Is your favourite show green on screen?
We teamed up with Goldsmiths University to find out how environmentally friendly British TV shows are. From characters discussing climate change to washing up in the dark, driving gas guzzling cars to installing a smart meter – how do the eco-friendly behaviours we see on screen affect our actions at home?
During the last year of lockdowns, as a nation we've spent more time than ever in front of the TV. TV provides something for everybody: soaps, game shows, drama series and more. TV helps entertain Britain and it educates us, too. And as it turns out, TV can even influence the changes we make in our own homes.
Can TV shows make us more ‘green’?
People up and down the country are making changes to reduce their carbon footprint. From recycling, to becoming more aware of household energy usage with a smart meter. Protecting our environment has never felt more important. But do TV shows we watch influence us to be more green?
According to our research, 60% of Brits believe TV characters should act in an environment friendly way. Whether they’re fictional or not.
With 20% stating they would copy ‘green’ actions if their favourite characters carried them out.
- 20% of Brits feel that if TV characters make a point of turning off lights and reducing energy use in the programmes they watch, they’re encouraged to do the same.
- 15% have even start growing their own fruit and veg after seeing their favourite TV characters get green-fingered.
The downside to this? More than 66% of British TV shows exhibit damaging eco-behaviours. And these behaviours are also likely to be copied:
- ‘Our Planet’ and ‘Blue Planet’ are shows which encourage us to protect the world. But ironically, 19% of Brits have been inspired to travel across the world after watching these programmes.
- Coronation Street’s Ray Crosby was seen driving a large diesel 4x4 – no electric cars in sight. Which could be inspiring to watchers on the lookout for a new car.
Green on Screen
We teamed up with Goldsmiths University to analyse the ‘greenness’ of the British TV shows we watch and love.
And that's why you should never ask a squirrel to change a baby's nappy.
I mean I can think of several reasons.
Now, a new university study has found that British TV households could be 'sustainably smarter'.
Yeah, with Brits watching more TV during lockdown, they are influenced by what they see on screen now more than ever.
Would you say that you're easily influenced Alexander?
Er, no Rachel, I would say I am more of an influencer.
Yeah. The study analysed 45 of the UK's most watched shows including EastEnders, Coronation Street and Love Island, assessing everything from energy efficiency, to positive and negative eco-behaviours.
Line of Duty's Steve Arnott was one of the worst environmental offenders, whilst one unlikely green hero was found in EastEnders' Mick Carter who has been rated as one of the most eco-friendly characters in soapland, regularly washing dishes by hand and on occasion even in the dark. And we've got a bit of a surprise for Alexander as we know you are such a huge Danny Dyer fan.
Huge Danny Dyer fan.
We have him live from the Queen Vic right now!
That's it dirty dishes do one.
Danny can you hear us?
And you fork, 'ave it! All clean now ain't ya?
Not sure he was speaking to us there.
I don't know.
Was he aware we were on?
Anyway, washing the pots by hand in the dark, listen that is one way to keep your smart meter happy.
And the worst rated TV shows were Luther and Gangs of London which both feature criminal figures with several luxury gas guzzling cars.
Doesn't surprise me at all.
Criminals, see. No thought for the environment. Anyway, Grand Designs, Fresh Meat and Normal People came out on top with green ratings. Actually, Grand Designs I'm often mistaken as the presenter.
Nonsense, he's really attractive. Grand Designs was noted for frequently depicting recycled building materials, Fresh Meat for carpooling, and Normal People for the evident use of composting and recycling. Alarmingly, no smart meters were observed in over 150 hours of TV.
I'm just going to stop you there.
What is so special about smart meters?
Well, not only do they help people bring down their bills, they are also a huge part of creating an energy system that reduces waste on a national scale. Without them, we risk failing to tackle climate change.
Yeah, I guess that is pretty smart.
If you're interested in reducing your carbon footprint, saving energy at home and helping the nation create a smarter energy system for future generations, visit smartenergygb.org.
I will do. I'm there. Right now.
We worked with Goldsmiths University to review 45 of the UK’s most watched shows, looking at how energy efficient characters are, the eco-friendly actions displayed on screen, and even how buildings in the show are built.
Each show has been awarded a Red, Amber or Green rating - Green means the TV show and characters are taking eco-friendly actions, while Red means the TV show and characters are putting our environment at risk.
You can download our research here.
What ‘green’ behaviour was seen?
