Contributed by Lory Henning
For me, environmental awareness cracked open and rushed into my consciousness on September 11th, 2001. As I watched the towers burn and fall from my Greenpoint apartment windows, the whole messy, complicated world was held in stark contrast to the simple interactions I had been reading about between Jane Goodall and the chimpanzees she was trying to get to know in her book, In the Shadow of Man. As many of us did, I felt helpless and yet, I had a deep desire to help Everyone. The best way I could think of to act was to draft a manifesto to the entire company of Blue Man Group (where I have been working since April of 1996) and try to create a grass-roots effort to green the company from within.
Since that time, we have made some tremendous strides in the right direction. And while there is still more work to be done throughout the Blue Man enterprise, I can tell you that I am very proud of the awareness we’ve raised and the projects we’ve done.
In terms of greening your production or company, gather together a team of the most environmentally motivated people you have and create a democratic, collaborative system for feedback and experimentation with every new program you institute. You want to ensure that things are as easy to follow through with as possible - otherwise your program might be ignored and only stand as a reminder of failure rather than creating an atmosphere of care, pride, and conservation.
Try to focus on the triple bottom line. What's the "triple bottom line", you ask? Simply put, it's your community, your environment, and your finances. There is no doubt that every theatre organization can find and develop projects that will strengthen your community, save you money, and help reduce your negative impact on the environment. Take our composting program, for example. Members of the community worked together to set up the system for dealing with the collection bins every day. We stopped sending an enormous amount of compostable waste into the landfill. And we were able to reduce the amount of money we paid for garbage pick-up by more than it costs us to pay for compost pick-up. Community. Environment. Finance.
But not every theatre will generate as much compost as we do. So here are some additional ideas for you to consider:
- Is your theatre using the most energy efficient fixtures and lamps available? Can you consider adding motion-sensor switches to lights in hallways and offices? Can you use LED fixtures as part of your lighting package?
- Are you balancing efficiency with comfort when setting your thermostats? There’s no reason to freeze your patrons in the summer; cool is cool enough.
Reduce, Re-use, Recycle:
In addition to the usual paper, cardboard, metal, cartons and plastic bottles that get recycled through the city, we also recycle the following stuff:
- Food scraps (even chicken bones and gross stuff like that) go in the compost bin.
- For yogurt containers and other plastics labeled #5, Whole Foods has a collection bin. I collect that stuff and drop it off on my way to the subway.
- Unless there’s something sensitive on it, re-use the backs of your printer paper. Once you figure out which way the paper goes in the feed tray, you’re golden.
- Dead batteries? Yup. Try using a service from http://www.batteryrecycling.com. You’ll have to pay for it, but it’s for a worthy cause: you.
- If you've got rechargeable batteries that don't charge anymore, Radio Shack and Best Buy collect and recycle those for free!
- Have you got some burnt-out fluorescent tubes? Find a recycling company here: http://www.lamprecycle.org. If you’ve got burnt out compact fluorescent bulbs, The Green Depot on Bowery near Prince St collects those for recycling.
- What about your old costumes? If they aren't good enough to give to charity, you can recycle them too! There’s a textile recycling collection tent at the farmer’s market in Union Square (among other places), and they also do pick-ups! Here’s where you go for more information: http://www.grownyc.org/clothing
- If you’ve got some old electronic equipment (computers, cassette players, boxy TV’s, etc) that is just taking up space, you can recycle it! Check out the wonderful folks at http://www.lesecologycenter.org. They hold regular e-waste collection events around the city.
- If you've got CD's, VHS tapes, DVD's, or computer diskettes that aren't good for donating to charity, you can have them erased and recycled through Green Disk (http://www.greendisk.com). I've done it myself. It's easy, it doesn’t break the bank, and it makes you more attractive.
- Stop throwing out your grocery bags and cling wrap. They’ve got collection bins for that stuff at Wallgreens, Staples, and, like, every intelligently run grocery store there is.
- And, one of the biggest impacts a small theatre can have is by re-using materials to make your scenery, and then donating it to charity (or using it AGAIN) after your show closes.
And how about some advanced eco-friendly moves? Install some bike racks and encourage everyone to cycle commute. Get rid of plastic water bottles – install filters on your tap (if you must) and encourage everyone to bring re-usable bottles. In your green room, replace paper plates and plastic utensils with real plates and metal flatware (you can even get used ones from a charity shop or community donations). Make sure your theatre has water-saving fixtures. Use hand-towels rather than paper towels where appropriate.
Want super-duper advanced stuff? Use bio-diesel if you have any trucking to do. Sell eco-friendly merchandise and organic, locally produced concessions for your show. Purchase carbon offsets for the energy you use. Check out companies like Con Ed Solutions (http://www.conedsolutions.com/Home.aspx) or Green Mountain Energy (http://www.greenmountain.com) for sustainably generated electricity.
And, perhaps most importantly, tell your audiences what you’re doing to save the world. After all, they’re the biggest part of our community. And, who knows? Maybe they’ll be inspired to help Everyone too.
Lory Henning has recently begun her 16th year working with Blue Man Group, and after having held many jobs within the company over the years, she has currently got her favorite: Production Stage Manager at the Astor Place Theatre. Lory is also a director, producer, and a crazy uber-nerd for all things related to woodworking and the environment and is a contributor to the Green Theatre Iniative.