Could the entertainment industry do more to protect the environment?

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Arguably, the environment is the most critical issue facing the world today. With finite resources, a climate that many believe is getting warmer and air pollution levels in many major cities claiming a number of lives each year, its effects are far reaching and there is a general consensus that the future has to be green. In the words of the former head of Friends of the Earth, Jonathon Porritt, “The future will be green, or not at all. This truth lies at the heart of humankind’s most pressing challenge: to learn to live in harmony with the Earth on a genuinely sustainable basis”.

The statistics are also stark and seem to get worse by the minute. It’s going to be an estimated 30 years until we have used up all the seafood in the world, just 29% of the world’s wild forests and 70% of the ocean’s coral reef remain – plus there’s a global population of 7.5 billion people, and rising.

In the UK people are particularly concerned about air quality, closely followed by the amount of waste, but they also have a number of other environmental worries, as shown by the results to this questionnaire.

A graphic demonstrating the environmental issues people are most worried about

Source: Statista

Therefore, something needs to be done and fast, especially after President Trump seems to have joined the ranks of the climate-change deniers by withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord. This was especially worrying coming as former Vice President Al Gore had been quoted as saying, “as more and more of us become carbon neutral and change the patterns in our lives to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem, we are now beginning to see the changes in policy that are needed”.

Focus on entertainment

The film industry expends plenty of energy

Source: Pexels

Historically, the focus has been on getting industries including manufacturing, transport and power generation to start to behave in a more environmentally responsible manner but there is another that has, until recently, managed to sneak under the radar – entertainment in its various forms.

Take the film industry, for example. We all know that the typical Hollywood blockbuster costs millions of dollars to make and you only have to sit through the credits at the end of the film to see just how many hundreds of people are involved, from the director down to the people who are there to ensure that the every need of the big stars can be met.

What this doesn’t really show is just what a huge and energy-guzzling monster a film set can be. If it’s shot on location there are countless trucks and other vehicles transporting cast, crew and equipment from place to place. And then there are all the ancillary services like the mobile caterers to keep everyone fed and the multiple generators to power the lights to illuminate the sets. The latter also use up a huge amount of other materials to build, materials which are then often sent to landfill if they’re no longer needed at the end of the shoot.

It all adds up to a huge amount of conspicuous consumption, and that’s before we even factor in all the air miles covered in transporting the cast round on the inevitable worldwide publicity tour to launch the movie.

In fact, it has been estimated the in making The Revenant the film’s total carbon footprint was 469.6 tonnes – 25 times what it is for the average American – ironic considering that it was a film celebrating the unspoilt wilderness of Canada. The UK film and TV industries use an average of 5.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide for every hour of on-screen content, this clearly has a substantial impact, but it is a drop in the ocean compared to Di Caprio’s blockbuster.

The good news is that the film industry does seem to be becoming aware of its environmental responsibilities at last and a number of recent films have been able to display some genuinely green credentials.

For example, the Walt Disney movie Tomorrowland had an environmental steward on the payroll to ensure best practice and saved 91% of the film’s waste from going into landfill as a result. Meanwhile, at Sony Pictures they used the independent contractors Earth Angel to oversee the filming of The Amazing Spiderman 2 and diverted 52% of waste from going to landfill, donated nearly 50 tons of material reuse on future productions and supplied 6,000 free meals to community shelters – plus they earned a carbon neutral certification for the production.

Looking to Las Vegas

Las Vegas and the tourism industry in general is renowned for using lots of energy

In terms of where travel and tourism meet the entertainment industry one only has to look at Las Vegas where around 40 million people each year flock to this city in the desert for exciting gambling, big shows and spectacular experiences. The vast majority are visitors on vacation who are likely to consume a large amount of power as well as using many other natural resources too.

It’s obvious that this city is one big environmental drain. It’s estimated that the Vegas uses a jaw-dropping 8000 megawatts of electricity per day in the summer when air conditioning adds to the already huge costs for illuminating the thousands of miles of neon lighting.

Then there’s the water-consumption to be taken into account, an especially critical issue when you’re in the middle of the desert. Not only are there the drinking and washing needs of the 40 million visitors per year to take into account, many of the big casinos like the Bellagio and Caesars Palace also have spectacular fountain displays, the latter using an estimated billion litres of water per year.

Signs of hope

Solar panels are becoming increasingly widespread

You could argue that excess is an essential part of the Las Vegas experience, but it clearly isn’t sustainable. There is cause for optimism that the city is moving more towards renewable energy. The nearby Hoover Dam has always provided a good amount of hydro-electric power and now that other element that is in good supply in the desert, sunlight, is also starting to be exploited thanks to the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, a solar energy park covering over 1,650 acres with more than 10,000 panels which can even generate electricity at night. Capable of generating 500,000 MW Hours of power a year it means enough electricity up to 75,000 homes at peak times.

What’s more, the need for renewable energy even has the backing of the Las Vegas city authorities who already ensure that all government buildings are powered by it. However, whatever measures are taken, it’s undeniable that the city and the casinos in it will always be a major consumer of power.

Online casinos have been competing with land-based casinos for a while now, there is no doubt that they use a fraction of the energy and they cater for players all over the world. At the end of the day, a visit to an online alternative can provide players with an experience which comes pretty close to the real deal. This is because it offers a good recreation of the live casino experience with a wide choice of slots to play. Online companies like many of the big casinos manage to obtain the thrill of playing, without the potential environmental cost. Having said this, it’s undeniable that the entertainment industry is finally starting to sit up and take notice of its environmental responsibilities and, in a world where the bottom line is ever more important, it’s starting to see the economic benefits of working more efficiently too.

And that means, as long as the trend continues in this way, it’s going to be a real win/win situation for us all.

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