December 27th, 2011 by

Every family has their own holiday traditions. In my family, we go to the movies — this year, Aunt Missy took some wee ones to a family friendly film to get them out from under busy, cooking feet. But while going to the movies might be a favorite holiday pastime — or year round one—the business of making movies isn’t the most environmentally friendly industry out there. When you’re talking about hundreds of crew members, dozens of sets and locations, transportation needs, prop and costume production, you’re starting to look at a pretty big carbon footprint. That’s why this holiday season I was heartened to see that potential blockbusters were not only aware of this fact, but took active steps to minimize their environmental impacts.

First up is a certain 19th-century, super sleuth. According to Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows co-producer Lauren Meeks, two key focuses for reducing the film’s carbon footprint were construction set waste and food waste. Meeks claims that 756 tons of the film’s waste was diverted from landfills by conscious efforts to divide waste between recyclable, compostable and trash-bound products.

The rom-com New Year’s Eve took a similar approach with on-set activities geared to recognize recycling and composting and the elimination of plastic water bottles. In fact, the Environmental Media Association awarded the film with its Green Seal (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo also earned the Green Seal) for the crews’ efforts, which also included honoring an individual crew member each week for exhibiting Earth-friendly practices.

Credit: Susan Brand (susanbrandstudio)/Flickr

Not surprisingly after learning about these similar activities, both of the above films come from the same producer, Warner Bros., which launched an Environmental Initiatives Department back in 1992 and promotes sustainability as part of its corporate responsibility. Warner Bros. also partnered with Disney, Fox, NBC Universal and Sony Pictures Entertainment to support the creation of a Green Production Guide and website by the Producers Guild of America.

Another film had environmental concerns in mind, albeit of a different kind: Steven Spielberg’s War Horse. With up to 100 horses on the set of his World War I-era film (an estimated five million horses were used in WWI with many being fatally wounded or seriously injured), the award-winning filmmaker’s top concern was protecting the animals. An American Humane Society representative supervised activities on the set, making sure that the horses were being treated humanely and were not being put in harm’s way. In fact, the Humane Society started working with the filmmakers before the camera’s started rolling, participating in training sessions with the horses, and by end of shooting were happy to award the film with its highest certification honor: Monitored: Outstanding – “No Animals Were Harmed.”®

In a world in which its easy and often justified to beat up on large corporate entities for their environmental practices — or lack of — I’m pleased to see these large productions taking positive steps toward protecting nature and its creatures.