When Twentieth Century Fox Television announced in 2015 that its highly successful series The X-Files would return to television with a six-episode event series, the studio seized the opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to environmentally responsible production practices. The new series filmed in 40 individual locations across British Columbia, including Vancouver's North Shore Studios, with each requiring elaborate set construction, lengthy transportation demands, and long shooting hours calling for sustained electricity and fuel use. To mitigate these challenges, Fox brought on Zena Harris of Green Spark Group to serve as the sustainable production consultant. Thanks to her efforts and those of the entire crew, the production managed to divert more than 81% of its total waste from landfill, recycle 100% of the aluminum and steel used in set construction, and avoid 33 tonnes of CO2 emissions, generating nearly $41,000 in cost savings.
The X-Files' environmental program not only built on the work of Fox's previous productions, such as 24: Live Another Day, but also on the franchise's own tradition of engagement on sustainability. In 2007, shortly after the launch of 21st Century Fox's corporate sustainability program, filming began on Twentieth Century Fox Film's The X-Files: I Want to Believe. The film was among the first to incorporate the green production practices that Fox pioneered, such as prioritizing alternative fuel sources and recycling materials used on set. "When I first started working in the business, we would just take sets and throw them away," said series creator Chris Carter in an interview on green production for the DVD release of the movie. "That's changing. There is a new directive, and I think Fox is at the forefront of that directive, using recycled materials whenever possible, recycling what you do use, and looking at it as a total approach. I was very excited about that."
With the return of The X-Files, Carter and the crew were eager to pick up where they left off. See below for an in-depth look at the sustainability measures implemented during the production.
Before filming began, Harris conducted meetings with each department individually to determine the unique ways their teams could embrace sustainability, drawing primarily from the Producers Guild of America's Green Production Guide, which Fox developed in collaboration with its peer Hollywood studios. The crew committed to tracking and reporting energy consumption data and set goals to reduce the production's total environmental footprint, including a no idling policy for vehicles on set, discouraging plastic water bottles, and a commitment to reuse and recycle props and set materials wherever possible. As the production schedule progressed, the crew kept this culture of sustainability alive by posting weekly "green tips" on call sheets and flyers, erecting a "Green Wall of Champions" at the production office to celebrate their environmental achievements, and incorporating "green talks" into the weekly construction department safety meetings.
Set construction is traditionally a major driver of waste for productions of all sizes, with some sources estimating that a blockbuster film can generate up to 1,000 tonnes of waste from set construction alone. Keeping this in mind, the crew on The X-Files committed to source materials responsibly and to re-use and recycle those materials wherever possible:
Beyond set construction, responsible waste management in all departments remained a high priority for The X-Files. The mandate prompted several innovative strategies, including donating materials to local community organizations and recycling used polystyrene foam. As a result of these efforts, the production was able to divert 81% of its total waste from landfill.
The X-Files relied heavily on Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam to construct integral components of several sets, including the UFO featured prominently in the opening of the first episode. EPS is a material common to set construction but has historically been a challenge to green production coordinators looking to reduce waste, as recycling vendors tend not to accept EPS pieces containing hilti glue, metal, or hard coats of paint. On The X-Files, however, the crew was able to work with Blue Planet and Keep It Green Recycling to recycle the "dirty" foam, making The X-Files one of the first Hollywood productions to address this industry-wide sustainability issue. In total, the production recycled 35.5 tons of foam and returned 5 additional tons to the vendor, generating more than $1,000 in cost savings.
The culture of sustainability that Harris and her team established at the outset of the production also enabled crew members to devise their own environmental solutions. In particular, the crew noticed that wastewater from air handling units on the studio lot was not reused or recycled but rather discharged into the storm drain. After discussing this with the North Shore Studios maintenance department, the crew successfully spurred a pilot project to recover and store this wastewater for future use. These measures will continue to affect future North Shore Studios productions and allow them to more responsibly manage their water use.
The decision to film in and around Vancouver gave The X-Files a significant advantage when addressing sustainability. Hydro-electric dams are responsible for 86% of British Columbia's electricity, with the remaining 14% coming from natural gas, biomass power plants, and other sources. As a result, filming on the North Shore Studios lot, which often plugs into the grid, allowed for the use of mostly clean electricity. Additional fuel efficiency tactics included:
The X-Files event series premiered Sunday, January 24, on FOX. Click below to watch our exclusive video on the series' green production efforts:
Fox is proud to support the Green Production Guide, a project of the Producer's Guild of America promoting best practices in sustainable film and television production. The X-Files event series is now available in a variety of home entertainment formats.