How big of a carbon footprint does a TV show or movie take up? It depends on a number of variables — and the differences can be significant.
On Thursday, the Sustainable Production Alliance, a consortium of film, TV and streaming companies dedicated reducing the entertainment industry’s overall environmental impact, released its inaugural carbon footprint report. The SPA’s members are Amazon Studios, Amblin Partners, Disney, Fox Corp., NBCUniversal, Netflix, Participant, Sony Pictures Entertainment, ViacomCBS and WarnerMedia.
The report, “Close Up: Carbon Emissions of Film and Television Production,” makes public for the first time industrywide production carbon footprint averages for the SPA member companies for the projects between 2016 and 2019.
The report includes data from 161 feature films and 266 TV series, each of which used the Production Environmental Accounting Report (PEAR), created in partnership by SPA and the Producers Guild of America Foundation’s PGA Green committee.
Among the key findings:
- Films: Tentpole films had the average carbon footprint was 3,370 metric tons – or about 33 metric tons per shooting day. Large films had a carbon footprint of 1,081 metric tons, and medium films had a carbon footprint of 769 metric tons, while small films had a carbon footprint of 391 metric tons.
- TV Series: One-hour scripted dramas had 77 metric tons of CO2 emissions per episode; half-hour scripted single-camera shows had a carbon footprint of 26 metric tons per episode, and half-hour scripted multi-camera shows averaged 18 metric tons. Unscripted shows had a carbon footprint of 13 metric tons per episode.
The report includes direct emissions, such as those from fuel, as well as indirect emissions from purchased electricity, air travel and accommodations in its calculations.
Fuel — used in production vehicles and generators — typically was the largest source of greenhouse-gas emissions on film and TV productions, representing 48%-56% of emissions for films and 58% for scripted TV dramas.
“SPA understands that to address any problem, we must first measure our impact. That’s why we are publishing this data for the first time,” said the organization said in a statement. “The findings from this report allow us to identify opportunities to take greater action and mobilize stakeholders to accelerate systemic and operational change that results in positive environmental benefits.”
The study’s release comes after Netflix earlier this week committed to a goal of net-zero carbon emissions by the end of 2022. Original productions comprise about half of Netflix’s carbon footprint, according to the company.
The SPA, formed about a decade ago, plans to publish updated carbon-emissions every two years. the organization says it will continue to “explore and develop solutions to reduce every element of environmental impact in film and television production.”
The SPA’s full carbon emissions report is available at greenproductionguide.com, at this link.
“The findings are clear that the transportation and energy usage in content creation of any kind is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions,” Mari Jo Winkler, co-founder of PGA Green. “With data that benchmarks where we are now, we need to identify actions with urgency to secure a sustainable future. Our industry must continue to invest in, innovate and implement clean technologies.”