Making the Case

In environmentally conscious moves, studios are rolling out eco-friendly DVD covers

With more than 1.4 billion DVDs shipped in 2008 alone, according to trade association Digital Entertainment Group, home entertainment companies have been doing their share to reduce packaging materials and make the production process more eco-friendly.

Starting with its "Paul Blart: Mall Cop," Sony will introduce an eco-friendly ultralight DVD case for its single-disc release due May 19. The new packaging is designed to use about 20% less plastic than a standard DVD encasing, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment says. The move will reduce the DVD case carbon footprint by 20%.

Sony will release "Paul Blart" with its eco-friendly packaging in Europe and Asia and continue to rollout eco-friendly initiatives on a global level, says Lexine Wong, the division's executive vp worldwide marketing.

"By utilizing a more eco-friendly packaging, launching with 'Paul Blart: Mall Cop,' we hope to eliminate an estimated 2 million pounds of annual carbon emissions in North America by the end of the year," she notes.

Wong adds that the "Blart" release "is a big event tentpole for us, and we felt like it was the right title because it has a family-friendly bent ... and we could actually introduce this eco-friendly, ultralight DVD case on this title and reach a lot of consumers and have our message out. It's not just the box that we're looking at for this particular release. We're eliminating the O-ring on the 'Paul Blart' release, which is another savings of 85 tons of material; we're looking at reducing the shrink wrap on the boxes by 20%; and the litho that the artwork is printed on is reduced, so it's kind of everything along the way."

Sony has been working on eco-friendly DVD casing for a couple years with the DEG and others in the industry, Wong says. "Everybody has had efforts going in terms of trying to figure out what we're doing. We're sharing best practices because it makes sense for the industry as a whole."

Other studios, meanwhile, have also started going green with their DVD products. A Disney spokesman notes that the company's "WALL-E" DVD was its first green packaging introduced to the market, adding that the company hopes to grow its green program.

"There are a number of consumer product companies like Sony that are moving in the direction of lower carbon content packaging," says Noel Perry, founder of, an independent, nonpartisan group focused on the economy, environment and quality-of-life issues. "It's a win/win all around as packaging costs can be decreased significantly."

The move to go green with DVDs initially started with Fox and its Fox Home Entertainment unit, when the executive producers behind 2007's "Futurama: Bender's Big Score" wanted to reduce energy use and switch to renewable sources of power wherever possible.

"Matt Groening and I were eager from the beginning to make 'Bender's Big Score' carbon-neutral," says co-executive producer David X. Cohen. "The show's futuristic setting makes it a natural for environmental messages since we can show the impact of today's bone-headed decisions on the equally bone-headed people of the year 3000. Of course, we were also greatly inspired by Al Gore, who appeared as a guest on the DVD, and who had previously appeared in a 2002 'Futurama' episode focusing specifically on global warming."

At the time, Fox Home Entertainment had just completed its study of the carbon impacts of the production, manufacture and distribution of a DVD. "With that data and analysis as a foundation, we felt comfortable that we had a solid understanding of the real greenhouse gas impact of the DVD production and distribution process and were ready to start taking actions to reduce that impact," says Rachel Webber, director of energy initiatives at News Corp.

Released in November 2007, the DVD was a big score when it came to reducing total emissions, cutting its production to 229.9 tons of C02.

"FHE was and still is working very closely with the other studios on carbon mitigation strategies," Webber says. "The collaboration has already resulted in more than 20,000 tons of CO2 reduction through packaging changes made to the product."

As for "Paul Blart," Wong says there won't be any additional costs for the consumer on the packaging side. "There's been lots of tests in the market with different types of packaging that is very environmental but costs a ton to get to market because it's not automated and it requires other things, and sometimes that cost gets passed along to the consumer; and in these times that's not what we want to do."