OMPA5 : 5 Tips to Make Your Production More Eco-Friendly

Stage manager Brynden McNew of Cine Rent West shares 5 tips for how to make your production more environmentally friendly.
| By Lisa Cicala

Cine Rent West is one of the oldest studios in Portland, and stage manager Brynden McNew has seen a lot of productions come through their space over the last few years. Earth Day is coming up this Sunday April 22nd, so McNew shared 5 tips for how to make your production more environmentally-friendly, and even save you money!

Banning plastic water bottles

At Cine Rent, the space includes water, so McNew recommends telling the whole crew to bring reusable water bottles they can fill up on site. Not only does that save dozens of bottles from the recycle or garbage, but it helps save lots on an often costly line item. If you're shooting somewhere besides Cine Rent, ask the venue what water options are available on site before buying your crew water, or even price out jugs of water versus water bottles.

Having a plan for left over food, or left over set pieces

When you build a whole set, McNew suggests planning ahead to decide what you're going to do with all the furniture and art decorations. Will you need it again for another shoot? It might save you more money to store the set instead of re-purchasing everything to construct it again.When you truly can't reuse furniture, linens, and larger pieces, there are many charities in the Portland area that take gently used household goods. According to, some of them even pick up for you (for free or a fee) when you give them advance notice, like The Community Warehouse, Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Vietnam Veterans of America, and Union Gospel Mission. As for electronics, Free Geek accepts nearly everything that plugs in or uses electricity, including smartphones, tablets, e-readers, video systems, and much more.

There's always leftover food at the end of the shoot, be it from craft services or from a product shoot, so deciding what to do with that excess ahead of time can save pounds of perfectly consumable food from finding its way to a landfill. Invite your crew to bring their own Tupperware to the shoot to take excess food home with them. Many Portland charities would be happy to get food donations, like Move for Hunger, Portland Rescue Mission, JOIN, and Portland Police Sunshine Division. Some can only take non-perishable food, so call ahead to describe the food you are able to donate.

Special note for producers: You need to save your set pieces and props and wardrobe if you are not 100% sure your data is backed up and safe with the editor. If there is an accident and data is lost, the insurer will have expected you to hold onto those pieces until the data was assured.

Clearly marking recycling/trash

When your area for recycling, compost, landfill/garbage, and other items is properly labeled, it's so much easier for your crew to understand what goes where and keep recycling from going to the landfill. Got odd, seemingly non-recyclable items on your set? Things like styrofoam can't go into standard recycling bins but there are a number of specialty businesses that do accept it for recycling, like Agilyx.

Powering down when not in use

Production gear often sucks up tons of energy, so power everything down when it's not being used to help the environment and shave plenty of dollars off of your power bill. And speaking of saving money on power...

Use LED, which will help you save money on power!

"We charge for kilowatt hours at this studio," McNew says, and he used to see power bills between $500-600 a day. "But I’ve pushed LED a lot and we’re seeing power bills that are just $50 a day. LED is saving lots of money with just the same, or better, lighting quality."

McNew understands the pressures that producers face to deliver a beautiful product under budget.

"The nature of production is, the shot always comes first," McNew explains, "so it's hard for a lot of these producers, under so much pressure with budget constraints and crew and getting everything right, that [the environment] almost becomes a thought afterwards."

Still, he hopes these tips will help producers reduce their carbon footprint while appealing to their bottom line.

"We can grow as an industry, save money and be more green too."

Have an idea for a story or want to be a contributing writer?