Will Indian Film Industry go Carbon Neutral Anytime Soon? Hollywood production houses not just offset their carbon emissions, but go to different extents for reducing their emissions

By Pooja Domadia

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Being carbon neutral is the new trend in the business industry. Many entities in India are taking this route, including events of national and international importance and big and small corporate houses. Many individuals are taking up the onus of reducing and offsetting their carbon footprint. The relatively new entrants here are films.

The first Indian movie to be a carbon neutral one was "Aisa Yeh Jahaan' by Biswajeet Bora released in 2015. Centre for Environmental Research and Education (CERE), a Mumbai-based not-for-profit organization did the carbon emission management and offsetting for the movie.

What Does "Carbon Neutral' Denote

Being "carbon neutral' means to counterbalance the carbon footprint we leave on this planet by removing it, doing activities that are eco-friendly.

Making a film involves a long list of high greenhouse gas emitting activities like transporting actors and staff to and from filming sites, usage of high-end camera and other equipment, construction of sets, generator for power supply, creating artificial light and weather, editing and many more.

While it is not possible to completely avoid these discharges, a reduction is certainly possible. "It is important to have the right attitude towards environment. We cannot decide to pollute our environment extensively and then neutralize it. Reduction of our carbon emission to the possible extent is crucial. During the entire process of movie-making, we monitor and measure carbon release. Wherever likely, we provide suitable suggestions for reduction," said Dr Rashneh Pardiwala, Co-founder, CERE.

Carbon Emission and Offset of Aisa Yeh Jahan

Hailing from Assam, Biswajeet Bora, director of the film, wanted to make a movie that could connect urban India with the depleting natural treasure. The movie mainly revolved around the storyline of environmental importance.

As per CERE's calculations, the total carbon dioxide emissions of Aisa Yeh Jahaan was 78.477 metric tonnes of CO2 and about 560 trees were to be planted to offset the same. "The movie was shot in Mumbai, Assam and Shillong and thus we planted the suggested number of trees in Mumbai and Assam," said Bora.

Cost of Carbon Offset

Bora said, "Our total budget for the movie was about INR 4.5 crore out of which about INR 95,000 were spent for plantation of trees. The amount, as compared to the total budget, is paltry. I am working on two more movies further and shall be ensuring carbon neutralisation for them too."

Pardiwala hopes to see more films by environmentally responsible brigade. The cost of carbon neutralisation according to her is not very high.

Recognition of Bollywood as a Responsible Industry

Typically heavy industries and the manufacturing sector are reckoned to be responsible for increasing emissions. While these industries undoubtedly contribute substantially, the impact of smaller, seemingly less "polluting' industries should not be underestimated. Though, the film industry may not conventionally appear as a major source of atmospheric carbon, its impact is still significant.

After the first film, Pardiwala received another request from a Telugu movie and her team worked on it. She thought, it will make sense to further this initiative to the big banners, but hasn't so far got an optimistic response.

"Cost of carbon neutralisation varies depending on scale of the film. The percentage, however, would not be much. When we approached some big production houses, we were told that offset can be done if the movie is commercially successful. But, we cannot go ahead this way because we need to measure the footprint and moreover we cannot have the attitude to pollute the environment without curbing measures and then plant some trees as remedy," she said.

Bollywood is trying hard to get itself recognised officially as an industry with standardised systems. A system of having environmental concern would certainly be a good one in the sector. "The remedial cost is meagre but the accumulative impact of those actions would be really high. I wish Bollywood to be a forerunner in this responsible task," said Pardiwala, an ecologist.

How does it work in Hollywood

In Hollywood, the concept of carbon neutrality is pretty identified and implemented. Production houses not just offset their carbon emissions, but go to different extents for reducing their emissions. They take measures to green their sets, use solar power or alternative fuel, recycle waste generated during production and buy carbon credits. The film 2012 from Hollywood had its carbon footprint neutralised with steps like usage of bio-fuel for generators and sets being recycled or donated for shelter.

The sequels of Hollywood chartbuster Avatar are announced to be carbon neutral. Solar panels are installed in huge areas to ensure alternative source of energy. Water conservation programmes, eco-friendly paints and cleaning products, sustainable café and many other programmes upholding greener world are being undertaken. They go a step ahead with not just offsetting carbon but ensuring their production is eco-friendly and sustainable.

Indian film industry is far behind as far as sustainability is concerned. While it will be great to see it growing as an ideal for many entertainment industries in India, this sector can also inspire several entities like corporate firms, small scale industries and individuals.

Pooja Domadia

Freelancer, Entrepreneur India

A journalist for over five years, I have worked with leading media organisations like the Hindustan Times, The Free Press Journal and Jagran Group. Currently I am working with The CSR Journal. I cover the budding Corporate and Citizen Social Responsibility space in India. 

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