Old leaky building? check. Lights beaming down? check.

By Ricci Bryson

We all know that there’s nothing like a good ‘ole night out at the theatre to get those creative juices flowing.

I’m unashamedly a bit of a regular on the theatre scene, and admittedly, while quenching my creative thirst by watching a few thesps tread the boards, I’ve not often considered the arts’ carbon footprint. But then it’s obvious really: from those red-hot spotlights beaming down, old buildings with solid walls, huge draughty spaces, the freezers cooling mini ice cream tubs, there’s carbon-burning aplenty going into our theatrical pursuits.

Considering this, I was eager to see what our theatres are up to by way of mitigating their footprints. But in fact, ‘green theatre’ came to me at recent trip to the Arcola theatre in London – where I bumped into former Energy and Climate Change Minister Chris Huhne by a display of the theatre’s pretty impressive eco-credentials.

This theatre has not only carried out some of the standard measures – insulation / energy efficient lighting etc – but it has gone the extra mile, actually an extra ten miles, and has intertwined energy and sustainability into its daily work.

It’s hoping to set an example with some serious sustainable investment. In 2008 the theatre even installed a 5kw hydrogen fuel cell to help power the theatre, with the only by product from the device being water. Going even further, they have big plans to ensure that they continue to be an exemplar eco-theatre by managing the waste they produce and mitigating any of it going to landfill. Sounds like keeping up with the greens – but are their actually any other noisy neighbours to keep them on their (green) toes?

Well, yes. A more popular and well known performance space that is always in the headlines is the National Theatre. Over the last decade or so, the venue has invested in everything from energy efficient LED light to light its outdoor spaces, to movement activated lighting in many public areas.

For venues with oodles of cash greening their performance spaces, shouldn’t be too much of an issue. However, for some fringe theatres, the thought of greening their venue not only seems out of reach in terms of ‘where to start’, but it can also be financially daunting.

Let’s face it, being sustainable can be a costly exercise for businesses, especially when4 the country is in an economic down turn and people are spending less money on entertainment and nights out. For these venues, help is a hand. Julie’s Bicycle is a non-profit organisation and was set up in 2007 to provide expertise in environmental sustainably to the arts and creative sector.

The company offers practical advice and tools, informed by world-leading research into the environmental impacts of the creative industries. For any venue looking to take the leap and become green, Julie’s Bicycle could well be a good place to start.

The subject of green theatres has even come to the attention and forefront of the political heavyweights in London.  A few years ago, the then new Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, commissioned a report titled, Green Theatre: Taking action on climate change, which highlighted the need for performance spaces to be more efficient and greener.  The report shed light on the continued drive for theatres to embrace greener technologies and reduce their energy consumption.

As we can see, it’s a real issue for some theatres, and it’s brilliant to see that some venues are on the correct path to running a more environmentally friendly and sustainable performance space. If art imitates life, and since we’re all urged to chip in for the greater long-term good in our everyday lives, then the houses of creativity are not exempt. Bravo!