Reducing the carbon footprint in Hollywood North

Squamish's Zena Harris helps TV and film productions lower their greenhouse gas emissions and become more sustainable

While Squamish proudly hosts local film and TV productions — 19 so far this year — all that glitters is not gold when it comes to the film industry.

Show business — movies, TV programs, and commercials — contribute a surprising amount of greenhouse gasses into the environment.

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One episodic TV production can emit the equivalent in carbon dioxide of 108 cars driven for one year, or 61.2 homes' energy use for one year, according to Squamish's Zena Harris, president of the Green Spark Group, which consults with productions to help them reduce their carbon footprint.

Harris also founded the annual Sustainable Production Forum (SPF), a two-day event Nov. 1 and 2, being held at Emily Carr University.

The forum, in its fourth year, focuses on solutions to make the motion picture and entertainment industry more sustainable

Creative BC presents the forum in collaboration with the Motion Picture Industry Association of BC.

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Zena Harris. - Haley Lorraine Photography

Participants have included FOX, Warner Bros., NBC, Universal, Disney, and Sony Pictures.

Attendees can participate in workshops, panels, and hear keynote speakers on the topic of being more environmental.

District of Squamish staff attended the Sustainable Production Forum in 2018 and will be in attendance this year to learn more about current best practices and what actions Squamish can take as a municipal government, according to a District spokeswoman.

"There are a lot of sustainable production practices that can be implemented... There are a lot of variables at play," Harris said.

 "Everything from fuel consumption to responsible waste management, recycling and compost, and the supply chain — so what products are productions actually using and how can we influence that."

Having a production's trucks stop idling or switching to electric vehicles are some basic ways to cut emissions, Harris added.

Using battery-power stations instead of diesel generators is another simple step productions can take.

"A big one is plugging into the grid if you have the ability to do that," Harris added.

Other things industry bosses often don't think about are minor changes such as reducing or eliminating the use of individual condiment containers at craft services — which feeds the production crews —  and donating leftover food to a shelter.

The wood that is used to make sets can be switched from rainforest-based wood to something more sustainable, too.

The changes productions make can enhance them, Harris said, not just be something that is better for the environment.

"It is actually more empowering as it allows productions to be creative and find interesting solutions," she said.

Harris said Squamish residents or businesses could approach local productions when they see them set up in town and ask about their sustainability practices.

"Show some interest," she said.

"And congratulate people for doing the good work of keeping their footprint lower."

Municipalities need to be asking productions who want to come to town about their sustainability and carbon footprint, Harris said.

The District of Squamish declared a Climate Emergency on July 2 and is working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through its Community Climate Action Plan, currently under development.

District staff told The Chief the municipality requires that all film productions make efforts to ensure crews reduce, reuse and recycle waste when filming in Squamish, and multi-stream waste separation — garbage, recycling and organics — is mandatory for all film and events according to the Solid Waste Bylaw.

Location managers are responsible for ensuring that sets are equipped with recycling facilities and food waste bins, containers for the disposal of chewing gum and tobacco and to work to minimize the use of disposable items.

The District is also undertaking a review of its waste management guidelines for filming and events, with the intent of educating, collaborating and enforcing waste management regulations with all stakeholders, including local businesses, film companies and special event organizers, the spokesperson said.

For information on the Sustainable Production Forum, visit

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