Sustainability takes centre stage

Landmark industry initiative to combat rising carbon emissions from UK events sector.
Analysis, Broadcast Business


In a bid to encourage innovative technologies and implement measures to combat rising carbon emissions produced by the UK events sector, a landmark industry initiative has been launched. The Mayor of London's Green Theatre: Taking Action on Climate Change.

Inline with the focus of this year's Professional Lighting and Sound Association conference (PLASA08 held in September), which saw the introduction of a number of environmentally sustainable products enter the marketplace, the PLASA show was the setting for the launch of the Green Theatre initiative.

Launched in association with The Theatres Trust, the Society of London Theatre (SOLT), Arts Council England and PLASA, the Green Theatre is an action plan for the theatre industry - from small independent production companies and arts venues to large groups of commercial theatres - which outlines the most practical and effective measures that can be taken to reduce energy use in buildings.


"The Theatres Trust is playing its part by... raising awareness of the actions that theatres can take to reduce their carbon footprint. - Mhora Samuel."

While this plan has been specifically rolled-out for the UK capital, industry experts are optimistic that the strategy will be adopted by the broader international entertainment industry before long. Additionally that the global introduction of this measure will establish a formal framework in which to hold the industry accountable for its environmental responsibilities.

The plan identifies how London's theatre industry creates 50,000 tonnes of carbon emissions per year - the equivalent of emissions from 9000 homes. It concludes that if all actions recommended in the plan were taken, the industry could reduce carbon emissions by almost 60% by 2025 - the equivalent of converting more than 5000 London homes to zero-carbon.

The key initiative, compiled in close collaboration with a range of key stakeholders, offers practical advice to the industry on how emissions can be cut.

It includes a carbon calculator to identify areas of production that create the greatest amount of emissions. The plan also offers advice and identifies where changes need to be made, designating ‘green' responsibilities to staff, and writing ‘green' policies into contracts to ensure that suppliers are also working to cut emissions.

Additionally, the plan details a host of successful case studies such as a battery recycling scheme launched by the Mayor in partnership with Waste and Resources Action Programme, which helps organisations to run such projects.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said that the citys' theatres make a key contribution to the economy and its productions and venues were renowned worldwide.

"The power of the theatre industry to set an example in the fight against climate change is immense. I have been impressed with the leadership and commitment shown by the industry bodies we have worked with in developing this plan," he said.

I am fully committed to reducing the capital's emissions by 60% by 2025 and forward-thinking contributions, such as Green Theatre, will inspire many industries to help us meet this target together."

At the launch of the Green Theatre plan, PLASA's CEO, Matthew Griffiths, said that while many manufacturers were already making significant contributions in developing new innovative technologies, the lighting and sound industry still has a great role to play in cutting emissions.

"PLASA and its members are very keen to work with theatres and other industry bodies, not only to help improve the power efficiency of lighting and sound systems themselves, but also to support and encourage the adoption of the many small, common-sense and practical steps, which together will make a huge contribution to reducing the theatre industry's carbon emissions," said Griffiths.

The plan is being championed by the Theatres Trust, which presented a series of talks at PLASA to mark the launch.

Mhora Samuel, the director of The Theatres Trust, said the launch of the Mayor's Green Theatre programme was a key step forward for the industry.

"As the national advisory public body for theatres, The Theatres Trust is playing its part by helping to disseminate the report's recommendations and raise awareness of the actions that theatres can take to reduce their carbon footprint," she said.

The development of this report represents a major milestone for London's theatre sector and demonstrates what is possible through theatres, suppliers and manufacturers all working together to address climate change and reduce energy use.

ARUP, the design, engineer and business consultancy firm behind the British Standard for sustainable event management, BS 8901, was involved in the development of the Green Theatre initiative. ARUP's sustainability consultants contributed to the user-friendly and informative guidelines, which will enable theatres to significantly cut their carbon footprint.

At the launch, ARUP was thanked by Justine Simons, cultural strategy manager at the London Mayor's Office, for connecting the London Mayor's Office with the Broadway Goes Green initiative, affiliated with the New York City Mayor's Office.

ARUP sustainability consultant Juhi Shareef, said practical case studies demonstrated the quantifiable results that could be achieved. From pre-production and production activities, to the energy use at the venue itself and even influencing how the audience travels to the theatre, the plan enables theatres to take action.

Also lending support to the event was ARUP, ETC, Martin Professional, Philips, PixelRange and White Light, with seminar contributions made by ABTT, Ambassador Theatre Group, Arcola, the National Theatre and Selecon.

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