Making theatre without a carbon impact

Below are some of the key areas in which we take action to make theatre without a carbon impact. We hope these methods are helpful whether you want to reduce the carbon impact of your work, or create a carbon-neutral show.

 

We’ve been making carbon-neutral theatre for nearly four years, but we want to stress that we definitely don't have all the answers. It's also not possible for every company or creative to enact all the methods suggested below. In our company, we prioritise our creatives’ accessibility requirements over our sustainability measures. This means our team does, for example, sometimes take taxis – for accessibility reasons, or in case of an emergency.

Each time we deliver a show, our methods get a bit better, and we get a bit better at delivering them. We’ve found it takes time to learn and adapt our practise – it’s important to celebrate your successes, rather than beating yourself up for what you haven’t managed.

Electricity

Our methods:

1. Reduce electricity use

We do this by calculating the carbon cost of equipment* before buying or hiring it, and then using the option with the lowest carbon cost possible e.g. 20W LEDs or D-class amplifiers.

 

* The amount of carbon emissions it will produce while we’re using it.

2. Use renewable energy

Whenever we can, we rehearse or perform in venues who use 100% renewable energy. Lots of theatres already use a green energy supplier and/or generate their own renewable energy (like Tara Arts, HOME Manchester, and the Arcola Theatre). As you dig into the world of energy suppliers, it's always worth being aware that some green energy tariffs aren't as green as they seem... 

Of course, you may not have existing relationships with green venues, or you may be committed to producing your work in buildings which don't use a renewable energy supplier.

We also generate our own renewable energy – before and during performance.

In How To Save A Rock, our actors generate electricity by cycling a bike live on stage, during the show. This bike is connected to a bike-generator, which we commissioned the awesome production company behind Bicycle Boy to build for us. Our bike-generator has a plug-board, so we can plug in different appliances, as long as they don’t require too much power – meaning we can power a lamp or charge a phone, but can’t power a kettle.

We use our generator to power the show's lighting. Once our performers jump on and peddle for a few seconds, the generator kicks into action and our lights switch on; once our performers stop peddling, our lights cut out. 

For HOT IN HERE, we’re building an energy-harvesting dancefloor, which converts the kinetic energy of footsteps into electricity – meaning the show is powered by our performers’ dancing and moving on stage. Our incredible technician, Jack Hathaway, has already built three prototype tiles, and dancefloor's final development is taking place this year, supported by the ‘I’ve Got An Idea’ fund.

 

3. Record energy use

We record every time we use electricity – which includes lights on in the rehearsal room, charging up batteries for film equipment, and even the hours we spend on our laptops. But more on that later!

Three actors on stage, one is cycling on a bicycle

How To Save A Rock at ETT Trailer Story in partnership with Northern Stage and Theatre By The Lake. Photo: Tom Kay

If you have any questions, please get in touch with us at bea@pigfoottheatre.com.

Our methods: 

1. Use public transport

Wherever possible, we take public (rather than private) transport. Our set for How To Save A Rock can be packed down into a suitcase and one A1 bag, so we’re able to travel on trains to wherever we’re performing the show.

 

2. Go electric 

If we need to hire a car or van – for example, when we’re touring HOT IN HERE – we hire an electric vehicle.

3. Record our travel

We record all journeys we make for our work – the method of transport & the distance travelled.

Travel

4 - Credit_ Lian Furness_edited.jpg

How To Save A Rock at Slung Low. Photo: Lian Furness

How an audience member travels to see our show is (obviously!) not something we can control. However, audience transport is estimated to account for 70% of the theatre industry’s carbon impact in London. So we still believe it’s an important area to engage with.

 

Our methods:

1. Encourage use of public transport

We publicise public transport links to our venues on our social media, website & our venues’ website, and, whenever we can, we offer discounted tickets to local audiences within walking distance.

 

2. Record audience travel

We record the distance audience members will be travelling & their intended method of transport at the point they purchase their tickets.

Audience travel

Our methods:

1. Hire, borrow, or buy second-hand

Whenever we can, we hire or borrow production materials – so we're not buying anything firsthand, and we know exactly what will happen to it after our production (it'll be returned!).

 

If we do need to buy an object, we always buy it second-hand, and we plan its afterlife (see below!) and how we’ll use any surplus, before purchasing it.

 

We also upcycle – using materials which would otherwise be thrown away.

Design

2. Ensure materials have an after-life

We commit to a closed-loop design process, meaning the afterlife of an object is as important to us as its use in our work. This might mean repurposing items into the design of our next show, donating them to other companies, selling them on, or – as a last resort – recycling them.

3. Record deliveries

We record the details of all deliveries of online purchases – the weight and the location the item has been delivered from.

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How To Save A Rock cast. Photo: Jonathan Turner

If you're a designer looking for some green inspo, we love the work of eco-designers Tanja Beer and Andrea Carr

Digital footprint

While statistics around the energy consumption of online activity can change (due in part to efficiency improvements of data centres and devices), the world’s digital carbon footprint has been shown to account for 2-3.7% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Our methods:

1. Take the actions (however small!) which we can

These include:

  • Using Ecosia instead of Google

  • Reducing email size, e.g. by sending Google Drive links instead of attachments

  • Only subscribing to e-newsletters we actually read

  • Reducing the number of video calls we have, and – whenever we can – using Google Meet rather than Zoom

For more ideas, check out Wholegrain Digital’s Digital Declutter for Businesses.

 

2. Improve the sustainability of our website

We are in the process of improving the environmental sustainability of our website. This will include:

  • Swapping to a green host like WP Engine

  • Reducing length of user journeys

  • Reducing use, size & quality of images and videos

  • Not tracking user data

To find out more about green web design, check out sustainablewebdesign.org and The Green Web Foundation.

 

3. Record digital activity

We record the time we spend on devices for work – the type of device used, and the hours spent on the device.

We record the video calls we have for work – the software used, the length, and the number of participants.

At the end of each year, we also look at the number of emails we sent, our cloud storage, number of visitors to our website, along with how much & what type of content we posted on social media.

Copy of PIGFOOT's March 2020-May 2021 EST. Carbon footprint.png

Pigfoot's remaining carbon impact, May 2020-2021

Evaluating impact

As you can see above, we record all actions which still have a carbon impact.

 

Each year, we then calculate our remaining carbon impact as a company. We use a spreadsheet we’ve created, for companies without a physical home, to record and calculate our carbon emissions. Please contact us if you’d like a copy. If you’re looking for an online carbon calculator, we recommend checking out Julie’s Bicycle’s Creative Green Tools. If you’re looking for a carbon calculator for digital work, check out thenetworkedcondition.com.

 

Each year, we produce a detailed breakdown of our activity and its remaining carbon cost. We evaluate this breakdown and set targets for reduction in the following year.

We share our carbon impact and resolutions online, on our social media, our website & with our partners. You can find our carbon impact from May 2020-2021 at pigfoottheatre.com/carbon-impact.

If you would like to book us for a workshop on sustainable theatre-making, please contact us at hetty@pigfoottheatre.com & bea@pigfoottheatre.com. We also offer consultancy on how to enact these methods and more, into your production, project, or company.