How Hollywood Agencies, Studios Are Going Green for "Long-Term" Industry Change

Steven Molina Contreras/NBC
NBC's 'SNL'

Eco-friendly practices such as using water dispensers or mindful consumption are saving the environment and creating a sustainable Hollywood, which will be celebrated at the Environmental Media Association Awards on May 30.

It's not easy being green in Hollywood — but producers and talent are trying. From bamboo utensils to solar-powered trailers to meatless Mondays, the top agencies, studios and networks are moving in a more eco-friendly direction. And those doing it best will be honored May 30 at the Environmental Media Association (EMA) awards. Among the nominees are blockbusters like Aquaman, auteur-driven films such as Isle of Dogs and broadcast staples including Saturday Night Live.

"This is something that comes from the productions, from the showrunners, from the creative teams. They understand how important sustainability is," says EMA CEO Debbie Levin. "Using the voice of the entertainment industry is the most powerful thing we can do to create consumer demand and awareness."

The major studios and agencies are taking a variety of approaches to going green. Sometimes it's as simple as being mindful of consumption, as Sony was when it reduced the amount of beef served on the set of January's A Dog's Way Home by 17 percent. Disney's 20th Century Fox and ABC Studios are using water dispensers instead of plastic bottles on location. HBO has swapped flimsy disposable wardrobe hangers for more durable options, as well as switching out plastic garment bags for reusable ones. The network has also implemented eco-managers on some of its shows, including Divorce, Succession and The Undoing — for His Dark Materials, HBO used trailers with solar panels and also served meals family-style instead of individually packed.

Some companies even enlist environmentally focused execs: 20th Century Fox employs energy initiative director Lisa Day, NBCUniversal has sustainability director Shannon Bart and ABC Studios has environmental specialist Eric Cerretani, whose job it is to teach others about sustainable production practices. "If we can engage every person and have them bring solutions to the table, that's how we're going to see long-term change in the industry," says Moana Casanova, HBO's manager of West Coast productions.

These efforts are made easier by resources like the PGA's Green Production Guide. Created in 2007, the guide is a growing database that boasts a wide array of eco-conscious services ranging from sustainable construction lumber to waste diversion programs. "Over the years, the vendor database has grown, the level of engagement has increased and we've worked very hard with our studio partners to expand the sustainability tool kit," says PGA Green co-founder Mari Jo Winkler. "It's a living, breathing resource."

Some studios have gone a step further to create their own eco-friendly programs and technologies. ABC Studios introduced a renewable diesel alternative, sourced from agricultural waste, that will replace traditional gas tanks to power its on-site generators. NBCUniversal implemented its signature NBCUniversal Lightblade, an eco-friendly innovation in LED production lighting, into several productions, including NBC series Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Superstore and April feature Little. These eco-conscious swaps not only benefit the environment and raise awareness among crews and talent, but also can cut power and gas bills. "Sometimes the additional spend is an investment," says Mike Slavich, Warner Bros.' director of sustainability, "and sometimes it's a straight saving."

This story first appeared in the May 29 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.