911 to find places in your community that will accept these and many other items. When batteries are not properly disposed of the casing can disintegrate allowing the toxic chemicals (acid, mercury, lead, and more) to leach into the surrounding environment, contaminating the soil and water and even accumulating in wildlife and humans.
Extra Credit: If you’ve already mastered the above steps, challenge yourself to go further.


8) Donate Food

Production Manager - Problem Solver

There is a widely-circulated story about the Los Angeles caterer who was sued after someone fell ill from eating their donated food. This problem has been alleviated by the Federal Good Samaritan Act which allows liability-free donation of food to registered non-profit organizations. Consider donating your untreated food styling or unplated catering food to a local homeless shelter or other group that feeds people in need. Try an organization like Food Finders (in LA) or City Harvest (in NYC) to help facilitate the process. 1 in 7 people in the US don’t know where their next meal will come from. Additionally, decomposing food is the number one material in US landfills and pollutes more than all the cars in Georgia! (National Resource Defense Council)

9) Think Reuse

Production Manager - Problem Solver

Consider sourcing recycled or repurposed items before shopping for new materials. If you’re in Los Angeles, visit the EcoSet Materials Oasis to receive free reuse items. If you’re constructing, build with deconstruction and donation in mind, rather than demolition and discard. In 7 years, EcoSet has recirculated an estimated 469 tons of reusable production materials. That’s approximately the weight of 67 school buses!


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