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Have you ever been on set and realised how much waste there is, that perhaps you should be making more of a conscious effort to recycle? Being green when it comes to media production is never straightforward, but there are ways you can help the environment – both obvious and not so obvious. Ad Green is a new initiative set up by Jo Coombes specifically for commercial production. We spoke with Jo to find out more about Ad Green, where it came from, and her hopes for the future.

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Casting Networks: When was the moment you first stepped back and realised how incredibly wasteful and un-green the commercial industry was? 

Jo Coombes: I first came to the realisation that I didn’t like what I was contributing to at the start of 2014. I’d read some scary articles about climate change, and couldn’t help but think I was contributing, simply by doing a job I loved – production managing on advertising shoots. The amount of waste we create in the name of being creative is obscene, but at the time I wasn’t sure what I could do about it. It wasn’t until a few months later when the niggling feeling got too much that I decided I should find out what related industries were up to, and whether we could apply what they’d learned to advertising production. 

Having spoken to Aaron Matthews who runs BAFTA’s Albert initiative, which works across film and TV in the UK, I knew there were things we could be doing but weren’t, such as on set recycling, and asking more of our caterers and studios. The next step was how to apply that and start spreading the word. 

Overcoming fear was a big thing – would people want to hear me bang on about being more environmentally friendly? What if the things I thought we should try didn’t work? How could I talk to the director, agency, or even the client about the issue? In the end I realised I needed to be confident in what I’d learned from related industries and what I’d tested on my own shoots, and start shouting it from the rooftops. After about a year developing how I should ‘present’ AdGreen to production companies, crew, and suppliers, it evolved into what you see today, which is predominantly a website of case studies and tools, designed to inspire and empower best practice. The APA have also been a big support, making sure their members are aware of what’s available, and including details of how to get started, along with our checklist, in the files section of their website.  

CNI: How does AdGreen aim to make the commercial industry greener, and what kind of response have you been getting from the industry? Plans for the future?

JC: Since setting up the current site, I’ve been joined by some collaborators who are helping with various plans for the future – it’s nice not to be working alone anymore! Together we’ve created a strong community through social media, which has been a great place to share experiences of what’s possible (and what’s not), promote our events (AdGreen presented a session at the APA Masterclass earlier this year as well as a seminar for production companies over the summer), and connect with related organisations around the world. We’re starting to spread our wings now too, reaching out to agencies and defining how we can help them to ask for sustainable production practices to be commonplace. Ideally we will have a best practice policy that everyone in our industry works to and is aware of, from clients to agencies, production companies, freelancers and suppliers.

At the start of any production, one of the most paper-heavy tasks is casting. Knowing that Casting Networks has a paperless solution – that some of our favourite casting studios and directors are working with – is great. I’ve seen it in action, and it saves not just paper, but time too. When it comes to being on set, there are things everyone attending can do: bring a water bottle, and if you’re a tea and coffee fan, bring your own Thermos or Keep Cup. I have it on good authority that hot drinks taste better this way than from a polystyrene cup! If paper call sheets have been printed, opt to view it digitally rather than picking one up when you grab breakfast. Can you take public transport or could you ask for a hybrid car to bring you to set? These are small steps, but telling others why you are taking them will have the biggest impact of all. Spreading the word is so vital! 

Jo Coombes HeadshotJo’s Top Tips!

If anyone out there is looking to get greener on their shoots, the AdGreen site is a great place to start.

Hear from other production staff about what they’ve achieved.

Use our checklist for both your office and your shoot, check out our printable signage, rehoming suggestions and tips for going paperless in our resources section.

Allay your fears by reading the FAQs, or failing all of that, just join our community on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to keep up to date.