independent production sustainability guide


Why sustainability is important

Since the industrial revolution began in the late 19th century, humanity has produced, consumed, and disposed of resources at a staggering rate. This cycle has only grown more intense with the human population increasing from less than two billion in 1900 to eight billion in 2022. In just over a century, our impact as a species has had dire consequences for our ecosystems through global temperature rise and environmental pollution. 

"The Earth is 4.6 billion years old. Scaling to 46 years, humans have been here 4 hours, the industrial revolution began 1 minute ago, and in that time we’ve destroyed more than half the world’s forests." -Green Peace

We've had such an impact that some have argued to define our current era of life on Earth as the Anthropocene, which marks the period of time after humans industrialized. At this moment in time, mitigating waste and emissions needs to be a priority in every industry.

Sustainability in Film Production

Whether you’re an independent production with a crew of five friends or a studio production with a crew of five hundred, running a set can quickly create a lot of  waste. Creating art and telling a story is one of the most exciting aspects of producing a film, but it’s important to consider the environmental cost of your film. Single use plastic, carbon emissions, and COVID PPE are just a few factors that can contribute to the deterioration of our global ecosystems. 

On our independent productions, we noticed how fast one of our small sets became wasteful. We were inspired to draft solutions that could be useful to other independent filmmakers who are equally passionate about making their productions sustainable. We've collected some resources that cover some ways that you can run your set with a lens of sustainability while avoiding breaking the bank.

Measuring Sustainability 

One of the first challenges of production sustainability is creating a system to measure and track your production's waste. 

There are few frameworks for measurement, but we currently use the PGA's (Producer's Guild of America) Green Production Guide Toolkit, which links to PEACH (Production Environmental Actions Checklist) and PEAR (Production Environmental Accounting Report). These are sheets/excel files that allow you to track and budget your expenses in relation to sustainability.

Using these frameworks allow you to apply for and receive the Green Seal from the EMA (Environmental Media Association) and other titles that can be useful in distribution and promotion.  

Single-use Plastic


According to WWF Australia, it takes about 450 years for a single plastic bottle to decompose. This means that every bottle used on your set will last over 5 lifetimes. 

While decomposing, plastic breaks down into micro and macro plastics, which have been studied to leech into our rivers and ocean while being consumed by marine and terrestrial species, including humans. It's imperative that we reduce our use of these single-use items, because 5 minutes of use isn't worth 5 lifetimes of pollution.

A simple solution to single-use waste: reusable water bottles and refill stations. 

Craft Services/Catering

If possible, refrain from purchasing craft services that come in single-use plastic. With the COVID-19 pandemic, many sets moved away from fresh, self-serve style craft services in favor for individually-packaged items, increasing on-set waste. 

Solutions for craft services waste:

Solutions for catering waste:

A note on recycling

While recycling remains an important aspect of waste disposal in the United States, most plastic waste doesn't get recycled, even when organized in the correct bins. Removing single-use plastic from our daily lives is the most important step we can take to help end plastic waste pollution. Think of single-use plastic as a last resort and keep in mind that the famous phrase "reduce, reuse, recycle" is listed in order of importance.  

COVID-19 and other PPE

With the advent of COVID-19, on-set production measures for reducing the spread of COVID-19 increased the amount of single-use plastic through testing and masking. These measures continue to be very important for ensuring the safety of casts and crews across the world, but there's few options for reducing the waste created. 

A study in the journal Case Studies in Chemical and Environmental Engineering cited "since the beginning of the pandemic, it is conservatively estimated that 4 million tonnes of polypropylene PPE waste has been released into the environment in uncontrolled manner (via open dumping or littering) causing significant and long-term ecological damage."

We cannot stress enough how important the safety of your cast and crew is, and we believe testing is one of the most useful ways to limit the spread of illness. 

COVID-19 Transmission Reduction and Waste Steps:


Communicating your intentions and goals to your cast and crew can be one of the most important steps for achieving a more sustainable production. 

Including this information on call sheets, emails, and during the fundraising/pitching of your project can help create small changes that can serve as a net positive for your set. 

Here are some examples of goals to set for your production:


We hope that the landscape of sustainability continues to change across industries for the betterment of our ecosystems through actionable policy and standards, but at this moment in time, the onus has been placed on us. For that reason, it's imperative that we make as many changes as possible to shape a culture of sustainability. Not all of these solutions will fit every production, but implementing just one of them mitigates negative impacts.

We will continue to add updates and solutions for sustainable productions to this page for your use.