We all love film and TV. Whether it’s for escapism, entertainment or education, many of us engage with screenwork on a regular basis. However, this industry is particularly carbon-intensive, which must be dealt with as the climate crisis intensifies. However, Equity for a Green New Deal have a comprehensive plan to revolutionise the screen industry in the UK. Read on to learn more and, if you work on screen, get involved!

Who are Equity for a Green New Deal?

Equity for a Green New Deal is a network of members of Equity (the performing arts and entertainment trade union, comprised of 47,000 performers and creative practitioners) who meet monthly to fight for climate justice in the performance industry and beyond. Their campaigns include fighting for sustainable and accessible workplaces in live performance and recorded media, working to make the Equity union as green as possible, and demonstrating solidarity with other workers who are fighting for a green and just future. 

As a union, Equity declared a Climate Emergency in October 2021. Equity for a Green New Deal specifically believes that climate and employment justice should be at the heart of Equity’s activity as a trade union. Their manifesto encompasses their five main objectives:

  • Empower members throughout the UK to fight for green and accessible workspaces
  • Work with Equity to ensure sustainable practices within their offices and operations
  • Campaign for the Equity pension fund and art institutions to cut ties and sponsorship deals with the fossil fuel industry
  • Push the Arts Council and publicly funded bodies to make funding dependent on genuine sustainability
  • Engage with other unions to fight for well-paid green jobs (in our industry and adjacent sectors)

In particular, they recently launched their #GreenRiders campaign to make screen more sustainable across the industry.

Why screen?

The UK government is legally committed to being net zero by 2050, and the UK film industry has a key part to play in the transition to a lower carbon society. According to the Screen New Deal report, the average big-budget film production produces 2,840 tonnes of CO2. It would require 3,709 acres of forest a year to absorb this amount. The climate crisis requires every production and every individual to engage in minimising CO2 emissions.

Art has historically played its part in leading societal shifts. The 1980’s cultural boycott in South Africa was a valuable facet in the fight to end apartheid. Since #MeToo, many productions have introduced mandatory safeguarding and Anti Harassment training and made efforts to change toxic attitudes on set. During Covid, our industry adapted in ways we could not have imagined. There is no reason we cannot take the same radical action for sustainability. Our sector can lead the way. We have done it before and we must do it again.

There’s a culture of waste embedded into the screen industry; at Equity for a Green New Deal actors are collaborating with agents, producers and professionals across the industry to negotiate groundbreaking new standards of sustainability.

For this to work, they need everyone who works on screen uniting to demand better. 

What can actors do?

  • Talk to your agent: their job is to represent your interests in work negotiations. If sustainability is a priority for you, get the conversation started (of course not all actors have this kind of relationship with their rep – if this is you, there are other ways to do your bit!)
  • Ask about alternative methods of travel: is the location easier to get to by tube? Could you get a train instead of a flight? Are you happy to share a car if it reduces the number of journeys?
  • Ask if the production has a sustainability lead you can talk to: show them Equity for a Green New Deal’s 10 sustainability commitments and ask how many they are achieving.
  • Get talking with colleagues and sharing online: noticed something climate positive on your set? Post and tag @equitygnd #SustainableScreen and they’ll share too!
  • Join the green rider campaign: Equity for a Green New Deal are working with Equity to build sustainability into actor contracts. The rider will launch later this year and they need actors keen to promote and test it.
  • Email equity4gnd@gmail.com: to find out ways to get involved. Nothing changes without you!

What are the Green Rider ten sustainability commitments?

The Green Rider is a tool for actors, writers, producers and directors, providing a framework with which to negotiate better practices in TV and film. E4GND encourage all artists to be ambitious, radical and creative in their demands for a better future. The green rider isn’t an exhaustive list, and actors may amend or remove the clauses which do not apply when negotiating their sustainability rider.

The below Commitments have been formed by members of the Equity for a Green New Deal group, with the support, resources and advice of Equity, ClientEarthAlbert, and numerous independent arts workers. These commitments build from work already being done by the Albert Sustainable Initiative and other organisations campaigning to reduce the environmental damage of TV and film.

In particular, productions should:

1. Consider sustainability long before shooting

The most efficient way to reduce emissions is to plan from the outset of a project. Productions must consider travel emissions, energy use, and accommodation when choosing locations, studios, and sets. 

2. Have Albert accreditation, at a minimum

All TV and film filmed should aim for 3 star accreditation on the Albert Carbon Action Plan, with 2 stars the bare minimum. Once signed up, evidence that these pledges are being met should be available on request throughout filming. 

3. Demonstrate actionable plans to reduce emissions

Sustainability goals must be focused on actual emission reduction as opposed to offsetting. A production’s sustainability plans should be publicly available for all crew, cast, and staff to access, along with evidence of the actions they are taking to achieve this.

4. Be transparent in job breakdowns 

A production’s climate commitments must be included in job breakdowns. Equity members should be allowed to see what efforts to reduce carbon footprints have or will be made by the production at the point of audition/interview. In cases where productions have not signed up to any sustainability initiative, this should be relayed in job breakdowns, just as contract type currently is (e.g. Equity/BECTU/Fringe/SAG-AFTRA).

