Hollywood, a town known for excess; for awe-inspiring special effects, bright lights and big stars. All that glitter and glam adds up to one big carbon footprint. But some of the movers and shakers in town have been trying to change that. By "greening" some of the biggest studios, Hollywood is working to clear its environmental image.
Warner Brothers is leading the way, having recently deconstructed an outdated sound stage to build a newer, more efficient model. They were able to reuse or recycle 92 percent of the old building and what rose in its place is a sound stage that runs on solar power and was built using sustainable wood.
The cement used in its construction is also particularly environmentally-friendly. "It has 35 percent fly ash content," says Shelley Billik, Warner Brothers vice president for environmental initiatives, "and fly ash is a waste product of coal-fired power plants. So it's essentially a byproduct that would normally be land filled."
In addition, the Mill, a building used for set construction for the past 70 years, has been retrofitted with a solar roof and energy efficient lighting.
But it's not just the buildings themselves. Warner Brothers is trying to clean up its production practices too. It started with the first-ever carbon neutral film, "Syriana" in 2005. The production's carbon footprint was calculated, and carbon credits were purchased to offset the production.
Now however, Warner Brothers is actively looking for ways to keep their films green, "It's not just how you make it climate neutral at the end," says Billik. "How do you approach the production differently from the beginning to have a smaller impact?"
The upcoming star-studded film "Valentine's Day" was arguably the greenest production yet. The "base camp," where trailers for wardrobe, makeup and the cast usually sit idling on generator power all day, was instead run on hybrid energy. The films executive producer, Diana Pokorny, could hear the difference. "Normally you'd walk onto a base camp, and there would be the hum of generators," she said, "and there were days it would be completely silent 'cause we were running completely on solar power." This saved the production 18 metric tons of CO2.
And it's not just the silver screen going green. Television has joined the fight. In 2007, Fox's hit drama "24" heeded the call of its parent organization, News Corp., and became the first carbon neutral television show.
"It was obviously a very improbable kind of show I think to start doing it with," says Howard Gordon, the show's executive producer, "because we blow stuff up. And we have car chases." But with the help of Clear Carbon Consulting, the show's carbon footprint was calculated at more than 2,000 tons.
And through practices such as using biodiesel generators, energy-efficient lighting, electronic distribution of scripts and production schedules, recycling and reusable water bottles, the production could illuminate 43 percent of its CO2 output. The rest was offset through carbon credits that helped run a wind farm in India.
Critics argue that such carbon credits discourage people from changing their habits, allowing them to write a check and continue polluting.