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Stars Shining On Global Warming

November 7, 2008

Turning the silver screen “green” is tough in Hollywood – a place known for huge budgets and extravagant productions.

Now Hollywood has lent its star power to the fight of environmentalism. Famous movie stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert Redford are popular environmentalists.

Plus, Al Gore’s 2006 Oscar-winning “An Inconvenient Truth,” is widely credited for making global warming more mainstream.

The movie industry is working to cut back the environmental harm caused by its big, but largely temporary, film and TV shoots.

“While celebrities have long been environmental activists, studios and production companies have been cautious about adopting the green philosophy as it applies to their business operations,” says Zahava Stroud, of iHollywood Forum, which will host a “Hollywood Goes Green” conference next month.

To make businesses more “green friendly”, many studios have staff focused on reducing their carbon footprints. Many have also offered employee incentives to buy hybrid cars.

The biggest setback is reducing the excesses of large-scale productions.

“While there’s been a lot of greening of studio lots, what still needs to be focused on is the actual production process, in terms of fuel consumption, energy efficiency, waste generation and food sourcing,” said Lauren Selman, chief executive of Reel Green Media, a consultant that helps movie sets incorporate environmental practices.

Some say the widespread use of fuel and diesel engines on shoot locations are a huge problem.

“Consider how much fuel we use. Generators, night shoots, ‘distant locations,’ trucks per shoot, idling trucks, moving cranes, moving everything, people, wardrobe, grip equipment, out to the set and back, move locations, fly crews and helicopters,” film and TV producer Judith James wrote in Traction, an online publication for women in Hollywood.

Studio executives say they share James’ point of view.

“There’s no question that shooting on location uses a lot of energy, and we’re looking at ways to reduce our impact… running tests with biodiesel fuel and solar energy to power our production equipment, and exploring new technologies such as more efficient LED lighting and using digital cameras,” said Jim Kennedy, a spokesman at Sony Pictures, a unit of Sony Corp.

“The infrastructure within the studio is much more conducive to green guidelines, but once production goes on location it gets more difficult,” said Shelley Billik, vice president of environmental initiatives for Time Warner Inc’s Warner Bros.

Experts say movie studios have made big green strides towards reducing their carbon footprint.

The Motion Picture Association of America reports News Corp’s 20th Century Fox, General Electric Co’s NBC Universal, Viacom Inc’s Paramount, Sony Pictures, Walt Disney Co, Warner Bros. and the West Coast broadcast and production arms of Disney’s ABC and CBS Corp collectively diverted 20,862 tons of studio sets and other solid waste from landfills to reuse and recycle in 2007.

The MPAA said because of that move, studios prevented the emission of 65,497 metric tons of greenhouse gasses that is the annual equivalent of removing 14,176 cars from the road.

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