Carbon Neutral Filmmaking

Written by Nic Wistreich on . Posted in Environment & sustainability

lastpolarbear.jpgAl Gore’s climate change documentary, An Inconvenient Truth opened up people’s eyes to the devastating potential effects of climate change around the world. There has finally been an increase in the film world of the sometimes controversial carbon offsetting, whereby carbon used in a film's creation is offset through environmental projects such as tree planting or energy saving in the developing world. Film such as No Country for Old Men, The Day After Tomorrow and Syriana have all been carbon neutral, with an increase in the past two years in lower budget independent films also taking this path. Carbon offsetting may seem like a luxury for a low budget shoot, yet costs no more than 1% of the budget and often less.

Ali Selim’s Sweet Land , for instance, cost $1m to make and a further $5,000 for London based Carbon Neutral Company to calculate and report on the 8,000 tonnes of carbon used in the process. Offsetting this by investing in a reforestation project in Germany and windmills and compact fluorescent lighting in Jamaica cost another US$10,000.

The filmmakers were given incentives to minimise environmental costs during the production – ‘shooting out’ each location, by filming all the scenes there before moving on. Actors used an on-set carpool, while sunlight was used as a light source wherever possible.

There are lots of services online to try and help you estimate your costs for small things, such as flights to Film Festivals - which will cost less than you think. A return flight from London to India (as I've just found out for personal reasons), for instance, costs around £13, a trip to Cannes would be much less. Of course the best option is to take a train, or not go altogether, but at least with an offset there is some positive impact.

This Carbon Calculator can tell your CO2 for flights and offers a choice of options. Two directory sites provide links and details of carbon offsetting providers - Carbon Catalog and the Emisions Offset DIrectory .