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How to Practice Sustainability on Set during COVID-19

By October 8, 2020 October 11th, 2020 No Comments

Practicing sustainability on set sounds hard enough on its own. Throw a pandemic into the mix — with an uptick in disposable products to help reduce the spread of germs — and it can feel like we’re moving backwards in our efforts to make production more sustainable. But as our friends at CO2CYCLE share, sustainability is still attainable during this new normal. 

More good news? Making eco-friendly decisions is more doable now than ever; the pandemic just forces us to be more creative. We last reported on our sustainability practices in Spring 2019 with the news that we were beginning to compost on set. We’re proud to report that those efforts are just as good, true, and valuable now as they were back then — and we’ve done even more work towards being zero-waste more since. 

Green the Bid

One of the first places to start is to pledge to prioritize sustainability on set. We love Green the Bid for exactly this purpose. Depending on which sector of the industry you identify with, Green the Bid can steer you toward resources, or simply help you become more mindful.

Offsetting our carbon footprint

With a goal of becoming a carbon-neutral company, we’ve been paying to offset emissions spent during long-distance hauls, like our shoots in California. Now, we’re committing to doing this for all of our shoots. We prefer to donate through Cool Effect, a 501(c)3 that uses more than 90% of the donation towards the offset program of your choice, such as Critical Habitat & Forest Restoration, Year-Round Renewable Wind Energy, or Habitat Enhancement & Greenhouse Gas Elimination. Another great resource is Carbon Fund, but the donation is distributed across all of their projects — you don’t get to choose.

Chasing after zero waste

Beyond purposefully offsetting our emissions, we’re looking into the following areas to get us closer to a zero-waste operation: water efficiency, waste reduction and recycling, sustainable durable goods and building materials, sustainable food, energy, reusables and environmentally preferable disposables, chemical and pollution reduction, and, as always, transparency and education.

Composting, but make it national

Back in 2019, committing to compost on our sets here in Chicago was a huge step in the right direction. Now, we’re working with local partners in other markets to make sure that all of our productions, no matter the location, feature composting on set. But it isn’t just about the food that leaves our set. We are also thinking about the food that arrives to set, and making catering companies that practice sustainable agriculture our preferred vendors.

Have water, will travel

We’re all about giant water coolers in the production office and on local shoots to reduce plastic. And recently, we acquired an arsenal of traveling water dispensers, so even our most remote shoots can be plastic water bottle–free. 

Solar power FTW

Sets can’t run without power, so generators are a must. We’re excited to have recently converted to solar-powered generators, and are investing in solar-powered charging stations to expel less energy overall. We’re also using solar-powered motorhomes on set in California.

Little changes, big differences

Beyond what’s mentioned above, there are dozens of little changes we’ve incorporated into our every day, from eliminating plastic straws on set (talent are encouraged to BYOS or they can use one of our eco-friendly straws) to buying local produce and USDA organic beverages. We’re proactively asking the crew to order vegetarian meals from catering, and requesting sustainable seafood and agriculture from those vendors. We encourage reusable cutlery on set. And we’re upgrading our studio to be more sustainable by switching to all LED lighting in 2021. Finally, and most importantly, we’re continuing to educate our crew — and you! — on best practices. The more we know, the better we can do together.

Looking for more information on sustainability on set? You’re in luck: We’re in the process of producing a Green Guide, which we promise to distribute as soon as it’s ready.