GUEST BLOG: Greening the Great White Way by Emily Harrington
10 years ago, more than 250 theatre professionals interested in making theatre more environmentally friendly gathered at a Town Hall organized by David Stone (producer of Wicked) and his team at the Gershwin Theatre. After an inspiring keynote speech from Allen Hershkowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Wicked team and many participants discussed the need to make theatre greener and what they were doing to date.
Building on the Town Hall, The Broadway League formed an ad hoc committee, now known as the Broadway Green Alliance (BGA), which was officially launched in November 2008 at an event with then New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The BGA’s mission has always been to educate, motivate, and inspire the entire theatre community and its patrons to adopt environmentally friendlier practices. Since 2008, the BGA has continued to grow; it is now also a fiscal program of Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS and, along with Julie’s Bicycle in the UK, a founding member of the International Green Theatre Alliance.
The BGA’s work is built on the recognition that environmental issues are caused by the cumulative effect of millions of small actions and that impactful change comes from each of us doing a bit better every day. BGA participants don’t claim to be “green,” but all work to be “greener” than they were. BGA members, actors, producers, designers, and other theatre professionals and fans, who have made greener choices each day, have produced remarkable results and inspired actions across the US and internationally.
Here are just a few of the ways that Broadway and theatre beyond have gotten greener in the past 10 years!
- All Broadway theatres participate in the BGA, and nearly all shows have a volunteer Green Captain, taking the lead in making their productions a little bit greener. Green Captains include members of both the cast and crew and share information about BGA initiatives while working to improve the practices of their productions. Past Green Captains included Tony Award winners Bryan Cranston (All the Way), Audra McDonald (Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill), Ruthie Ann Miles (The King and I), and Sophie Okonedo (A Raisin in the Sun), and many nominees, including Lauren Ambrose and Mark Rylance in 2018. On Earth Day 2018, this year’s Green Captains came together to share their #GreenResolutions. These “Green Resolutions” are commitments, like New Year’s resolutions, but they run from Earth Day 2018 to Earth Day 2019. You can watch their video here and find a list of current Broadway Green Captains here.
- All theatres on Broadway now share information about green practices and have made many improvements. The most visible change is the upgrading of marquee and roof sign lights at Broadway theatres to energyefficient LED and CFLs. This one change has saved energy, money, and over 700 tons of carbon a year. All Broadway theatres now have recycling programs and many use Energy Star appliances. Other improvements include using environmentally-friendly cleaning products and dilution centers, using energy-efficient indoor lighting, aggressively insulating heating pipes, installing bike racks, and coating roofs with reflective paint to reduce heat absorption.
- Thirsty company members at many shows drink filtered water from reusable bottles, eliminating many thousands of plastic water bottles backstage.
- Since Broadway began using microphones, productions have needed batteries. To be certain that microphones wouldn’t fail during a show, the standard Broadway practice had been to put new batteries into each microphone before every performance. Wicked switched to rechargeable batteries, reducing annual battery consumption from 15,000 batteries to 96, saving money and the environment without compromising performance. Many other productions around the world, including in Australia and in the West End, have also made this switch, often after hearing of the Wicked team’s success.
- Recently, Jujamcyn committed to eliminating plastic straws from its theatres and now only offers compostable straws at all of its concession stands.
- Touring shows participating in the Touring Green program have offset more than 25,000 tons of carbon emissions from moving their equipment. Participating shows have voluntarily invested 1.5 cents per mile in wind power, methane digester, and other projects offered through Native Energy.
- The theatre community beyond Broadway has embraced this movement. The Off-Broadway community is very active; there are Green Captains on college campuses across the country, touring shows and venues are adding Touring Green Captains, and BGA chapters have sprung up in Chicago and Philadelphia.
Most of these actions began with an individual or group trying something new, igniting similar action and improvements by others. The BGA helps make sure that the community learns of past and new innovations so that each success leads to others. Please let us know the small or large steps you take so we can share innovations with the thousands of professionals interested in greening theatre on the Great White Way and beyond. You can email us at Green@Broadway.org, visit our website BroadwayGreen.com, or follow us on Twitter @BroadwayGreen or Instagram @BroadwayGreenAlliance.