03/28/2008 02:48 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Questions From Sundance: Film As Problem Or Solution?

Greetings from Park City, Utah! Yes, I'm at the 27th Annual Sundance Film Festival and it's 5 degrees. I'm freezing.

As neither filmmaker, actor nor industry exec, I must admit I have absolutely no reason to be here. Perhaps I'm part of the accompanying "media circus," but even that's a stretch. Credentials aside, I know a bit about Sundance and I know quite a lot more about green. To boot, I'm rather sneaky and have managed to snag passes to a slew of environmentally focused festival events--and there are many. My goal: to share the magic--from films about global warming, to the offsetting of major productions, to all that green gift bag swag.

But before I write another word, I can't deny the irony of the above. From massive movie productions, to bright lights, to SUV chauffeured celebrities, film is far from "eco." Rather and according to a study by UCLA's Institute of the Environment, the film industry is a notable contributor to environmental degradation--the second greatest emitter of greenhouse gas in Los Angeles. First place: petroleum refinement.

Yet, as "the industry" proves to be part of the problem, it has also demonstrated itself as a significant solution. Film, celebrity and the aforementioned media circus have managed to create an unprecedented awareness of environmental action. Take for example, An Inconvenient Truth, which debuted at Sundance in 2006. An Inconvenient Truth has been lauded as the most powerful and influential environmental eye-opener of our generation. Many believe that the "green movement" would not have taken off without the exposure generated from Gore's documentary.

Actor, filmmaker and environmental activist Robert Redford echoed the above example as the curtain rose Thursday for the festival's opening night. "Artists are really agents of change," Redford said to crowd congregated at the famous Eccles Theater. "And God knows you'd have to be Rip Van Winkle the last six years not to know that this country is desperately in need of change."

Of course, Redford is talking about the filmmakers when he says, "artists," but let's also take a look at the celebrities promoting various environmental options--note I'm saying options, not comprehensive solutions. Though sad, it is safe to say that the world would not have known as much about green building had Brad Pitt not recently pioneered his green building project in New Orleans. And would compact fluorescent light bulbs have taken off as they did had Sienna Miller not said they emit a sexy bedroom glow?

As a new era of Hollywood eco-chic mobilizes millions to care, it is impossible to deny that the silver screen makes an excellent weapon in this war to save the planet. Just as Madonna convinced us that vinyl skirts and lace gloves were cool, Brad Pitt can convince us to "build better"; Adrian Grenier can sway us to a Prius; Sheryl Crow can inspire us to use just one square of TP.