The BBC Natural History Unit production team behind ‘Japan: Earth’s Enchanted Islands’, broadcast on BBC2 in June 2015, knew that producing this 3-part mini-series would be an expensive exercise. Their Albert carbon footprint on Albert predicted a high carbon cost, too, but the eventual environmental outcome was much better than expected for several reasons.
The series was a co-production with Japanese broadcaster NHK and this had an additional benefit of helping cut carbon emissions. The final carbon footprint for the series was two thirds that predicted at the start of production, which amounted to a saving of hundreds of tonnes. The main win was to cut flights to and from the UK by planning shoots efficiently, combining them whenever possible and by using camera crews based in Japan. Some of these were local NHK crews but the team also worked with a number of freelance cameramen based in Japan.
One of these freelancers, cameraman Graham McFarlane, used specific kit that was sent out to Japan early in the production. He used and stored this kit in Japan for an eight month period, saving the production the carbon emissions and excess baggage costs of multiple return flights. Camera kit repairs were also done in Japan wherever possible
Using locally based camera crews had other advantages: language issues were avoided, particularly important in Japan where very little English is spoken outside the main cities. Locally based crews could also react quickly to events, such as filming the Sakurajima volcano eruptions which were filmed several times across a year.
Making this series, like many wildlife landmarks, still had a significant environmental impact with carbon emissions over three times the BBC average for programmes shot abroad. But it’s great to see NHU Productions taking actions to be greener by cutting their travel and excess baggage emissions wherever possible.