Reducing Plastic in the Entertainment Industry

By Joanclair Richter

For years, the entertainment industry has built a model of disposable infrastructure: sets are thrown out, plastic water bottles are used for moments between takes only to be tossed (often not even recycled), and eating arrangements are often "disposable."

Money is tight, decisions are made quickly, and each set is essentially a temporary office: an environment literally cut-out for single-use plastic. So how does one reduce plastic in these fast-paced, budget driven environments?

From commercial and film sets to more corporate settings and film festivals, MovieMind Green increases sustainability throughout the entertainment industry. A central piece of that is reducing the use of single-use plastic (SUP). Because let’s face it, SUP is destroying our oceans and beyond!

Starting in pre-production (reducing waste from happening in the first place), a green set can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of a production overall. Plus, environmental choices are often an investment rather than a cost. In other words, when a production company begins to implement these practices, the financial gains are sky high.

Where do we start?

  1. It all starts with communication. Telling people what to do, or showing up on set as the "green police" is simply ineffective. When people feel that they are part of something, the camaraderie and excitement begins. When the options are obviously laid out and therefore easy to make QUICKLY, why not make the environmentally friendly choice? So signage is key – clear, concise, to the points, not preachy. When people know that they are helping to protect their planet with the choices they are making at work – generally, it's a win-win. In other words, set up an invitation to take part, connect and be a team player rather than a mandate and a police force.
  2. Water is a human right. Yes, we need it. No, we don't need it in plastic. Plastic water bottles are a concept that can be gone over a million times and never understood. If a set has taken the time to supply their cast and crew with reusables stainless steel water bottles and water stations, but there is still a case of single-use water bottles being bought in a bind, it isn't working! Plus, as Director Josh Soskin's point goes: a set with no plastic water bottles is prettier. So I've given you an answer: but an answer that requires research and potentially a bigger budget. Research? Call MovieMind Green. Budget? Cheaper. The budget line savings potential for switching to reusables and water stations is 51 percent (Green Production Guide).
  3. Everybody's got to eat! On a set, often meals are taken to-go. Maybe shooting is still going on and the director can't get away for lunch. There are compostables for that situation, sure. And the price difference there is negligible and the options are extensive. (Note: industrial composting is necessary for some of these compostable products.) BUT EVEN MORE – take a second to dream with us of a set where each person has their own plate and set of utensils they bring with them. Set up dishwashing stations and make it a team effort. And that won't be a dream for long because it IS THE SOLUTION. In the meantime, most catering companies can supply reusable plates and utensils. The savings is on the environment, as we divert waste from the landfill. What about craftie? That station where people can fill up on coffee or grab a snack. Snacks are a nightmare. Chip bags are generally not recyclable. Buy in bulk. Get a giant bin of pretzels – put out a bowl and tongs.
  4. Waste Preventing plastic from arriving on set = less plastic to haul away = smaller waste bill. This is a huge win for the bottom line and the environment. 
  5. On Screen Talking about what goes on screen can be touchy – solution? If you can start the conversation without offending anyone creatively, do! Be very careful to not get involved in the story. Can the character carry a stainless steel water bottle rather than a plastic bottle in the shot? The moving image and the entertainment industry has an incredible impact on the way every person sees their own life and their own choices.

People ask why MovieMind Green's work focuses on the entertainment industry. Beyond love for the medium, we appreciate the audience size, the breadth and the reach that movies have to all parts of the world. Between all the languages and demographics – a message in this industry is priceless. The questions now is whether this industry that has such an influence can show a clean and green method from office to production, both on and off the screen.

Joanclair Richter is the founder and president of MovieMind Green, a Plastic Pollution Coalition member business.

Learn more about Plastic Pollution Coalition's Plastic Free Events guide. 

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