Environmental vocabulary is thrown around all too often these days – Global Warming, Green Issues, Carbon Footprint, Carbon Neutral, Recycling Initiative Etc, where those who use the words lend very little integrity to them. Numerous large companies have come under scrutiny for their advertising of ‘green’ standards and policies, which is simply just awareness rather than action and so a misleading appearance happens on a regular basis.
In theatre, environmental policies come very few and far in-between. As a keen environmentalist myself, an avid recycling and water re-usage fanatic as well as a general responsibility for the earth, I make no hesitation in saying that my theatre counterparts fall very far behind. Our responsibility as ambassadors of the world at large is very poor when it comes to “being green.” I say it is our responsibility, under the circumstances that as theatre as a voice, we have a social integrity to recognise and represent some archetypal views and the environment is always high on the agenda.
I’m not proposing that there should be lots of plays consisting of tree-hugging, one shower a week and drinking our own wee, rather that throughout the production process, we can be more environmentally responsible. For example, implementing some sort of policy that helps a company to consume less – using less paper, recycling props and scenery and consuming power only when necessary; switching off lights when not in use. This applies to companies whoever they are – theatres, arts centres, music establishments, artists, performers, producers Etc, to which it goes without saying that the economic effect can only be positive.
This is all very obvious and easier said than done, but the point I’m trying to make is that pure awareness will have a knock-on effect to help facilitate future projects in terms of environmental responsibility.
A massive example of this is the Arcola Energy project at the Arcola Theatre in Hackney, North London. This is the scheme where they “aim to make Arcola the worlds first carbon neutral theatre.” A huge effort has been made possible under the guidance of the theatres’ executive director Dr Ben Todd who is also a consultant to the fuel cell industry. Through his and the theatres’ work, they have installed a hydrogen fuel cell to power the main part of the venue, including bar and main house. As well as the cell they “will be installing biomass heating, solar panels, fuel cells and state of the art energy saving technologies throughout the building.” This is a standard that we can all pursue to reduce the impact on Global Warming – the key achievement at the end of the day.
Furthering this, also one of the reasons for Arcola’s excellence, is the Greening London Theatre initiative – October 2007 Press Release:-
The Mayor has announced that he is working with London’s theatres to reduce their carbon emissions. Speaking at Somerset House where he helped launch the new energy efficient lighting scheme at the National Theatre, the Mayor announced a partnership across the London theatre sector with a shared goal of making London’s theatres more energy efficient.
As you can see it isn’t only the Arcola Theatre making a difference; however they are the only body to openly publicise changes and undertake a genuine accountability into helping the environment. Arcola is an off-West End theatre where economic and financial tackling is an all time reality – yet they still manage to achieve something so wonderful. It is about time that more companies followed their lead and should make aware and fully implement green changes into their day-to-day running.