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It’s no exaggeration to say that the Earth and human life as we know it is under threat.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently warned that the effects of climate change could be irreversible without drastic action to limit global warming. This requires “rapid and far-reaching” changes in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport and cities. How we act in the next few years “may be the most important in our history”.

TV productions like Blue Planet II, Drowning in Plastic and Stacey Dooley’s investigation of fashion’s ‘dirty secrets’ provide clear evidence of the hidden costs of consumer culture and our insatiable demand for disposable products. The way we live is simply unsustainable.

Many of us have become much better at reducing use of plastic and understand the importance of measures such as paying to offset the carbon emissions from air travel. This is a start, but merely a drop in our increasingly polluted oceans. To make a real difference the solutions must go much deeper.

Making the world truly sustainable relies not only on policymakers taking difficult decisions, but also on commercially viable solutions that tackle the issues right across the supply chain – from clean energy to the future of food – while creating the jobs of tomorrow around the world.

The good news is that pioneering entrepreneurs from every corner of the planet are proving that groundbreaking, scalable and profitable solutions can solve many of the issues that we think of as insurmountable. They have the potential to disrupt and change the way whole industries operate for the better.

Unreasonable Impact

The recent Unreasonable Impact World Forum showcased some of the inspiring sustainable business ventures already reshaping the world we live in.

Unreasonable Impact was created by a partnership between Unreasonable Group and Barclays as the world’s first international network of accelerators focused on scaling up entrepreneurial solutions to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. 

Many of these technologies could become commonplace in the future and will have a place in any industry – including TV and film. Being aware of them is an important first step. So if you’re serious about creating a more sustainable sector, here are just a few of the solutions to look out for that are already becoming commercial realities.

Greener energy

TV and film are of course big energy consumers at every stage of production, from location, to travel, to the production offices. But a mind-boggling array of innovations for more sustainable energy, heat, light and power are already commercially available.

Lead-acid batteries and diesel generators can be expensive to operate and produce noxious pollutants and toxic waste. So how about using generators that run on biodiesel fuel for your next shoot, for example?

Clean energy pioneer Green Fuels has developed small-scale, easy-to-install ‘bio-refineries’ that turn waste cooking oils and animal fats into fuel and are already saving a million tonnes of CO2 a year.

Another clean energy start-up, Aceleron, has re-imagined the way batteries are assembled, developing technology to service, upgrade and refill its advanced lithium ‘batteries for life’, rather than discarding them as waste.

And Ampd Energy has invented an eco-friendly alternative battery that requires no maintenance as well as reducing toxic lead waste. Its Ampd XTel is a modular battery system optimised for outdoor applications, while the Ampd Silo is designed to provide uninterruptible backup power supply.

Another option is hydrogen and fuel cell technology like that developed by a company called Arcola Energy. It provides zero-emission, efficient, clean and quiet energy and its innovations can be adapted for use in cars, vans and buses, and for clean power generation for buildings.

Catering for change

Catering contributes a sizeable chunk of the estimated 13.5 tonnes of C02 emissions generated for every hour of television produced*. But help is at hand from innovative start-ups here too.

A number of companies are rolling out recycled plates and cutlery that the industry could use for on-set catering. For example, US recycling outfit, Preserve, produces eco-friendly food storage and tableware made from 100% recycled plastic or plant-based compostable materials.

Then there’s Bakey, which is producing edible utensils as an alternative to petroleum-based disposable plastic cutlery. Instead of throwing it away after a single use, you can either eat it or it will biodegrade in less than three days.

Hong Kong-based Heaven Springs has created the first multipurpose atmospheric water generator, designed to extract water from humid ambient air and efficiently convert it into safe drinking water. One day we might all have one of these in our offices and homes.

Meanwhile, US-based company Heatworks has developed a way to heat water using its naturally occurring minerals and graphite electrodes. It’s set to revolutionise the way we use our coffee machines – and every other water heater – around the world, saving precious water and energy.

Agriculture uses 70% of the world’s water supply, so AeroFarms, a high-tech, data-driven vertical farming company aims to revolutionise agriculture by growing leafy greens and herbs without sunlight, soil or pesticides. Its patented technology is building farms on major distribution routes and near population centres to shorten the food supply chain.

Growing Underground (GU) is repurposing WWII air raid tunnels 33m below the streets of Clapham, London, to sustainably grow herbs and leafy greens. Using LED lighting and hydroponic growing systems, it is powered by renewable energy sources and uses 70% less water than traditional farming methods. GU reduces food miles by supplying local retailers, wholesalers and restaurants.

For those interested in helping to address the environmental problems associated with global meat consumption, Clara Foods makes animal protein without using animals. The company is working towards a disruptive advance in food technology by creating the world’s first animal-free egg white and other protein-based products.

And here’s another innovation that could help on arduous location shoots: a company called Sure Chill has developed technology that enables cooling equipment to maintain a constant temperature without constant power. It works like a rechargeable battery, but uses no chemicals or electrodes.

This makes it perfect for areas of the world with limited power and can be teamed with solar.

Making a real difference

These are just a few of the many technologies starting to change the way the world produces energy and food, and recycles waste. While some of these may not seem directly applicable to TV and film production at the moment, we all have a role to play in encouraging sustainable business across our supply chains.

Early adoption of just some of these technologies could dramatically up the ante in reducing environmental damage and changing the way we work, before it’s too late.

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* albert Annual Report 2018