There are a number of ways your production can improve the energy efficiency of the theatre, offices, dressing rooms, and other backstage areas. For more information about greener office practices, see the Green Office section of this guide. For an additional list of energy efficiency tips, visit NRDC’s Energy Efficiency page.
Use energy efficient lighting like CFLs and LEDs throughout the space wherever possible, and consider installing motion sensors in backstage and storage areas that are not frequently occupied.
In rooms without motion-sensor lighting, post notices by all light switches (especially in bathrooms) reminding people to turn off the lights when leaving the room. Consider using the BGA’s template, which you can customize with your show’s logo, for signage on light switches.
Use the U.S. EPA’s free online Energy Star calculator to calculate savings from energy efficient lighting.
Use power strips in offices, rehearsal rooms, and other backstage areas to avoid wasting energy when appliances aren’t in use. Remind cast and crew to turn off all computers, printers, sound systems, and any other electronic equipment at the end of the day. Even when you think equipment is off, the “standby” consumption might be equivalent to that of a 75 or 100 watt light bulb running continuously.
During the day, activate energy saving features on computers such as turning off screen savers, which use more energy than just leaving the computer on.
Use only the air conditioning that you need for rehearsal, and make sure any air conditioning units are turned off at the end of the day.
When purchasing new energy-consuming products for the theatre space, consider buying the most energy-efficient model that fits your needs. Visit the federal government’s Energy Star products database for listings of the most energy-efficient products on the market, from computers and televisions to boilers and central air conditioning units. For product categories that are not rated by Energy Star, consult the Federal Energy Management Program’s procurement guide. Look for energy-saving features such as programmability and power-saving functions.
Also consider including Energy Star and energy efficiency specifications in requests for proposal and contracts. Contract language examples and additional product specifications can be found at EPA’s Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Database.
Use the U.S. EPA’s free online Energy Star calculator to calculate savings from energy-efficient products.
Use power strips, and post signs in dressing rooms reminding cast members to turn off lights, air conditioning, and electronics when they are not in use. Encourage staff to unplug electronics, like hair dryers and fans, when they’re not in use. The BGA provides templates for signage that can be personalized with show logos.
Consider switching incandescent bulbs in dressing rooms to more energy-efficient bulbs that use less energy and don’t give off as much heat. This can also greatly increase the comfort of cast members. For instance, cold cathode bulbs not only use less energy and generate significantly less heat than incandescent bulbs, but also last longer, have dimming capabilities, and provide excellent color matching. There are a range of energy-efficient CFLs now available in a variety of shades that can meet your aesthetic needs as well. Use the U.S. EPA’s Energy Star website to find the most energy-efficient bulbs that are the right temperature for your dressing rooms.
Energy use is one of the largest environmental impacts in any facility and also one of the highest operational costs. Most energy consumed in the United States comes from coal, which contributes significantly to man-made global warming and also to smog, soot, and numerous negative health conditions. In addition, coal mining – especially surface mining and mountaintop removal – is devastating many of the world’s most ecologically important landscapes and ecosystems.
Reducing energy use can have a positive impact on all of these issues and reduce energy costs. EPA’s Energy Star program rates electronic products on energy use and grants their seal to those products that meet their standards.
- Energy Star
- U.S. EPA’s Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Database
- New York City – Manual for Quality, Energy Efficient Lighting
- Energy Star Savings Calculators
Waste Reduction and Recycling
There are many ways your production can cut down on waste, promote recycling and composting programs, and find ways to reuse items.
The best way to cut down your waste stream and minimize waste costs is to reduce the amount of materials you need to discard. Minimize waste generation by avoiding unnecessary packaging and paper use, reducing the amount of disposable products your production uses, and reusing materials.
For example, by reusing signs and banners, your show can avoid unnecessary printing costs, waste hauling costs, and the environmental impacts of printing. Consider designing banners so that they can be easily reused, by avoiding listing dates or ensuring that the portions listing dates can be readily and cheaply altered. Also consider producing signs from more durable materials, and ensure that these materials are ultimately recyclable. While they may cost more initially, they can save money in the long run. Try to avoid purchasing banners made from PVC (vinyl), which is associated with toxic emissions in production, use, and disposal.
Reducing paper use can also considerably cut down on waste and purchasing costs. See the Paper Use Reduction section for more information.
Reusable bottles and mugs
Instead of providing bottled water backstage, supply reusable bottles and water fountains or filtered tap water stations for cast and crew. At minimum, supply water from bulk containers like water coolers that use refillable water jugs. Consider branding bottles and coffee mugs with your show logo and giving them out during the first rehearsal. Make sure that cast and crew know where bottles and mugs are stored and where they can be washed. Consider providing labels to help staff identify their items. Discourage staff from purchasing or requesting single-serving bottles of water whenever possible.
For information on water filters, visit the website of the National Sanitation Foundation International, which provides listings of NSF Certified Drinking Water Treatment Units.
