5 Ways We Can Be Eco-Conscious in the Theatre – Together
In 2021, we are all aware of how devastating human activity can be on the climate. Storms, wildfires, and floods are only some out of the long list of natural disasters we are seeing more of – and with greater intensity – as governments neglect to crack down on the 100 of the world’s fossil fuel companies which are responsible for over 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions (from which the global south suffers the most). The reality is that we need to hold fossil fuel users accountable. The burning of coal, natural gas, and oil for electricity and heat is the largest single source of global greenhouse gas emissions, but by supporting policies for carbon pricing, reducing emissions, and advancing the clean energy economy, we can start taking steps in the right direction.
Here are some steps that we, in the theatre industry, can take to reduce our consumption, reduce waste, and reduce our footprint on the environment:
Scripts are an essential part of theatre-making. From table-reads to the rehearsal room, there can be hundreds of edits and re-prints as the show takes form and comes together. For some of our previous shows with casts as large as 30 people, a single print of a script of 145 pages is a whopping 4350 sheets of paper! Factoring in all the reprints that get distributed, one show could leave us wasting up to 22,000 sheets of paper – weighing up to 3520lbs – just on scripts alone! That’s the same weight as the average SUV!
To avoid the needless waste of thousands of sheets and paper (including all the water that goes into making it and the fuel spent on transporting it, not to mention the ink), especially now in the age of virtual work-from-home, theatres have the opportunity to make their scripts and rehearsal processes completely paperless by distributing scripts electronically and using tablets or iPads for actors to make edits / notes as they rehearse. Not only is this considerate for the environment, but its convenient too! No more carrying around a heavy, highlighted mess of paper (and no more paper cuts)!
We are proud to announce that Olive Branch has invested in rehearsal tablets, and we will be going 100% paperless in the rehearsal room for our 2021 season!
Concerts, movies, theme parks – almost anywhere you want to get into nowadays offers online purchasing of admission tickets. Why should the theatre be any different? Yes, for some it’s a keepsake and a tradition that makes the event feel special, but the long-term impacts of a card that is often hard to recycle and is only used for one evening before ending up in the trash is hard to justify the cost of producing it.
For years, Olive Branch has been using online tickets and many venues these days even offer the option of showing the ticket on your phone for easy, fast, and paper-less entry.
Just another way theatres can avoid single-use waste and help their audience choose eco-friendly options.
E-Programs & Eco-Paper
Going to the theatre, we love to read about the show, the actors, and the production team. Thousands of hours have been put into making the show a success and it's thrilling to learn about all the people that have dedicated weeks or months to this one magical evening. But the reality is, it’s only one evening and each program can contain around 10 pages (minimum) – for small theatres, that’s not too bad for a very short run. But large theatres with hundred of seats and multi-week runs could leave behind another 30,000 sheets of paper that are intended to be viewed for only evening and then never looked at again. A great alternative to this huge amount of waste is distributing an electronic version of the program to all audience members the day of or the night before the show. Generally speaking, people bring their phones everywhere and the theatre is no different! This makes entering the auditorium as easy as showing your ticket on your screen, finding your seat, and a few taps later, you’ve already got your own program right on your device! For those who either don’t have a phone or find navigating documents on a small screen difficult, we think providing limited programs printed on seed-infused paper would be a wonderful memory to take home. Imagine going to the theatre and coming home with your own wildflower, tomato, or herb garden!
Shuttle Services & Carpooling
We have done this many times in the past and it is not only a convenient alternative but a time- and carbon-saving one too!
Arranging transport from various locations around the GTA to the theatre and then back again after the show could take hundreds of cars off the roads and prevent tons of greenhouse gas emissions from entering the atmosphere. In a great commuter-friendly city like Toronto, shuttle services can even be combined with public transit to further reduce the amount of car emissions produced by audience members. Sharing a ride or carpool services like Lyft and Uber are also great ways to reduce the numbers of vehicles arriving at one location and contribute toward theatre companies reducing their overall carbon footprint.
Reduce & Reuse
Growing up, the 3 Rs were everywhere in school but today there are many more Rs that make our lives better for the environment. Some of these include Refuse, Reduce, Re-Use, Repair, Repurpose, and THEN Recycle. When it comes to waste, it’s important to think of all the steps we can take with a material before we even consider if recycling it is possible – even if a material is listed as recyclable, many cities don’t have the infrastructure to recycle some materials so refusing them or repurposing them is a great way to avoid needless contributions to landfills.
Theatres are lucky in the sense that many materials can often be reused for many shows over time. Costumes, sets, and props, to name a few, can be stored and used again many times over. If perhaps they can’t because of the time period or theme, for example, a great way theatres can help repurpose materials is by avoiding the purchasing of brand-new stuff and instead opt for second-hand costumes and props at thrift stores whenever possible! This is a great way to reduce carbon footprints – avoiding the water and fossil fuels that go into production of excess materials – and keep old materials from piling up at a landfill when they can still put on a show! Next time you're making art, check out Ready Set Recycle: a Canadian company working to give set and prop pieces a second life!
These are just a few ideas that we came up with that could jump-start a green revolution in the world of theatre and live performance.
In an industry where the look matters and can make or break the audience’s perception of the world they are immersed in, taking these steps to green-ify the stage can seem daunting… but in the end, these are only small strategies that we can all take together to make a big difference and stand in solidarity with the Earth. We must show our governments and policy-makers that environmental justice – social justice – is a priority and extends into the arts as well. Encouraging each other to be eco-conscious and mindful of how human activity impacts the world is a great first step!