Making theatre without a carbon impact
We've been making theatre with the least carbon impact possible* for four years now. Below are some of the methods we use to reduce our carbon footprint to as close to zero as we can. *We've recently stopped using the phrase "carbon-neutral" to describe what we do- you can find out why here.
Although we've been doing this for a little while now, we definitely don't have all the answers. It's also not possible for every company or creative to enact the methods we talk about 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.
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!
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 email@example.com.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How To Save A Rock cast. Photo: Jonathan Turner
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.
1. Take the actions (however small!) which we can
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
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.
Pigfoot's remaining carbon impact, May 2020-2021
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 firstname.lastname@example.org & email@example.com. We also offer consultancy on how to enact these methods and more, into your production, project, or company.