Low hanging fruit

by Jini Stolk

Last week’s Staging Sustainability Conference was a pleasure to attend and another example of an important community conversation. It was also an opportunity to seriously examine our values.

Are we really being asked to contribute to the sustainability of our environment? to make a difference to the well-being of our planet? to place human and community needs first? to become part of a developing “culture of stewardship“? Well, yes, but I’m pretty sure these beliefs are already part of our everyday lives.

I was struck by the wild enthusiasm of the fully committed artists and technicians. Many of the latter, in particular, are experimenting, learning and sharing about new materials, technologies and ways of making art. Their expertise and the effective learning networks they’ve developed (through CITT, York University’s Sustainability in Design and Production programs and OCADU’s Sustainable Business Model Group are truly impressive. These are people for whom technological innovation holds no fear.

So why haven’t all arts organizations embraced the idea of being sustainability “agents of change” in Doug Worts‘ words? It seems, dear fellow managers, executive, and artistic directors, that we’re often the barriers. There was a consistent undertone of frustration about the difficulty of getting an organizational commitment to becoming “greener” (even if not necessarily “green”: an important nuance behind the incremental energy and carbon footprint savings which my friends at the Broadway Green Alliance have implemented over the years.)

Let’s start with low hanging fruit.

  • Young People’s Theatre has saved over $4,000 a year by changing to energy-efficient lightbulbs
  • Trinity St. Paul’s Centre puts out 10 large green bins each week, a simple but effective way to reduce their carbon footprint
  • ALL the theatres on Broadway have converted their marquee lighting to energy efficient bulbs, thereby saving approximately 700 tons of carbon per year and many thousands of dollars per theatre; switched to more eco-friendly cleaning products and appliances; and instituted recycling and water efficiency programs
  • Budget stretched? The production manager’s version of a re-sale shop is a mouse click away at Ready Set Recycle an online site for the entertainment industry to recycle scenery, props and costumes
  • The Grand Theatre in London’s many green improvements include switching to digital outdoor signage and lighting and more efficient lamps throughout their venue

Harbourfront Centre, working with consultant Randy Sa’d has gone well beyond low hanging fruit with their Sustainability Strategy‘s commitment to take a leadership position on greening, but they started small and worked up from there. The green changes they implemented paid for themselves, over what was sometimes a short period of time, and they’re about to launch a Knowledge Sharing Network. Meanwhile they’ve attracted new donors to help with this work, and are building new relationships (Gen Y-ers respond especially powerfully to environmental values) and a new sense of their place in the community.

The Theatres Trust of London has been actively involved in helping its members become more energy efficient. Evaluating Ecovenue: 48 London venues on the journey towards a more environmentally sustainable future is the kind of collaborative work that Creative Trust started with our Energy Audits for six performing arts venues.

The City of Toronto is with us:

The Toronto Atmospheric Fund will conduct an energy audit and pay up to 100% of the cost of your energy retrofit, which you repay through cost savings. Contact Ross Powell at rowell@tafund.org.

If you need financing for a substantive repair on your facility that will result in energy savings, even if that’s not the only motivation for the work (such as with window or HVAC or boiler replacements), fill out this simple Intent to Apply Form and submit it to George Canetti at  Toronto’s Energy Efficiency Office, to get your file opened and the ball rolling.

If you’re planning major renovations and need design assistance or financial incentives to upgrade your energy efficiency, this High Performance New Construction Program form is the form for you; it should be returned to Christine Merhej at the Energy Efficiency Office.

For other good ideas:

Project Neutral’s Household Survey will spark ideas for simple things that can be done in the workplace as well as at home. And Chris Winter has started a wonderful website for Canada Conserves which will be a fount of information.

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