How Environmentally Friendly is Animation?

Via: The New York Times (which I was somehow able to access)

Yesterday it was announced that Captain Planet is being released on DVD. Would it not have been more environmentally friendly to just stream the shows instead?

With that in mind, just how environmentally friendly is animation anyway?

Let’s see:

Traditional animation:

  1. Reams upon reams of paper (most likely not recycled)
  2. Hundreds of pencils
  3. Thousands of cels (cellulose acetate)
  4. Hundreds of litres of ink and paint
  5. Various chemicals for developing the film (as well as the film itself)

CGI Animation (assuming an all-digital production)

  1. Hundreds  of Desktop computers
  2. Render farms with thousands of servers

Now these are extremely overly simplified lists, but each element of both can be extrapolated out in terms of their environmental impact. For example, the environmental cost of pencils is not just about the wood in them. It also include the emissions from the machinery to cut down the tree, the chemicals used to treat the wood and the emissions from the various vehicles used to transport it to the shop you bought it from as well as the emissions from your car that you used to drive down there.

Other things like air-conditioning for the building, the materials used in the studio and of course the transportation costs of distributing the actual films to theaters can all contribute to the environmental cost of an animated film.

All of this can go unnoticed and usually does, but they are important to remember because it is easy to become short-sighted and think that just because animation doesn’t really produce any tangible goods (in the strict sense) that it is environmentally friendly.

This post isn’t a lecture, just more of a subtle reminder to have a broad mind when it comes to this kind of thing.

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