Jack Bauer tackles global warming
Fox’s action-packed series ‘24’ is the first TV show to reach carbon neutral.
Fox's political action thriller “24” has long pushed the boundaries of prime-time television with its graphic depictions of violence and torture. Now, the series, in its seventh season, is breaking ground in what may seem an unlikely frontier. Earlier this month, show producers announced that it is the first television program to become “carbon neutral.”Skip to next paragraph
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The show reduced its overall carbon emissions to zero through a combination of “better practices,” and the purchase of carbon offsets. “ ‘24’ was a tough choice to start with because of the difficulty in measuring the high number and different types of emissions,” says executive producer Howard Gordon. “But it’s been enormously gratifying because it’s a relatively high- profile show and can influence other shows.”
The impulse grew from a corporate retreat in 2006, at which former Vice President Al Gore addressed the group on his passion project, global warming. Subsequently, Rupert Murdoch, chairman of parent company News Corp., announced his intention to take the entire company carbon neutral by the year 2010.
Just what this relatively new cultural buzz phrase actually means in the context of a TV drama – routinely defined by its high-octane car crashes, explosions, and fuel – starts with an unexpectedly drab, converted 30,000-square-foot pencil factory on the edge of Los Angeles County.
The soundstage is easy to miss, set in what appears to be just another industrial warehouse section of this L.A. suburb. But this cavernous stage, along with a nearby sister space, has housed “24” since its early days when the action revolved around the fictional Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU) headquarters.
After calling in a head-to-toe assessment from a consulting firm, Clear Carbon, the production team began to make changes to mitigate the eye-popping 2,179 tons of CO2 emissions estimated to be generated by the series. The first item to go was the “ancient fluorescent bulbs” in the old fixtures, says Mike Posey, associate director of production. Roughly 200 fixtures full of four-foot bulbs were replaced with the new, low-impact “cool” CFL bulbs, “the kind you can pick up at Home Depot,” adds Mr. Posey.
Next, the team ticked off a laundry list of items, many of which have begun to crop up as staples of the burgeoning green movement in Hollywood as well as other industries: cut electrical usage, switch to biofuels and recycle, among other actions. The show moved its diesel fuel usage for trucks and generators to include at least 5 percent biofuels.
One of the biggest reductions in carbon emissions came from the simple conversion to digital script delivery. “We used to ferry about 150 scripts around town daily,” says Posey. They also integrated hybrid-fuel vehicles into the production, a tactic that reduced gasoline usage by 1,300 gallons for Season 7 production, which wrapped in December.