Recycling and composting programs at the venue
Work with venue staff to learn about what items are recycled in the building and how they should be sorted. Explain mandatory recycling policies to all cast and crew. Clearly mark recycling bins with pictures of the items they accept, make sure they are in convenient locations, and point them out during initial backstage tours. If the venue has a composting program, explain mandatory composting policies to all cast and crew, identify clearly marked composting bins, and ensure they are used correctly by production staff members.
Consider using NRDC’s Paper Recycling Signage (PDF) as a model for your paper recycling signs.
Backstage collections and BGA recycling programs
Many shows have instituted backstage collection programs for a variety of items that are collected by the BGA for reuse or recycling, such as corks, printer cartridges, bottle caps, batteries, textiles, food packaging, and writing instruments. Green Captains should set up collection containers backstage for these items, making sure to label containers clearly and place in accessible locations. Relay collection locations to relevant cast and crew members and place reminders on callboards and/or common areas. Visit BGA Materials Collections for Theatre Professionals (PDF) for information about items collected and drop-off locations. The BGA Office also hosts a Binder Program (PDF) for shows to exchange used binders, and hosts biannual Textile and Electronic Waste Collection Drives.
Recycling is one of the easiest and most widely accepted activities used to advance sustainability. Setting up a recycling program is relatively simple and a great way to involve cast and crew at all levels in your production’s environmental priorities. Recycling protects habitat, and saves energy, water, and resources such as forests, fossil fuels, and metals.
By recycling paper, cardboard, metals, and plastics, you can help reduce the harmful impacts associated with the extraction and processing of these resources, including oil spills, deforestation, biodiversity loss, and water pollution. Manufacturing products from recycled content is less polluting than producing the same products from newly harvested or extracted materials. Making paper from recycled fibers, for example, uses less energy, less water, and produces less air and water pollution than making paper from trees.
The production and consumption of bottled water has significant environmental impacts: Hazardous air pollutants are produced during the nonrenewable, fossil fuel-derived manufacture of plastic bottles; the transportation of these bottles consumes a significant amount of energy; and in the United States, an estimated 75 percent of these bottles are thrown in the trash instead of being recycled. Encouraging the use of reusable water bottles and filling stations instead of bottled water helps reduce all of these impacts.
- NYC Recycling Guide
- NYC Department of Sanitation Recycling Decals
- NYC Business Recycling: What to Recycle
- NYC Recycles: Set and Prop Products and Services
Paper Use Reduction
Rethinking the way your show buys and uses paper can help trim the bottom line and generate positive publicity. Follow the tips below to reduce your production’s paper use and generate awareness about your production’s greener practices.
Paperwork and communications
- Remind colleagues, company members and outside parties that they will receive their notices by email instead of hard copies, unless specifically requested.
- Subject to your organization’s email policies, use email instead of paper memos or faxes whenever practical to distribute agendas, newsletters, audition information, scripts, meeting materials, etc.
- Ensure the company’s paperwork has been printed on either postconsumer recycled content paper or reused scrap paper, and print on both sides where possible. Educate staff about these protocols.
- Avoid printing emails and attached documents wherever possible. Add the words “save a tree, don’t print me” (or a similar statement) in your organization’s standard email signature.
- Print less: keep mailing lists current, and don’t overprint copies or outside print jobs.
- Reuse what you can. Stock your fax machine with paper already printed on one side, reuse oversize envelopes and boxes, and use one-sided “draft” paper in your printers.
- Encourage the company to recycle their payroll envelopes – offer a place for company members to return their envelopes to company management.
- Use both sides of the paper on spiral notebooks or legal pads.
Programs and inserts
- Keep minimal advance storage of program inserts or print inserts on an as-needed basis.
- If you must store inserts, print 6 per page instead of 4 per page.
- If you can print your own stuffers, compile all listings on one half-sheet page.
- Use old inserts and stuffers as note pads or scratch pads. Alternatively, consider donating your old suffers to the BGA. The BGA reuses them in scratch pads and sells them for a nominal amount to raise money for Broadway Cares.
- Where possible, print scripts double-sided, and on recycled content paper.
- If small changes are made, only reprint necessary pages instead of reprinting the entire script.
- If scripts can’t be double-sided, reuse old drafts as scrap paper.
Printers and copiers
- As printers and copiers need to be replaced, purchase units that can print on both sides of a sheet of paper. Then set all computers and copiers to default to double-sided printing.
- Save and collect copier paper that’s been printed on one side, restack it neatly, designate a paper tray within each printer (or for as many printers as possible), and use it to print drafts.
- Adjust the house style on word processing programs to use a slightly smaller font and slightly wider margins; use the electronic “edit” and “comment” features to work on drafts instead of printing and editing by hand.
Green room and rehearsal areas
- Stock the green room areas with reusable mugs, plates, bowls and utensils to discourage the use of paper and plastic disposables. Consider cloth napkins or use paper napkins or towels with high postconsumer recycled content.
