So you’ve become all too familiar with the climate emergency and the looming social and economic collapse that comes along with it. You want to throw in the towel and run for the hills where you envisage living off the land and denouncing your career that has contributed to worsening the impacts of climate change.
If that’s how you’re feeling, I can assure you, you are not alone. I for one feel exactly the same a lot of the time. So much so in fact, that I denounced my 20-year career as a commercial hair and makeup artist because I simply couldn’t deal with the waste that came along with my job.
While this, of course, isn’t a practical approach for most – and by practical, I mean personally sustainable – for me it was, as I was looking for a career change. One that has been on the cards for a few years.
Also, after reading the UN’s report on how small-scale organic farming is the only viable solution to solving global food shortages and helping to mitigate the impacts of climate change, I’ve decided knuckling down in NW London with an allotment and rooftop garden growing up a storm, might not actually be the worst thing in the world
So you work in film & tv, or advertising, and you have come to the realisation that all your creative (and perhaps even non-metaphorical) blood, sweat and tears has played a significant part in selling crap to people that don’t need them. Or the films you’ve been making are flouting an irresponsible narrative that glorifies the worst in people. I know, I too have been complicit throughout the course of my career – although I loathe to admit it. But here’s the cracker… you can keep doing what you do, maybe even do what you love and make a positive impact on the lives of people and for the Planet.
However, it does require that you make some brash, bold moves within your organisation, and refuse to work with companies that don’t prioritise the things that matter to you the most – regardless of where you are in the hierarchy. Admittedly, that’s not always easy, but it’s not impossible – and as we only have six months left to avert the climate crisis, it’s best you get on that bandwagon!
The good news is you’re not alone in this anymore and there has been a significant sea-change thanks to lockdown’s precious gift: time (I am going to make a generalisation that if you’re reading this, you have come from a place of privilege that has afforded you a far more comfortable situation during this very uncomfortable time than millions of others around the globe).
Time to pause. Time to plan and time to realign our priorities. Time to see an alternative way of living and working. So how can we sustain the green moment of lockdown?
This time has allowed an enormous amount of good to come out of industries that are synonymous with waste (of resources and money) and extravagance. Yes, I am talking about the film and advertising industries, with the likes of CUT IT: Crew-led climate action, The Great Reset, spear-headed by Purpose Disruptors – a network of advertising insiders working together to reshape our industry to tackle climate change. Even BECTU have put together a sustainability committee.
Okay, so you haven’t earned – or shared an adult conversation in person with anyone outside the confines of your four walls in months. It’s only natural to want to get back to some kind of work or business now that the economy is starting to open up again. Productions are starting to pick up again too! Hooray!
You’ve signed pledges, you’ve joined committees, you’ve been down climate collapse rabbit holes. But have you forged a plan for what happens when your client or director is demanding more, bigger, faster? Have you got a plan for when things start getting stressful and all your best intentions of acting responsibly get thrown out the window? Now is the time that we will see what cloth we are really cut from.
While we can’t depend on the cavalry to show up and save us from impending doom, and we absolutely need to take independent daily action to avoid the worst-case scenarios of the climate crisis – you don’t have to go it alone. Focusing on the task at hand is what you’re getting paid to do – and after all, we still live in a society in which we need to earn in order to feed our families and put roofs over their heads – or even just our own for that matter.
Organisations like Albert, Ad-Green and Eco Shoots have been leading the charge and offer a number of brilliant resources and practical advice for both industries, but there are occasions when you (or your producers) need a little more help.
You can do anything, but not everything
– David Allen
Hiring a sustainability consultant whose sole job it is to support you in doing your job – and doing it in a way that preserves not only our Planet…but our industry too is a worthwhile investment. Hiring an expert to navigate the intricacies of environmental sustainability and ensure you save time and money (yes, that does sometimes mean in the longer-term financial savings. But you’re in this for the long term, aren’t you?).
You need a plan, whether for your department or the whole production (obviously you will make a much greater positive impact if your teams aren’t working in silos) – with goals, and clear directions on what you have to do in order to achieve them.
Real sustainability is not a one-size-fits-all approach… also carbon accounting and manning the recycling bins aren’t exactly going to be a career highlight for most. But they are for me!