Special effects explosions, idling vehicles, teams of workers building monumental sets — all of it contributes to Hollywood’s newly discovered role as an air polluter, a university study has found.
The film and television industry and associated activities make a larger contribution to air pollution in the five-county Los Angeles region than almost all five other sectors researched, according to a two-year study released Tuesday by UCLA.
Although Hollywood seems environmentally conscious thanks to celebrities who lend their names to various causes, the industry created more pollution than individually produced by aerospace manufacturing, apparel, hotels and semiconductor manufacturing, the study found.
Only petroleum manufacturing belched more emissions.
“People talk of ‘the industry,’ but we don’t think of them as an industry,” said Mary Nichols, who heads the school’s Institute of the Environment, which released what researchers called a “snapshot” of industry pollution. “We think of the creative side, the movie, the people, the actors — we don’t think of what it takes to produce the product.”
Researchers considered the emissions created directly and indirectly by the film and television industry. For example, they factored in both the pollution caused by a diesel generator used to power a movie set, as well as the emissions created by a power plant that provides electricity to a studio lot.
They also interviewed 43 people who worked in a variety of areas within the industry, and reviewed major trade publications to see the level of attention paid to environmental issues. In doing so, researchers found that some studios have recycling programs and green building practices.
“Nevertheless, our overall impression is that these practices are the exception and not the rule, and that more could be done within the industry to foster environmentally friendly approaches,” the study said.
Nichols said the Integrated Waste Management Board, a state agency, funded the study and chose the industries against which Hollywood was compared.
Researchers also noted environmentally responsible examples within the industry.
The makers of the film “The Day After Tomorrow” paid $200,000 to plant trees and for other steps to offset the estimated 10,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions caused by vehicles, generators and other machinery used in production. Producers of “Syriana” and “An Inconvenient Truth” also took steps to offset carbon emissions.