Season For Change

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2. Run a sustainable event or project

The way we run an event or project can communicate just as much as its themes, or the things we say about it. The decisions that are made when planning a production will carry through to the audience experience: in greening our events and projects, we celebrate the environment and inspire action on climate change behind the scenes and in the encounters others have with our creative work.

A brightly coloured, illustrated scene shows a person on top of a stage performing into a microphone to a crowd of onlookers.
Illustration by Lily Kong, 2020.

Key principles

1) Measure and track your actions and impacts

What could this look like? 

  • Including environmental considerations on the agenda for all planning meetings.
  • Agreeing on some meaningful key indicators/data you want to track to measure the environmental impact of your project – e.g. audience travel, business travel, energy use.
  • For larger productions, including environmental commitments in contracts and job descriptions.
  • Opening up conversations: assuring people that environmental practices are not designed to compromise the artistic quality of the production, but to ensure that the creative vision is realised sustainably.

2) Use the hierarchy of environmental action: avoid, reduce, reuse, replace

What could this look like? 

  • Materials: design for less material use. Prioritise materials for sets, costumes, exhibition and event design, props, programmes, equipment, etc from reused, reclaimed, rented, second-hand sources. Serve food and drink in reusable cups and crockery.
  • Travel: encourage and incentivise staff, artists, crew, and audiences to walk, cycle, and use public transport to get to your event.
  • Energy use: hold rehearsals during daylight hours. Design for less energy use e.g. using fewer lights or prioritising LED lighting and energy efficient equipment. If you need any power on location, prioritise mains grid connections over generators.
  • Food: reduce food waste e.g. reduce portion sizes, or partner with a food redistribution charity. Provide at least one vegan/vegetarian option (or take a stand by going fully vegan).  Prioritise seasonal produce and support local farmers and caterers.

3) Share the story of how you’re greening your event or production with crew, artists, partners, and audiences

What could this look like? 

  • Including information about the actions you’ve taken to green your event or production on your website, in programmes, pre-show talks, signage in the venue, social media posts and blogs. 
  • Sharing what you’ve done with others, including a few key things that they – including audiences, artists, partners – can also do. 
  • A ‘green rider’ to make some key environmental ‘asks’ of your host venue or event. 
  • A post-production meeting with your team to summarise successes, challenges, and learnings to share with the wider creative community.

Case studies

‘La Musica’ – Young Vic Theatre

Emily Barclay and Sam Troughton in La Musica at the Young Vic. Photo by David Sandison.

In 2012, the Young Vic produced its first Classics for a New Climate production (After Miss Julie), followed in 2015 by a production of La Musica. The productions aimed to bring environmental sustainability into the whole production process from start to finish, alongside financial and artistic considerations. This included the set design (50% of the set came from recycled sources) to what was served in the theatre bar (many shifts to more environmentally conscious suppliers remained in place permanently!), how audiences experienced the production (e.g. instead of programmes, credits were written on a wall mural, and instead of tickets, reusable wooden blocks were used) and even a meat-free press night.

Read the full case study.

‘Beavers to Weavers: the wonderful world of animal makers’ – Leeds Museum and Galleries

Volunteer gardening project, courtesy of Leeds Museums and Galleries

In 2018, this exhibition by Leeds Museum and Galleries showcased how animals use what they find around them. Sustainability was threaded through transport, environmental conditions, design and build, interpretation, marketing, learning activities and community engagement. Actions included sourcing recycled paint from a local social enterprise, using recycled and recyclable alternatives to foam board, using old bobbins and cotton reels as plinths, making homemade paper from waste materials as a community activity, and making cushions from recycled coffee sacks and foam offcuts. Information about environmental sustainability and human impacts on animals was provided throughout the exhibition. In 2019, the exhibition received national recognition by winning the Museum Association’s ‘Museums Change Lives’ Award for Environmental Sustainability.

Read the full case study.

Resources and further reading

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