How to Have a More Sustainable Set Life

Performer and eco-activist Lauren McCrostie shares tips for changes you can make to ensure your set life is more sustainable. 

By Lauren McCrostie

our industry is hugely carbon exhaustive [...] as players within the field, we should make it our duty to minimise our impact wherever and however we can

Whether it’s been good old Greta or the rapid rise of the reusable cup, everyone is becoming more conscious of their environmental impact. We are now all looking at better and bigger ways to help our world - and we shouldn’t stop with our working lives either.

As a performer and environmental activist, I want to explain the importance of maintaining conscientious behaviour whilst working in the film environment. I'll highlight waste the industry generates and how we can take individual responsibility to avoid contributing further to the damage. 

Why we need to change 

Climate change is an issue that impacts everyone, everywhere. Over the past couple of years, it has increasingly crept to the forefront of our, and the media's, attention. From the ‘latte levy’ to the plastic bag charge to Attenborough's Blue Planet, the actions being taken clearly demonstrates the severity of the situation. Although the entire issue can seem too monstrous and overwhelming to crack we still must do our bit to help as making small changes really does add up to making a big difference

TV and film industry

You may be asking yourself how this affects you as a performer, well, our industry is hugely carbon exhaustive. albert, an environmental and sustainability organisation, found that 13 metric tons of carbon dioxide is created for every hour of TV produced. This is equivalent to what an average person produces over the course of a whole year! 

Consider all the carbon that's used in the transportation of cast, crew and equipment and the energy usage of the machines. Then there's the amount of food waste on set, as well as the air miles accrued in its transportation and not to mention the impact costumes and clothing has on our environment, the materials used to create prop, set and secretary items… the list goes on.

There is a huge impact being created as a result of the work we do and this is even before it reaches screens. Knowing this, as players within the field, we should make it our duty to minimise our impact wherever and however we can. 

How we can help

Get a Green Rider

Free to download from albert's website, the Green Rider asks production companies to agree to certain sustainability measures on set as part of our actor contract.

Costumes and clothing

Even if we can’t move mountains within a production - we often join the team after the big decisions have been made - we can still do our bit.

  • When attending costume fittings, ask where they are sourcing pieces from.
  • If it’s a short film see if there are any items in your wardrobe which could be of use.
  • In a larger scale production, offer to use your own coat and ‘off-camera’ set wear.
  • Use existing clothing borrowed from crew/cast/your own wardrobe or make use of second-hand shops. This helps limit the need for buying anything more than what is absolutely needed.
  • If you have a greater influence on production decisions, mention the work of sustainably-minded costume designers like Sinéad O’Sullivan Kidao who worked on Little Women and Beauty and the Beast.

Avoid single-use plastics

On set there will often be a daily stream of single-use water bottles provided for the cast and crew, reduce the amount of plastic waste everyone bringing their own bottle.

  • Many productions offer you a reusable water bottle now but if they haven’t, bring and use your own to start the trend and encourage other cast and crew members to join you. 
  • Think about having a Tupperware box too. If you ever have any lunch leftovers then this eradicates the need for disposable containers.
  • If you’re eating from the caterers ask for your meals to be served on ceramic plates and metal cutlery rather than single-use plastic. You could even ask the catering staff where any uneaten, extra food is going. Some companies donate to charities but others just throw it away, get friendly with them and ask if you can get a doggy bag to take home for dinner! 

Go paperless

Often you are given countless paper versions of scripts over the course of a project and sometimes over a single day so consider going paperless.

  • Use a tablet or screen reader.
  • Request your call sheets to be sent via email rather than being printed. 

Consider your energy use

There's a lot of waiting around whilst you're on an acting job, either in the greenroom or a trailer so think about ways to be energy efficient.

Do you need the heating on? Does the temperature need to be that high? Do you need the fridge on? What about the TV? Can you switch some lights off? It all adds up and turning off anything you don't need can make a difference.

Put waste in the correct refuse bins

Use, and encourage others, to properly use the bin system. Correctly recycle, dispose and compost accordingly. Are they recycling paper and plastic but not composting food waste? Composting is an easy change to make so suggest introducing this to the catering and production team. 

Look around the sets and environments you work in for opportunities to help reduce a production’s environmental impact. If people see you making greener choices and how easy it is; you’ll encourage others to follow suit and soon as you know it everyone’s on board! 

By participating in more mindful behaviours we can work to normalise sustainable choices and reduce the negative consequences productions have on our world

Where to look for guidance

The teams behind AdGreen, Earth Angel and albert are all paving the way in our industry to prove we can be green in our efforts and still produce good content. AdGreen and Earth Angel offer tips and insights on their websites, whilst albert offers special training courses and events to help you get even more involved as well as a useful production handbook

The future

The good news is that the industry is starting to put more focus on making sustainable and conscientious choices in TV and filmmaking. Black Panther, The Marvelous Mrs Maisel and Beauty and the Beast are all examples of hugely successful productions that had environmentally conscious intent. 

By participating in more mindful behaviours we can work to normalise sustainable choices and reduce the negative consequences productions have on our world. By following some of these easy eco-tips in our working life and living a more considered, sustainable set life, we can help to mend our planet and protect all of our futures.  

Lauren McCrostie is an actress and writer based in London. Previous acting work includes Tim Burton’s 'Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children' and Carol Morley’s 'The Falling'. Lauren also runs her own newsletter - happy helpful homework - which falls in line with her deep passion for sustainability and all things green. 

Image credit: Good Soul Shop / Unsplash