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Action Guide

Action on Emissions

The emissions from our production activities directly contribute to the overall challenges facing modern society in reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and slowing global warming. Whether we like it or not, we are part of the problem. 

Reducing Emissions

Understanding and reducing your production’s emissions is the heart of this entire guide.

The name of the game in reducing emissions is reducing reliance on fossil fuels. The biggest emitters of fossil fuels on most media productions is travel and transportation (e.g.: moving people and equipment around) and power use (e.g.: powering sets with diesel generators and powering facilities like locations and studios).

However, using less fossil fuels is easy to say, but harder to do in practice since it's baked in to so many of our normal practices. The key for producers is to make reducing fuel a priority for your teams and to use the resources listed in this guide to inspire the actions that your next production will implement.

Every production will tackle emissions reductions differently, depending on practical and budget considerations, where the team is at in terms of their sustainability knowledge, cultural openness, and decision-making structure:
  • For first-timers, start with what is free and easy - address this “low-hanging fruit” and wait for the changes to become absorbed into your team’s habits and practices.
  • For those more advanced in their green efforts, review successes to date and set targets for further reductions. Share your successes with others in the industry.  Don’t let up on your ambition until we reach net zero.
We pay for parking passes at 22 Minutes, so I suggested that we also pay for public transit passes. We provide both now, and 12/90 people use the passes on the regular. One crew member drove to work five days a week last season, this season he drives once a month on average, and is now a complete bus convert (even in his personal life) because of this initiative.
Island of Misfits Logo
Elsa Tokunaga
Sustainability Manager, This Hour Has 22 Minutes
For our current show we made reducing diesel generator use a priority and we achieved significant results. There are no diesel generators at all on base camp - we created a tie-in to an industrial building at a lot in Hamilton and put base camp there for 31 of 37 days. The other 6 days are in-studio on studio power. This is not only a benefit in terms of generator use but has also cut down dramatically on unit moves. For set, we are only using diesel generators 8 out of 37 days, and tie-ins for the other 29 days. I’m very proud of our team for digging into this and making huge improvements in spite of the challenges.
Planet Earth seen from space
Mary Anne Waterhouse
Producer, Quadrant Motion Pictures

Animation-Specific Big Emissions:

The CMPA’s Animation Production Case Study estimates that 10% of emissions on an animation production come from the use of data centres. Some studios claim that the use of real-time rendering or cloud-based rendering saves carbon, but data on these options are, as of now, hard to come by. More work needs to be done to understand the impact of pipeline and technology decisions on the carbon footprint of animation.  

While data on animation emissions is limited, we know from at least two Canadian animation studios that employee commuting makes up a majority of a studios carbon emissions.  Adopting hybrid or remote working models can vastly reduce this portion of an animation studio's footprint.

Best Practices

Consider the following in your company and in your productions:
The actions below are recommended minimum standards for all productions to attempt to hit as a baseline, no matter the genre or budget-level for the largest emitting categories.

Travel & Transportation:
  1. Use alternative fuels where practical. They can often be used in existing equipment and can significantly reduce emissions.
  2. Reduce reliance on vehicles as much as possible. This includes embracing hybrid and remote work where practical, carpooling or using shuttles to move crew rather than personal vehicles.     
  3. Make hybrid / electric the default option when searching for car rentals, where available. Their higher upfront cost maybe offset with fuel and emissions savings.
  4. Right-size units, vehicles, trailers & trucks for their functionality. Larger vehicles burn more fuel. Larger trailers cost more to tow.
  5. Reduce logistical distances where practical. Look for opportunities to reduce travel distances between sets, studios and basecamp. Reducing the number of locations and distances between them saves time, fuel and money.
  6. Adopt a no-idling policy and prioritise the use of EV's where idling cannot be avoided.
  7. Adopt a travel policy that aims to reduce air travel as much as practical and restricts or prohibits the use of private jets.
Energy use in Filming & Studio Spaces
  1. Select studios with renewable energy sources and energy efficient facilities.
  2. For microphone, headsets, and other devices, use rechargeable batteries instead of disposable.
  3. Reduce reliance on fossil fuels by using grid tie-ins and clean energy sources to power your sets where possible.
  4. Where you cannot access grid power, use alternatives to diesel generators (electric, hybrid, solar or hydrogen power units), where available. If this isn’t yet available in your area, ensure your vendors know this is something you’d like to see in future.
  5. Use low-energy, efficient, LED lighting to reduce the amount of energy needed.
“Our team worked with Teralta, a-BC-based company dedicated to the production of clean hydrogen to try new Hydrogen Power Units as a replacement to the traditional diesel generators, with the goal of making this technology both practical and sustainable for the film industry.

The results: it is astonishingly superior to diesel in terms of environmental friendliness (1g of CO2e/MJ compared to diesel's 80g of CO2e/MJ). HPUs are also 50% more efficient than diesel and produce no toxic exhaust emissions, which municipalities are increasingly regulating. Most conveniently, it’s completely silent, enabling their placement closer to sets and reducing the need for extensive cabling and manual labour.

Vancouver is implementing an incentive to permit discounts for anyone transitioning away from diesel power sources. As HPUs increase in popularity and decrease in cost, HPUs will become a more cost-effective choice compared to the rising costs of diesel, resulting in substantial savings for productions. This will truly be a viable solution in the near future. We are also actively engaged in a joint effort with Reel Green, Sunbelt, and Teralta to produce an entire feature film powered by Hydrogen within the next year. This is a pioneering change for a more environmentally responsible era in filmmaking.”
Planet Earth seen from space
Jacob Crawford
President, Crawford Filmworks
Further reading