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Action Guide

The Environmental Impact of Our Industry

Anyone who has spent time on a film set will be familiar with the discomfort of witnessing wasteful practices in the name of the status quo. This has to change. But to embrace sustainable solutions we must first be clear-eyed about our role in the problem. 
Canada’s share of the global footprint is less than 2%, yet we remain one of the world’s highest emitters on a per capita basis. Canada’s commitment is to reduce its GHG emissions by 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2030.   From 2005 to 2021, our emissions decreased by only 8.4%.  (source: Environment and Climate Change Canada).

The portion of the national footprint attributable to the entertainment industry is unknown, but a recent study commissioned by Telefilm looked at 22 feature films, scripted and factual series. From this they developed an estimate that the total annual emissions for Canadian-funded productions may be close to 287,969 t CO2e, or an average of 28t CO2e per hour of content. (Source: Telefilm)

In 2021 the Sustainable Production Alliance issued a report which included Canadian-made film and television productions, and estimated the footprint of dramatic programs per-1-hour-episode to range from a low of 35 t CO2e/hr to a high of 81 t CO2e/hr. Large tentpole feature films can emit over 1000t CO2e. (source: Sustainable Production Alliance)

The average Canadian is estimated to be responsible for 15 t CO2e per year (Source: Statista), meaning that every hour of content produced exceeds the annual footprint of the average citizen, often by a large margin.

Emissions Villains

The environmental impact from production varies from show to show, but the main culprits are more universal.

The biggest contributors to our industry footprint are travel and transportation activities (particularly road travel by fuel-powered vehicles), filming and production spaces (power and energy use),  and material waste (primarily food, textiles, and construction).

Travel & Transportation: Unsurprisingly, moving cast, crew and equipment to and from studios, locations and offices accounts for between 40-60% of a production’s footprint. Productions will always need to move people so reducing trips and long distance travel, carpooling, shuttling, opting for EVs and limiting air travel are all within a producer’s power. The production industry is a powerful sector, and can be a catalyst for piloting and demonstrating demand for renewable transportation and energy solutions.

Filming & Studio Spaces: For both on-location, in-studio filming and animation production, emissions from powering our studios and sets add up to between 10-30% of a production’s footprint. For location shoots, diesel generators are the biggest emitters. Opting for renewable fuels, battery, hydrogen or hybrid power units, or getting power directly from the local grid will have a significant impact. For studio shoots, electricity and utilities contribute most. Studios that run on renewable energy, or who have achieved green certifications like LEED or BomaBest are great ways to address this portion of a footprint.

Waste:  Material waste, particularly food waste, construction material and textile waste, contribute between 20-25% of a production footprint. Reducing food waste should be a number one priority for producers, through problem-solving with caterers, engaging community food programs, or restructured meal per diems. For construction and textile waste, with enough lead time, there is likely someone who is looking for what a production is offloading.