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Star Power Doesn't Help Hollywood's Environmental Score

The UCLA Institute of the Environment's 2006 "Southern California Environmental Report Card" assigned some barely passing grades to the entertainment industry on its environmental mitigation work.

The image painted in the lead section of the 44-page report is in stark contrast to the seemingly endless parade of stars who turn out to support various environmental causes from clean air and water to opposing liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving terminals along the state's coast.

UCLA's institute gave an "A" grade for what it called environmental best practices, but only a "C" when it comes to industry wide actions.

This is the ninth annual "report card" from the 10-year-old interdisciplinary UCLA institute, offering essays and presentations of researchers' findings on environmental topics that are meant to stir both policymakers and the public at large, according to Mary Nichols, a former top federal and state environmental official who heads the institute. Nichols also is a board member and immediate past-president of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's oversight board.

"For the first time, a single industry -- or what Hollywood calls 'The Industry' -- is put under the microscope and examined for its environmental performance," said Nichols, who noted that the report card also looked at urban parks and an updated perspective on advances in environmental monitoring, along with an assessment of air and water pollution in the region.

The film and television industry collectively was given varying grades. Among the impacts of the film industry, for example, are energy consumption, waste generation, air pollution, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and physical site disruptions at on-location film shootings that take place daily around Southern California.

"Within metro Los Angeles, the film/TV industry makes a larger contribution to conventional air pollution than four other sectors (aerospace, apparel, hotels and semiconductors). However, the usual leader, petroleum refining, was not included in the Los Angeles analysis," according to the UCLA report.

While acknowledging that individual studios and others in the film/TV industry have taken steps to minimize environmental impacts through recycling, energy efficiency and green building practices, the report said the "overall impression is that these practices are the exception, not the rule, and that more could be done within the industry to foster environmentally friendly approaches."

Ironically, the UCLA report sees the film/TV industry as producing products that push for greater environmental vigilance and a greener society, but its practices in producing the films don't always match up. It cited the example of the recent global warming warning in the film The Day After Tomorrow. Despite the producer's attempt to eliminate GHG emissions in making of the film, an environmental organization, Future Forests, has calculated that the film produced 10,000 tons of carbon dioxide. The producer paid $200,000 for the film production's carbon dioxide offsets.

The UCLA report cites what it called the "lack of obvious industry wide rules and standards." As a result the film/TV industry as a whole "has yet to devise effective approaches for implementing progressive environmental practices," although the report card authors acknowledged that more could be actually being done than they were aware of.

"As an enterprise, the industry obviously recognizes that its environmental messages -- both on the screen and off -- represent a powerful tool for public education," the report concluded. "However, policies to mitigate environmental impacts within the industry remain to be implemented in a more systematic and transparent manner."

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