As a nation, we are taking steps to become greener. From reducing our single-use plastics to recycling to avoiding the tumble dryer. But how much of this is actually displayed on our screens?
|Green Behaviour||Frequency Percentage (across TV programmes)|
|Using a washing line||1%|
|Using a clothes dryer||8%|
|Washing up by hand||45%|
|Using smart devices||6%|
|Switching off lights||36%|
Who’s Leading The Way?
Grand Designs came out on top, with a focus on creating new buildings from recycled and sustainable materials. The students in Fresh Meat secured second place with their money - and environment - saving car shares.
Recycling and composting also helped the shows in the list come out on top, as well as double glazing and natural lighting installed in homes on screen. Eastenders landlord Mick Carter, played by Danny Dyer, was even seen washing dishes in the dark – very environmentally friendly!
|Rating||Shows rated Green|
|3||Mrs. Brown's Boys|
|5||Two Doors Down|
|7||Not Going Out|
|8||Friday Night Dinner|
|9||I May Destroy You|
The worst offenders
The worst offenders the study found included London based crime-drama series Gangs of London and Luther. Both featured many luxury cars being driven at high speed around the capital. If the shows want to improve their rating, they should look to replace these gas-guzzlers with quieter, cleaner and greener electric vehicles.
|Rating||Shows rated Red|
|24||The Trouble with Maggie Cole|
|28||Gangs of London|
Did smart meters make an appearance?
Surprisingly, none of the TV households covered in the study showed evidence of a visible smart meter or its in home display - even though they could help make a real difference to your carbon footprint.
Getting a smart meter is an easy way to manage your energy usage at home. The smart meter and in-home display provide near real-time energy usage data, helping you make changes that cut down on household costs. Find out how Sarah uses her smart meter in prepay mode to make budgeting that little bit easier.
My name's Sarah, I live in Chelmsford, I've got two children, one's six and one's sixteen. Being able to afford and cover the bills right now is really hard.
The rise in the cost of living has impacted us significantly because the gas, the electric, the food bills, school uniform, you know, everything's gone up and it's impacting life a lot more. So I started noticing my bills were going up just before Christmas, and it's really hard to stay in control and know which ones to pay first. It might be a bill rather than a jumper for my child, you know? You can't control something that you've got no control over, so you have to just worry, and worry for the next month to the next month.
Previously, before having a smart meter, I wasn't really aware of how much the tumble dryer or the washing machine, leaving the cooker on, leaving the TV on costs. Whereas now having a smart meter, I'd consciously turn the cooker off in the evening, the washing machine, the tumble dryer, the VT goes off. The smart meter that I have does show me what I'm spending, what I've got left, when I need to top up. And that's a small bit of control that I have got.
As well as having the in-home display, I also have the app on my phone, which is perfect because whilst I'm at work throughout the day I'll check the app and if I can see that the meters are running low I can quickly top up, I don't have to leave. You know, really easy: just go to the app and top it straight up and then you can see that the balance has gone up within a couple of minutes.
Anyone that's struggling as in friends or family, I would recommend a smart meter because you definitely know what you're spending.
Using the near real time data your in-home display provides, you can tweak your habits to lower your energy consumption.
This could help us to reduce our carbon emissions as a nation.
Are TV characters recycling?
Based on current national figures, 90% of us recycle. But it’s not translating to our TV screens! Just 2.4% of TV households were seen recycling in over 150 hours of viewing. Proving once and for all that you can’t believe everything you see on screen…
What about mentioning climate change and the environment?
Surprisingly, mentions of the environment and climate change were lacking too.
Across 90 episodes, these topics were simply not discussed by any of the characters. This is despite research* finding 39% of us discuss this at least once a week.
In fact, some TV characters didn’t show any concern for the environment at all. 9% of indoor scenes featured lights left on when they didn’t need to be, with soap stars being the worst offenders.
Find out how you can reduce your carbon footprint by requesting a smart meter –
- How smart meters are helping people save money - see how people are using their smart meters to make budgeting easier.
- Why are smart meters so important for Britain’s energy upgrade? - smart meter data enables the people who manage Britain’s energy system to better plan.
- Smart meter benefits for Britain – how will smart meters help us as a nation?
*Smart Energy GB research, OnePoll. Carried out between: 28/01/2020– 05/02/2020. Sample 2,000 adults.
Request your smart meter
Just by having a smart meter installed you're helping to upgrade Britain's energy system.
Simply type your energy supplier into the box below and we'll connect you.