- Encourage staff to use reusable bags and napkins for their lunches. Consider providing show-branded bags for staff to use.
- Use post-consumer recycled content tissues in the rehearsal hall.
For more information on paper purchasing and paper recycling, see the Paper Purchasing and Recycling sections of this guide.
Visit NRDC’s Paper Project for more detailed information and tools to help reduce office paper use and purchase environmentally preferable paper. For a useful discussion of waste reduction, see the U.S. EPA’s Resource Conservation section on reduction and reuse.
Use the Environmental Paper Network’s free online Paper Calculator to calculate the environmental benefits of recycled paper and publicize these benefits to staff and theatregoers.
Case Study: Wicked
“Wicked” saves approximately $5,000 per month (and $60,000 each year) by printing program stuffers in-house instead of ordering them in advance in bulk. Wicked purchased an industrial paper cutter and rents a high-speed copier each month to print in-house on 100 percent recycled content paper. Printing in-house allows the show to print based only on what they need and include last minute cast changes instead of overestimating amounts for bulk advance orders. Access to a high-speed copier allows the show to generate scripts and scores on demand in-house as well, which even saves the production even more money.
- NRDC Paper Project
- Environmental Paper Network
- Minnesota Guide to Source Reduction
- A Common Vision for Transforming the Paper Industry
- U.S. EPA WasteWise – How to Start or Expand a Recycling Program
Getting to Work
Biking and walking
By encouraging your cast and crew to walk or bike to work, your production can help reduce traffic congestion and air pollution, which benefits the environment, the health of your community, and the health of theatregoers, cast, and crew members. Bicycling also helps encourage your cast and crew to lead a healthier lifestyle with additional exercise.
Tips to promote bicycling:
- Ask the theatre to provide free, secure, and conveniently located bicycle racks.
- Ask the theatre to provide shower facilities and lockers for staff who bike there.
- Ask the theatre to provide safe pedestrian walkways to the facility from nearby transit options.
- Explain bicycling options in theatre staff orientation and show first calls.
- Prominently display and distribute pedestrian and bike maps in common areas, on callboards, and in online bulletins.
- Offer incentives for walking and biking to the venue.
- Arrange discounts at local bicycling shops or bike sharing programs for staff.
- Disseminate information concerning bike routes and bicycle-friendly public transportation connections to theatre staff, cast, and crew members via internal websites or newsletters.
- Encourage staff cycling groups and events to promote organization-wide embrace of biking.
Public transportation is often cheaper than travel by car, and increased use of buses, trains, and subways reduces the need for onsite staff or guest parking facilities. Review the ideas and resources below for more information on how encourage production and theatre staff to commute by public transportation.
Tips to encourage public transit:
- Pay or subsidize the cost of employee public transportation passes.
- Provide other incentives for employees who take public transportation wherever possible.
- Enter riders of public transportation into show raffles, which can provide opportunities for sponsor involvement.
- Provide information on your website and in publicity materials on public transit options, including park and ride sites.
Carpooling can save your employees money by reducing the amount of gas they buy and money they spend on auto-related upkeep. It also has significant environmental benefits, reducing the emission of harmful pollutants such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds. Consider the tips and resources below for information on how to increase carpooling to your production.
- Provide discounted and preferential parking for staff who carpool.
- Actively match employees with those who live nearby.
- Circulate tips for effective and enjoyable carpools on your internal website and in newsletters, and use to coordinate carpooling.
- Offer other incentives for carpoolers.
- Use your organization’s internal website and/or theatre bulletin boards to coordinate carpooling or recommend another existing carpooling website to help employees efficiently organize a regular carpool in their area.
Incentives for hybrids/electric vehicles
Hybrid and electric vehicles can save money and reduce emissions of harmful gasses such as carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. Consider providing preferential and/or discounted parking for cast and crew who commute in a hybrid or electric vehicle.
Also consider working with sponsors or local businesses to partner on other incentives for cast and crew who drive hybrid and electric vehicles. You may also want to consider installing electric charging stations at your venue for employees with plug-in vehicles. Even better, partner with sponsors to install solar systems to power electric-charging stations.
There are also state and federal incentives, tax credits, and insurance discounts available for hybrid drivers. Visit the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Hybrid Center and the US Department of Energy’s Fuel Efficient Vehicle Tax Incentive Information Center for a list of state and federal hybrid incentives.
The transportation sector is one of the main sources of smog, carbon monoxide, global warming, and harmful particles that can cause respiratory illnesses and other health problems. Walking and bicycling helps reduce all of these impacts, saves money, and is a healthy way to begin and end the day. Carpooling and using public transportation reduces the total amount of cars on the road, which in turn reduces the many forms of pollution associated with the transportation sector.
In addition, many forms of public transportation use environmentally preferable fuels such as natural gas, electricity, and fuel cells. Using public transportation therefore reduces the transportation sector’s emissions of harmful compounds such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and particulates. This reduces emissions that can cause smog, global warming, acid rain, and negative health effects.