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Sustainability and the filming industry do not always go hand in hand, which is why organisations such as AdGreen and We Are Albert exist – to support the advertising, film and tv industry’s transition to environmentally sustainable production methods. Their websites are packed full of information for Productions and HODs detailing the many ways to keep waste to a minimum.

Over the years, Productions have worked incredibly hard to reduce waste in their offices and on set.

Crew members are well versed in bringing their own coffee cups, water bottles, bags and tablets to set. But with a Global Pandemic brings a whole new set of regulations, and the risk of more on set waste is high.

We asked Sofia Stocco about environmental sustainability on set, and the processes she puts in place for her work as a Production Designer. Here’s what she had to say:

The challenge is big, especially when we try to combine the speed of delivery and budgets which have been getting smaller in the recent years. There are 3 main areas where films struggle most: green energy powering the production, pollution mostly coming from transportation and waste. Most of what we focus on will sound simple and all of the changes in isolation will seem small but put together any reduction in pollution or landfill is an achievement.

The area I focus on most is waste where art department has the biggest impact. There are four aspects in which we managed to make the biggest difference so far: ‘Responsibly source’, ‘return back to reuse’, make more ‘sustainable swaps’ and ‘learn to live without’.

We tend to hire a lot and reuse what already exists. Whatever we buy, we tend to buy secondhand and then encourage production to only keep essential key props and sell on or donate the rest to prop houses, other productions, charities and individuals. Main goal here is being responsible sourcing and changing the budget line from “skips and disposal” to recycling, reusing, donating. The biggest problem with purchases is that they generate a lot of packaging. Wherever possible we try to stress that we only accept cardboard packaging although that isn’t always possible. There is also a lot of materials we use which at the moment are single use landfill. That includes variety of tapes, vinyls, stationery. We’re constantly on the lookout for new materials which can improve that. Most recently it has been the discovery of recyclable vinyl. At the moment only one company in the UK produces it but we can now print anything on it from wallpapers, to a texture illusion for floor or even billboards. It’s really in materials and everyday running of art department that sustainable swaps and identifying and eliminating unnecessary products really takes place.

How has covid affected your general working process?
It has been a real change and definitely has set us back on sustainability the most. Everything has to be constantly disinfected and there are a lot of protocols with very strict rules on how exactly that is done. This means unfortunately a lot of single use cleaning products like biodegradable wipes, paper towels and worst of all latex gloves. We made a conscious effort to try to source biodegradable and reuse as much as possible, but it has been a real blow in that area.

Have you had to adapt your way of working?
Yes we did. Especially at the beginning, when queues for shops were lining the streets outside and suddenly sourcing a lightbulb was turning into 4 hour trip. As a result we had to pre-plan more, reduce last minute changes to close to zero and order more by post. Post especially meant much more packaging, which we can see is changing to biodegradable, but most is still plastic. Not all was doom and gloom, it also made work more organised and thinking ahead allowed us to source from companies we wanted or think of more responsible products.

Pre Covid how did you personally encourage sustainability on set?
We focus on reuse as much as possible. Reducing not just our landfill but the recycling as well is the goal. Unfortunately some productions still don’t recycle properly so we try to really advocate for that. I also try to plan a line in my budgets for green disposal, as well as donations and recycling built sets with the aim to recover and reuse as much of the building materials as possible.

Amid Covid, how has this changed?
On a positive note during covid we definitely managed to cut down our emissions. The dream would be to have electric or hybrid vans and lorries one day, but that still feels unavailable at the moment. On the negative note the single use of everything went sky high. Disposable catering, snacks individually wrapped, lots of single use PEP, cleaning products, actors safety, food used for food scenes which can’t be redistributed. Pretty much all waste increased enormously.

Do you think the industry can encourage sustainability and work safely amid Covid? Do you have any thoughts on how this can be achieved?
Yes I do. We can still make choices to try to swap materials we use to ensure that minimal waste is landfill material and find better environmentally friendly deals for waste disposal. Covid also wouldn’t affect sourcing green energy which now is supplied through bio fuel generators as opposed to still opting for diesel ones. I can also see that reduction in both waste and pollution has more to do with pre-planning and setting out clear conscious goals for individual departments.

Read more:

AdGreen – https://www.weareadgreen.org/resources/what-you-can-do 

We Are Albert – https://wearealbert.org/production-handbook/top-tips-for-all/

www.sofiastocco.com