Going Green: What is a Sustainability Coordinator and why is it important for your production?

An exclusive interview with Georgina Musgrave, Sustainability Coordinator on Britannia season 3 (Amazon Studios, Sky, Neal Street Productions, Vertigo Films)

What do corsets, batteries and compost have in common? For Georgina Musgrave, they’re all elements she has to contend with in her role as an environmental steward. While working on Britannia Series 3, she applied her passion for protecting the environment to common production issues in order to reduce waste and minimize the project’s environmental impact.

What is a Sustainability Coordinator and why is it important?

An environmental steward serves as a consultant, researcher, waste manager, and ecology advocate all rolled into one. Georgia created her own position because she noticed a lack in the film industry — there were very few roles like hers.

The job is a mix of consulting and on-set work. During pre-production, she’ll have heads of department send her a list of materials and items they’ll need to use and then researches lower waste and/or more sustainable alternatives. Some departments are more challenging than others — finding alternatives for make-up, for example, can prove to be challenging.

The type of production you’re working on can make sustainability more challenging. Rechargeable batteries are a better choice for the environment, but who wants to change battery packs on the talent when they’re buried under layers of corsets and period costumes?

Indeed, historical, sci-fi and effects-heavy productions present even more challenges to environmental stewards. Often the environmental stakes are greater because there is a greater need for raw materials to build sets and create other-worldly props and costumes.

On set, she helps manage waste disposal (recycling vs. composting vs. “other”), guide crew members towards changing their habits, and calculating the carbon footprint of the production as a whole, which includes transportation to and from set.

“It is a position with a lot of responsibilities. So, from top to bottom, everything related to ecology must be concentrated in the calculation of waste management, raw materials, all of this is of great importance.”

“When you are doing a TV drama, or a half hour show, there are different directors with their own directing teams for each episode so there’s much more paperwork. Working on a film is simpler than working on a TV drama because you have only one script. It’s like working on one long episode.

According to Georgina, the “green production” industry, while not new, is still in its infancy of having a big impact within productions. Reducing the environmental impact of a film shoot is particularly difficult due to the pressure of deadlines and intense budgetary restrictions. Low-cost and environmentally friendly do not always go together!

Just as no two film sets are alike, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for automatically “greening” every production. However, similarities exist between them, including reducing single-use plastic objects, sourcing meals from sustainable farms and caterers, and advocating for the use of public transport whenever possible (outside of COVID times, of course).

Environmental stewardship also involves change management. Getting people to adjust to new processes isn’t always easy. Plus everyone’s relationship to sustainability is personal and influenced by their culture and awareness of the issues. So environmental stewards must be patient and adaptive when they discuss new policies.

“Not all people in production like change, but sometimes we have to do it, just in the right way. It’s just [about] management.”

A vision for the future of sustainable production

Georgina remains optimistic about the future of the film industry. She points out that the coronavirus pandemic has forced the entire industry to reexamine how it does business and while it has been challenging, it may bring about more positive changes in the future.

For environmental stewards, she’s hoping to develop an industry-standard qualification to help certify future environmental stewards throughout the industry. Her dream is to include the environmental steward within an environmental department and one day hire her very own bin marshal to monitor waste management. Saving the environment isn’t always glamorous, but it’s always worth it!

SetKeeper is an industry-leading platform designed to coordinate the physical production process simply and safely. www.setkeeper.com