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Lights, camera, carbon reduction: a focus on UK television production

Sustainability and the business of making television and film don't, at first glance, appear like natural companions – but there's plenty going on to try and make more climate-conscious production a reality. 

The UK television industry has its own carbon calculator named albert, which was developed by the BBC when they approached the Energy Saving Trust to assess the carbon footprint of EastEnders - and then, in 2011, shared with other programme producers. 

Comedy cuts carbon

Jason Watkins and Sarah Parish in Trollied_Series 6_

It is pleasing to see that it appears to be put to some good use. The makers of Sky1 sitcom Trollied are claiming their sixth series to be the greenest yet. Monitored and guided by the albert system, filming at The Bottle Yard Studios in Bristol involved a range of efforts to limit carbon impact.

(Image on right: Jason Watkins and Sarah Parish in Trollied Series 6, courtesy of Sky1 and Roughcut TV.)

Doing away with DVDs, multiple recycling points, digital documents on an opt-in basis, rechargeable batteries for equipment and car-sharing were among some of the measures taken. 

The studio itself has taken its own green steps, including offering set recycling and repurposing and low emission vehicles via an on-site company. It's also set to install solar PV


No laughing matter

Shows produced at The Bottle Yard Studios have been known to emit two thirds less CO2 than comparable shows produced elsewhere – so it must be doing something right. Fiona Francombe, the studio's Site Director, acknowledges that increased responsibility is necessary. 

She said: “It’s widely agreed that the UK production sector has a poor track record when it comes to the environment, and more needs to be done to change practise across the board to reduce the environmental impact of the TV industry.”

As for albert's creators the BBC, in-house progress is happening here too. Notable measures to improve sustainability include carrying out online auditions for Mastermind rather than touring the country, and DIY SOS choosing a solar array over diesel generators to power round-the-clock renovations. 

Green goes big budget

Across the pond there are also plenty of positives to be found, on productions beyond TV, up to Hollywood blockbusters. A good round-up from GreenBiz highlights Sony Pictures' efforts in reducing waste to landfill by 52 per cent on the set of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – a commitment which won an award from the Environmental Media Association (EMA)

The Producers Guild of America has also created its own Green Production Guide and works to bring together professionals offering green products and services to the industry. It has its own carbon calculator, too. 

With all this calculating and careful consideration happening on location, the makers of the moving image could prove an unlikely example to industries with slightly less glamour and bright lights. Of course there's still some way to go, but the idea of green TV and film production might not be just an imaginative storyline.

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, or tweet @EnergySvgTrust

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

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