The Biggest Losers

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(#1 in a series)
Hopefully if you've been following this column, lowering your carbon footprint is one of your 2008 resolutions. For the next several months I thought I would highlight companies that are already part of a low-carbon diet program. These companies, and others like them, have taken steps to reduce not only their footprint, but yours too, if you choose to use them while on production.

GPG (Green Power Generators) is only seven months old and already a shining example of the types of changes we can make to lower our greenhouse gas emissions. Tomer Devito, a commercial producer, and Alton Butler, owner of Line 204 production rentals in Los Angeles, teamed up last year to create a fleet of production generators that run partially on bio-diesel. I began to hear rumblings of this idea a couple of years back, and was ecstatic when I received an email early last year announcing a company that had all "greener" generators.

Like many of us, Tomer used to look around set trying to figure out what could be done to use fewer resources. He soon noticed that diesel generators are the single biggest users of energy on set. Not only do they power lighting and camera but they also feed motorhomes, craft service, and video village, to name a few. With new alternative fuels available, Tomer came up with the biodiesel generator concept. People were blown away with the idea and many wanted to help immediately, including actors. When Tomer called the Air Resources Board to do research they said they had been waiting for such an idea and offered GPG an application for a grant (still pending).

So what makes a generator more green?
GPG generators run on 80% ultra-low sulfur diesel and 20% locally sourced soybean-based oil, are EPA approved, and offer a better filtration system, resulting in a reduction of Carbon Monoxide of 65% on average and a Nitrogen Oxide reduction of 38%. GPG offers to refuel on set with the 80/20 mix (20% biodiesel is the maximum allowed to maintain warrantees) or the units can run entirely on ultra low sulfur diesel so production can refuel themselves, although Tomer says people don't often choose this option.

GPG figured all this out by doing their own research and then hiring a consultant to help come up with a working unit. They started out with four units, and now have ten with more on the way. The units are booked regularly with the majority used in commercial production. The others are used in live event production, television (Grey's Anatomy), and both studio and independent features. GPG generously supports student filmmaking and they have expanded beyond the film industry to include construction projects.

Despite some initial resistance from crew not used to generators being designated or requested by production, the idea has been overwhelmingly popular. And the idea has spread to other vendors, many of whom now offer a biodiesel option.

So now when you go out on production, you can not only carpool or rent a Prius, you can request that production use a biodiesel generator. Go ahead, be a loser too.

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