Filming Green in New York

When directors say “Action!” while shooting film or TV shows in New York, they are increasingly going green as they do it.

Film and TV production can be glamorous and it plays an important role in our local economy, accounting for 305,000 jobs and an economic output of $104 billion.

It can also be wasteful, using fuel-guzzling generators, bulldozing sets and filling landfills with props and other leftovers from film shoots. Now, the industry that brought Technicolor to the world is institutionalizing sustainable practices on multiple fronts.

Greenpoint, Brooklyn-production company Broadway Stages is one such example. It provides film-makers with solar-powered sound stages. Scriptwriters include dialog or action that promotes environmental responsibility. Productions use recycled material or recycle sets they build. Costumers use organic materials or recycled clothing and donate costumes to local charities or recycle them in other ways. Productions use LED lighting, fuel-efficient vehicles and enforce no-idling policies. Eco-production assistants work to make film productions as environmentally friendly as possible.

As a result of these and other efforts, New York produced  “Divorce” has diverted about 60% of its trash stream, cut waste fill by about 30% and is on track to reduce its carbon footprint by 20 to 30 metric tons. “Madam Secretary,” also shot in New York, has donated 4,000 meals to food banks. Sesame Street found that green initiatives cut its budget.

NYC Film Green, America’s first government-sponsored sustainable film program, estimates that production companies in the program have donated 20,612 pounds of food to local charities and donated 8,769 pounds of set dressing.

Earth Angel NYC, which works with production companies to help them film green, has helped movie-makers divert 2,600 tons of waste from landfills, and donate 75 tons of excess food, wardrobes, and props to local charities.  Shows it’s helped go green include “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Ghostbusters,” “The Post,” “Black Panther,” “Billions,” “Spider-Man 2” and more.

Other industry entities have institutionalized best practices for helping production companies practice environmentally responsible story-telling. The Producers Guild of America, which represents all members of film, TV and new media production teams, has created a Green Production Guide.

The Environmental Media Association has been working with studio and production companies for 16 years to reduce the carbon footprint of more than 1,000 TV shows and movies. It awards its Green Seal of Approval to film and TV productions.

It’s all about helping the movie business practice the Triple Bottom Line Philosophy: People, Profit, and Planet.