5. Offer greener transport and accommodation

Crew and Cast should be offered greener methods of transportation and accommodation including public transport, car-sharing, shared accommodation, and international train travel. If not initially offered, Equity members should be allowed to ask for such options without penalisation and given valid reasons if they are refused. Members should be informed of which transport and accommodation option is greener at point of offer.

The carbon impact of multiple journeys will be considered during initial scheduling and travel will be reduced where possible. When travelling within the UK, all transport shall be by rail or electric/hybrid vehicles. When travelling outside of the UK, low carbon travel options will be offered as a first port of call and additional travel days/per diems offered as an incentive. The Artist should be given the choice to make their own way to set if this is a lower emission option (i.e. in their own electric vehicle.) Electric car charging points should be available at the unit base. Air travel should be used as a last resort. If air travel is to be used, the journey must be carbon offset, conscious that carbon offsetting is not a panacea and is the least preferable solution.

The producer shall also ensure that the artist’s dressing room/trailer uses reusable bottles, glasses and water coolers (no plastic water bottles), only has second-hand or hired furniture, and is shared where possible for the purposes of sustainability, particularly when on location.

6. Educate cast and crew

Cast and Crew should attend workshops on how to reduce climate impact in their sector, and in particular steps their own production is taking before filming starts. This should include training on how to individually and collectively make greener decisions during filming. 

7. Designate a sustainability lead from within the senior production team 

Productions must employ a sustainability lead with experience in the field and authority on set to encourage a culture of sustainability and hold all departments accountable on their pledges. 

8. Reduce Inefficient Energy Consumption

There is a lot of energy wasted on set. Diesel generators are used, engines are left running, cars are used for easily walkable distances, and there are inefficient heating and cooling methods on sets and in trailers. Educating all staff will encourage a group effort to mitigate some of this waste. However, climate pledges made before production must be followed through and actualised on set, even if the damaging alternatives are cheaper and easier to find.

Productions must reduce inefficient energy consumption, adopting the Avoid-Improve-Shift model for film and TV supplier emissions, and use a mains power connection and renewable energy tariffs where possible. On sets without access to power, productions will use non-diesel generators. Low-energy lighting will be used, and equipment and lighting will be switched off when not in use. There should be a no engine idling policy for vehicles on set.

9. Provide Sustainably Sourced Food and Reduce Food Waste

Productions should opt for sustainable food options including predominantly plant-based, organic, and locally sourced food. No beef will be used as this has the highest emissions. There will be limited use of other sustainably sourced meats. Efforts to reduce food waste should also be included in catering planning. For example: sending menu choices ahead of time will give more accurate numbers. Allowing cast and crew to select their own portions where possible instead of sending runners will also reduce food waste.

Where food is left over, production should partner with local charities or community groups to provide meals to communities in need. Cast and crew should be asked to bring their own cutlery/lunchboxes/cups to work to reduce the use of single-use plastics and supposedly ‘greener’ paper, vegware or wooden packaging which has been proven to be ineffective.

10. Reduce Waste & Recycle Effectively 

Sets must deal with the waste that is generated cleanly and efficiently. The producer will adopt a zero-to-landfill policy. Productions should connect with local authorities or sustainable waste removal companies to provide bins for recycling and oversee that this is being done correctly. Food and biodegradable waste should be separately composted.

At the end of filming, productions should aim for little to no waste of set, props and costume. Where appropriate, these should be reused, upcycled, gifted, or sold. Schemes like Event Cycle donate and upcycle event material, and local charities and community groups are often in need of furniture. Where this is not possible, cast and crew should be offered any unused set, props or costume. Boot sales can also be organised where proceeds go to a green charity or initiative.

Makeup artists and hairdressers must commit to finishing existing products in their stock and prioritise replacing them with certified sustainable beauty brands (e.g. Registered B-corps, biodegradable packaging and ingredients). No disposable make-up wipes will be used, costumes should be second-hand, hired or made of recycled materials or made of ethically-sourced, sustainable fabrics where the above is not possible.


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An added bonus: changing your Equity pension

Additionally, if you’re an Equity member, you can start by checking your pension. If you already have an Equity pension it’s likely to be in the default fund. After campaigning from Equity for a Green New Deal, this default fun” has moved to a greener option but is still partly invested in fossil fuels.

As a member of the Equity Pension Scheme, you can instead choose a fossil-free pension fund, for example the Liontrust Sustainable Future series, which Equity for a Green New Deal believe is a more ethically sound option. Research shows that ethical funds perform just as well, if not better than traditional funds. There are multiple to choose from but a lot of Equity for a Green New Deal are in the Liontrust UK Ethical S6 fund.

Switching is easy, quick, and there is no fee. If you already have a pension and want to switch to a fossil free ethical fund, ring First Act on 020 8686 5050 or email andrew.barker@hencilla.com

If you don’t have an Equity pension and you want one – choose the ethical option from the drop-down menu at Hencilla – Join the EPS.

To learn more and get involved find Equity for a Green New Deal on Instagram and Twitter