Nine Ways to Reduce Production Paper Use

Nine Ways to Reduce Production Paper Use

Despite predictions that the digital revolution would make paper obsolete, many film and television production sets are still dependent on paper for on-set communication, scripts, call sheets, one liners and on-boarding documents. While omnipresent and seemingly infinite in supply, the impact of paper consumption and disposal is large and growing.

Why is it important to reduce paper use?

Today, 40% of the industrial wood harvest goes into paper products and by 2050 pulp and paper production are expected to account for over 50% of the world’s industrial wood demand.[i]  Additionally, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that current land use change is resulting in approximately 50,000 square miles of deforestation annually.[ii]  When considering the aggressive rate of deforestation, and the fact that here in the U.S. 26 million tons of paper (16% of landfill waste) are thrown away every year, decreasing paper use becomes an important method for reducing the environmental impact of our TV and film productions.[iii] [iv]

How to Reduce Paper Consumption


Photo Source: Creative Commons Flickr

Mitigating paper use is a critical part of the plan to reduce deforestation rates and divert paper from landfill waste streams, but how we do it and the tools we use are often unknown or underutilized.

With film and television’s substantial reach and influence, the production industry sits in a unique position to set the standard for reducing paper consumption.  Using these nine tips, we hope to give studios, producers, directors, eco supervisors and set sustainability champions the tools to improve set communication efficiency and document security while decreasing printing costs and reducing production paper use.

9 Tips to Reduce On-Set Paper Use

  1. Set a Low-Paper Production Directive: Within the film and television production industry, the most successful paper-reduction mandates have come from the top, down. Paper reduction initiatives should be set at the studio or production company level, so directors and producers are aware of the need to limit paper use long before a production begins.
  2. Default to Digital: When onboarding production crew, department staff and actors it’s important to communicate that all set documents will be provided digitally unless printed copies are requested. While some people may prefer having a physical copy, most individuals will switch to digital if printing a document requires an extra step.
  3. Use Erasable Boards: For in-office information sharing, use dry-erase or chalkboards.
  4. Use an Eco-Font: If something needs to be printed, use a thin-lined eco-font to avoid wasting black ink. Examples of eco-fonts include: Century Gothic, Garamond, Courier and Times New Roman.
  5. Print Letter-Size: Format documents to print in letter-size instead of legal-size.
  6. Reuse Single-Side-Printed Paper: Use the backside of paper only printed single-sided for set communication or other personal uses. For example: print on the back of old script pages.

*Note: Do not use printed documents containing classified or private information for this application.

  1. Do Not Print with Banner or “Cover” Pages: A small eco-font header will serve the same purpose as a banner or cover page.
  2. Purchase Recycled and Responsibly Harvested Paper: Buying paper made from recycled pulp diverts paper from landfills, maximizes the use of recycled materials and discourages the use of virgin tree fiber. If purchasing white copy paper, 100% post-consumer recycled content is widely available. In the case that a higher grade or colored paper is required, look for either PEFC or FSC certifications to ensure the paper’s pulp has been derived from responsibly managed forests.
  3. Consider a Digital Production Tool: Reduce waste, reduce cost, keep documents updated and increase security by using a digital production tool or application. With the proliferation of tablets and smartphones, digital production applications like Sync OnSet, Scriptopia and Scenechronize® are becoming much easier to adopt.

– For more information on digital production tools, see our article “Going Digital on Set.” 


By declaring a top-down, low-paper or paperless set directive at the beginning of the production; educating the crew on the benefits of reducing paper use; applying paper-use reduction methods; purchasing paper from recycled or responsible sources and utilizing digital production tools, film and television productions can greatly reduce on-set and office paper use.

While a daunting task at first, the decision to move away from paper-intensive methods will improve communication efficiency and document safety, decrease printing costs and reduce the environmental footprints of our film and television productions.

On the path to a green set, reducing paper use is a simple step in the right direction.

For more green production tips see the PGA Green’s Unified Best Practices Guide

Kinsella, Susan; Gleason, Gerard; Mills, Victoria; Rycroft, Nicole; Ford, Jim; Sheehan; Kelly;
Martin, Joshua. “The State of the Paper Industry: Monitoring the Indicators of Environmental Performance.” Environmental Paper Network (2007) : n. pag. Web. 10 August 2015.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Global Forest Resources Assessment
2010. p. 11. Web. 10 August 2015

“LISTENING STUDY Question 59: Are old growth forests being cut for paper use?” ConservaTree.
ConservaTree, n.d. Web. 10 August 2015.

“The Facts – Paper Consumptions and Its Impacts.” Forest Ethics. Forest Ethics, n.d. Web. 10
August 2015