Warner Bros. has chalked up environmental brownie points with the Rainforest Action Network with its new policy on wood that’s used in set construction.

“Warner Bros. has enacted a new policy to use Medite, a medium-density fiberboard, and not lauan tropical plywood in all set construction,” said Lisa Rollins, VP studios and production affairs, in a news release issued by RAN.

WB thus becomes the first studio to adopt a blanket policy that helps protect precious Philippine Mahogany trees in Southeast Asian rain forests.

Rollins told Daily Variety that WB takes wood-use reduction very seriously: “The emphasis for us is not just not on lauan wood; it’s on any harvested wood. There were suggestions to switch to American birch, but ultimately, we’re more interested in reducing all wood consumption,” and finding substitutes.

Last year WB used 11,033 sheets of lauan. Hollywood uses about 250,000 sheets — or 1,700 acres — annually, according to environmental analyst David Cooper.

Cooper said, “Disney, Fox, Paramount, MCA Universal and Sony Pictures are all testing substitutes. There would be a profound significance if the other studios followed Warner’s lead, because it would set a new standard for environmental and economic responsibility.”

Cooper said price is also a factor because, “There are cheaper alternatives that are domestically produced.” (Rollins confirmed the $ 10.40 per sheet for lauan drops to $ 6.90 for Medite.) Cooper noted a World Bank study “indicates prices will continue to rise because of dwindling resources.”

Good intentions and bargains aside, Cooper said the most important factor for studios is quality.

“Price hasn’t been as big a factor as the quality of the final product,” he noted. “Set designers and heads of construction are open to switching as long as it doesn’t change the way it looks. That’s the bottom line.”

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