By Noaki Schwartz
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
LOS ANGELES, Nov. 14 -- Special-effects explosions, idling vehicles, teams of workers building monumental sets -- all of it contributes to Hollywood's newly discovered role as an air polluter, a university study has found.
The film and television industry and associated activities make a larger contribution to air pollution in the five-county Los Angeles region than four of the other five local industries researched, according to a two-year study released Tuesday by the University of California at Los Angeles.
Although Hollywood seems environmentally conscious thanks to celebrities who lend their names to various causes, the industry created more pollution than individually produced by aerospace manufacturing, apparel, hotels and semiconductor manufacturing, the study found.
Only petroleum manufacturing belched more emissions.
"People talk of 'the industry,' but we don't think of them as an industry," said Mary Nichols, who heads the school's Institute of the Environment, which released what researchers called a "snapshot" of industry pollution. "We think of the creative side, the movie, the people, the actors -- we don't think of what it takes to produce the product."
Researchers considered the emissions created directly and indirectly by the film and television industry. For example, they factored in not only the pollution caused by a diesel generator used to power a movie set, but also the emissions created by a power plant that provides electricity to a studio lot.
They also interviewed 43 people who worked in a variety of areas within the industry, and reviewed major trade publications to see the level of attention paid to environmental issues. In doing so, researchers found that some studios have recycling programs and "green" building practices.
"Nevertheless, our overall impression is that these practices are the exception and not the rule, and that more could be done within the industry to foster environmentally friendly approaches," the study said.
Part of Hollywood's problem is that unlike other industries, film and television work is often done by short-term production companies, in some cases making it difficult to apply environmentally friendly practices, the study said.
Researchers also noted environmentally responsible examples within the industry.
The makers of the film "The Day After Tomorrow" paid $200,000 to plant trees and for other steps to offset the estimated 10,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions caused by vehicles, generators and other machinery used in production.
And production teams for "The Matrix Reloaded" and "The Matrix Revolutions" arranged for 97.5 percent of set materials to be recycled, including some 11,000 tons of concrete, steel and lumber. All the steel was recycled and 37 truckloads of lumber were reused in housing for low-income families in Mexico.
Lisa Day, a spokeswoman for Participant Productions, which worked on offsetting carbon emissions from the making of "Syriana" and "An Inconvenient Truth," she was a little surprised by the study's findings.
"I think the industry as a whole does look at itself," she said. "The studios have done a lot in terms of waste reduction. I think that energy is the new thing the industry is looking at and what impact they have."