Who Keeps us Accountable for our Green Choices?

By Sadie
Published October 2021

Who keeps us accountable for our green choices? Individuals? Organizations? External entities? Each other? I don’t think there is one answer to this question. I’m not a fan of the ‘it’s everyone’s responsibility’ situations. Unless there is actually someone/something keeping people accountable, change won’t happen quickly. I think we have to find a variety of methods to meet people where they are on their green journey.

Since my last article, What is Material Sustainability Within Theatre? – Technicians for Change, I have started the Minneapolis Chapter of the Broadway Green Theatre Alliance. We will be holding a series of zoom conversations to talk about standards, expectations and initiatives that we can work towards as an industry and as a community. I want to hear from you so the Minneapolis Green Theatre Alliance is a responsive resource for the community. Below are the dates of each discipline’s conversation:

Each of these events can be found on Minneapolis Green Theatre’s Facebook page under events. Each event will take place at 7pm and have a zoom link. 

If you aren’t available/interested in group conversations always feel free to email me your thoughts and successes on your green choices! Let me know if there is a resource you know about that I haven’t listed in this article as I will be building a resources page once we get a website up with the Minneapolis Green Theatre Alliance.

In preparing for these conversations, I wanted to check what resources were currently available. Below is a brief summary of resources for arts, culture, and nonprofits: 

The Broadway Green Theatre Alliance

Mission: Launched in 2008, the Broadway Green Theatre Alliance (BGA) is an industry-wide initiative that educates, motivates and inspires the entire theatre community and its patrons to implement environmentally friendly choices on Broadway and beyond.
On its metrics and benchmarking page, the BGA encourages an approach or framework that supports the social, environmental and economic impacts of productions.

Julie’s Bicycle

Mission: Julie’s Bicycle is a pioneering not-for-profit mobilizing the arts and culture to take action on climate and ecological crisis.
Julie’s Bicycle offers a five star rating system and the Creative Green Framework, a points system based on commitment, understanding, and improvement.

The Center for Sustainable Practices in the Arts (CSPA)

Mission: The CSPA is a Think Tank for Sustainability in Arts and Culture. The CSPA views sustainability as the intersection of environmental balance, social equity, economic stability and a strengthened cultural infrastructure. Seeing itself as evolved out of the principles of the 1987 Brundtland Report and the 1992 Rio De Janeiro Earth Summit, the CSPA aligns itself with the policies of Agenda 21 for Culture as a resource to artists and arts organizations. 
The CSPA offers resources ranging from a quarterly newsletter, reports, conferences, and resources and tools.

The Sustainable Production Toolkit 

Mission: The Sustainable Production Toolkit equips performing arts organizations with tools and training to develop and implement solutions for environmental, social, and economic sustainability. 

The Sustainable Production Toolkit has developed a step-by-step guide for theatre practitioners to make your organization more sustainable post-COVID.

The Green Book

Book Forward: We’re living in a climate criss. Theatre makers – like everyone else – want to respond to that emergency. But for theatre, the need to change is particularly urgent. If theatre is to be part of the most vital conversation humanity faces, then it has to change its practices. The Green Book provides clear standards for that change. In other volumes it will show how to improve the sustainability of theatre buildings and theatre operations. This volume is about making productions more sustainable. 

Mo’olelo -2009- Green Theatre Choices Toolkit

The San Diego-based theatre company has since closed, but they developed a 24 page scorecard for artists and companies to self score their material choices. 

The theatre industry isn’t the first industry to be concerned with sustainability.  Below I have a very brief summary how other industries have tried to standardize their sustainability measures:

Some industries have found nationwide certifications and guidance from the government. The US Green Building Council has developed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification for the architecture and construction industry. The LEED Certification is a tiered system that allows buildings to achieve Certification, Silver, Gold, or Platinum ratings and is designed to be ambitious to make it an achievement to brag about.

The Environmental Protection Agency has developed the Energy Star symbol to help consumers understand when they are purchasing energy efficient appliances. Certifications can help create a shared understanding of consistency ranging from basic consumer understanding to a high standard to strive for. These are both examples where a government agency has created a certification system.

Outside of government agencies, other organizations can create sustainable standards for industries to strive for. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a non-profit that promotes responsible forest management through five global goals.

Most of us have purchased or seen a Fairtrade label. Fairtrade uses a third party auditor FLOCERT to audit supply chains to verify that brands and companies achieve their certification status. Certifications and standards take an overwhelming topic like climate change and make them into digestible pieces that capture the nuances of particular industries.

There are pros and cons to certification processes. While certifications can help with education and create shared expectations towards normalizing sustainable standards, they can take time and money to develop and maintain to keep current. We can look to other industries for inspiration and guidance on how they manage, standardize, and communicate their green choices. 

Do we think a formal certification process is necessary for theatre? Would a certification help audiences understand which theatres are making sustainable choices? Every production can be so different, do we think it is possible to create a certification system? Do one of these resources capture what we’d like to promote as a sustainable resource for the Minneapolis theatre scene? Conversations to answer these questions are being had in other parts of the country. Working with the other regional chapters of the Broadway Green Alliance, we can share thoughts and all work towards making theatre greener.


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