This is an article publish in 'The Stage' on 10 September 2008 by Matthew Hemley
London’s theatre industry pumps 50,000 tons of carbon into the atmosphere every year - equivalent to 10% of the city’s total bus emissions or the annual energy consumption of 9,000 homes. The findings are outlined this week in a document entitled Green Theatre - Taking Action on Climate Change, a joint initiative between Mayor Boris Johnson and leading theatre groups, including the Society of London Theatre, National Theatre, the Theatres Trust and Ambassador Theatre Group.
Described as an action plan for the industry, it outlines measures that the capital’s venues can take to reduce energy use in buildings. The annual figure of 50,000 tons of carbon emissions that London theatres create is equivalent to that of 830 buses. The figure, which does not include pre-production or audience travel, is also equal to the total TV emissions from all homes in Westminster. Surprisingly, the biggest chunk of the theatre industry’s carbon footprint - 35% - comes from activities front of house, such as air-conditioning in auditoriums, a convenience an increasing number of venues pride themselves on offering audiences.
The heating and cooling of rehearsal spaces comprises 28% of the total footprint, while stage electrics, including lighting and sound, are responsible for 9% of the overall amount.
The document and its findings, based on assessments of more than 100 venues and theatre suppliers throughout Greater London, warns: “Without action, emissions and fuel bills are set to grow, in particular with the trend of West End productions using more energy to create ever more visually-spectacular shows.”
Johnson said his aim was to see London’s theatres achieve a 60% reduction in their carbon footprint by 2025 and described the industry’s power to set an example in tackling climate change as “immense”. He added: “This plan will enable all of us to reach that 60% target and avoid some of the potentially disastrous consequences of carrying on business as usual. It will help theatres to communicate the message about climate change to audiences, without imposing on their artistic integrity or reducing the quality of shows.”
Controversially, the plan includes recommendations that theatres:
• Charge production companies for specific energy use.
• Switch on stage lighting just 30 minutes before a show starts, to save a collective £100,000 a year in energy costs.
• Install low-energy bulbs in the foyer and backstage areas.
• Include equipment energy costs in production budgets.
Travel is not included in the theatre industry’s carbon footprint of 50,000 tons, but separate findings show audience travel to London theatres accounts for 35,000 tons of carbon emissions a year. These findings reveal one in three theatregoers still travel by car or taxi to a show. The plan said that if all audiences travelling to a theatre by these means switched to public transport, carbon emissions from audience travel would be reduced by around 14%.
For a full report, click here.