Why Be Green? The Benefits of Environmentally Friendly Theatre
Why be green? There are many reasons for pursuing environmentally sensitive policies and programs. The many environmental benefits of such a program include:
PEOPLE AND ENVIRONMENT
SUPPORTING PUBLIC HEALTH
Improving the environmental performance of your facility’s operations lowers your carbon footprint and helps to protect public health, especially for people of color and low income communities that are disproportionately affected by the climate crisis. Fossil fuel-generated energy and transportation produce air pollutants that can cause respiratory illness and increases in hospital visits. In addition, coal-fired power plants – which provide half of all the electricity consumed in the United States – are the world’s number one emitter of mercury, a neurotoxin that is now found in rivers and streams throughout the world. Mercury can cause developmental and neurological disorders, especially in children.
Reducing your organization’s environmental footprint can improve public health protection in other ways as well. Reducing paper consumption lowers the demand for the resource and decreases your contribution to the energy needed for production. This helps to protect woodland habitats, reducing global warming pollution and reducing the amount of toxic chemicals emitted by the paper industry including dioxin, one of the most toxic chemicals known to humanity. Additionally, using less toxic cleaning products and low-emissions paints can improve the indoor air quality of your facility and contribute to healthier fans and players. Furthermore, installing water meters, low-flow faucets, and showers can help ensure that there will be enough clean water for future generations.
PROTECTING CLEAN AIR
The transportation and energy sectors are the two biggest causes of global warming, acid rain, and smog. Cars and power plants also release small particles into the air that can impair respiratory function and cause cancer. By increasing energy efficiency, promoting alternative transportation, and supporting renewable energy, your organization can contribute to cleaner air.
DEFENDING CLEAN WATER
Almost half of the world’s population lives without access to a reliable source of clean water. In the United States, water pollution affects many of our nation’s rivers, streams, and lakes. Two of the biggest causes of water pollution in the U.S. are agricultural and urban runoff. Agricultural runoff consists mostly of sediment, pesticides, fertilizers, and sediment. Many pesticides can cause cancer and other illnesses, while the nutrients in fertilizers can deplete oxygen in water, making it unsuitable for fish and other aquatic life.
Urban runoff occurs when rain flows over impervious surfaces like roads, roofs, and parking lots. Urban runoff collects pollutants which can include oil and gasoline, trash, and toxic heavy metals like mercury and cadmium. Agricultural and urban lands are not the only sources of water pollution. Mining, forestry, and other industries also make significant contributions.
Your organization can make a helpful difference by purchasing products that cause less water pollution. Organic foods, for example, are made without pesticides and fertilizers and therefore cause less water pollution. Buying renewable energy reduces the amount of water pollution associated with oil and coal production, and purchasing recycled paper reduces water pollution from virgin paper mills, which are among the most polluting factories in the world.
Your organization can also help prevent water pollution by controlling and capturing rainwater and preserving pervious surfaces (such as grass and gravel) around your facility, which can reduce runoff.
RESPONDING TO THE THREAT OF GLOBAL WARMING
Since the beginning of the industrial age, people have been burning fossil fuels such as oil and coal, releasing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. As the concentrations of these compounds rise in the atmosphere, they trap more and more heat. Scientists agree that our world is heating up, and that human activity is a primary cause.
Global warming may have many adverse consequences, including increases in droughts, hurricanes, floods, and other severe weather events; significant rises in sea level; and increased spread of diseases once confined to the tropics. Whole industries, from farming in the Midwest to skiing in the Northeast and Rocky Mountains, may be affected.
The projected costs of global warming to our economy and public health are staggering. Fortunately, solutions exist. Smarter procurement practices, increasing energy efficiency, and purchasing renewable energy can help reduce the threats of this global crisis.
Since the rise of life on earth, the planet has experienced five major periods of global extinction. Now, we are entering a sixth major extinction period, this one caused by humans. As urbanization and agriculture encroach on natural habitats, there are fewer resources and less habitat for the millions of other species that coexist with us. These threats to biodiversity are made worse by the threat of global warming.
By responding to the threat of global warming – through energy efficiency, renewable energy, and transportation innovations – your organization can also help preserve biodiversity. Reducing paper use and buying paper made with postconsumer recycled content reduces pressure on terrestrial species dependent on natural forests. By implementing polices that protect and conserve water, your organization can help reduce the risk to aquatic species. And by publicizing these policies, your organization can help raise awareness and inspire others to do the same.
Many of the suggestions in this guide can reduce operating costs. Improved efficiency means less waste, which often translates into cost savings. Reducing paper use, for example, saves money. A typical office disposes of about 350 pounds of wastepaper per employee per year. Switching from single-sided to double-sided printing can cut this figure – and corresponding expenditures and environmental impacts – almost in half. Adding other paper reduction strategies can reduce costs associated with paper use even further.
THEATRE CASE STUDIES
As you’ll see throughout the guide, theatres have been saving thousands of dollars through a host of small actions such as lighting upgrades, recycling, reducing paper use, and saving water. A few examples are below:
The New Victory Theatre in New York City upgraded lighting on their exterior kinetic light sculpture, reducing exterior lighting costs by 80% a year, and saving $50,000 annually.
The Gershwin Theatre upgraded exterior and interior lighting throughout their lobby, dressing rooms, backstage areas, and bathrooms, resulting in 309,651 kWh savings from 2009-2013.
The National Theatre in London upgraded its external lighting to LED, reducing electricity consumption by 70%. They have also saved energy by switching off rigs and discharge lights between the final check and half-hour call, nearly doubling lamp life.
SPORT CASE STUDIES
With the assistance of NRDC, the Philadelphia Eagles and Lincoln Financial Field launched their “Go Green” program in 2003, making the organization one of the first in professional sports to initiate a comprehensive program focused on reducing its environmental impact. The Eagles have since developed a robust sustainability program including reducing energy use; adopting a comprehensive recycling program, including composting and recycling of cooking oil into biodiesel; installing solar panels at their practice facility; and retrofitting toilets and faucets with water-efficient fixtures. The Eagles’ Go Green program has helped save more than $3 million since 2005. They have also been able to generate new revenue by selling sponsorships to companies interested in being linked to their green initiatives.
Through numerous energy efficiency improvements, the Seattle Mariners reduced Safeco Field’s use of natural gas by 66 percent and electricity consumption by 30 percent in 2009 compared to 2006. The Mariners saved over $1 million in utility costs for electricity, natural gas, water and sewer discharges in just over three years One of their cost-saving initiatives was to replace their old incandescent bulb scoreboard and cooling system with a new LED scoreboard. Replacing the scoreboard not only lowered electricity consumption by over 90 percent from 1.2 million kwh to 130,000 kwh, but also reduced energy costs by $50,000 per year, not including an anticipated rebate for the project of about $150,000 from the local utility. The Mariners are also investing in HVAC changes, lighting retrofits, and plumbing changes, including the recent installation of waterless urinals. These projects are estimated to save an additional $500,000 annually. Read more about the Mariners’ greening efforts.
In 2007 NRDC arranged an energy efficiency and water audit at the STAPLES Center (home of the Los Angeles Lakers, Clippers, and Kings) to identify opportunities for efficiency improvements. As a result, the arena has made a number of operational improvements that have yielded reductions in energy use, water use, and costs. One of the biggest projects included the installation of a 345.6-kilowatt solar system on the arena’s roof in 2008, which supplies 2.5% of the building’s energy use (depending on energy load), producing 525,000 kWh and saving $55,000 each year. Also instigated by the audit, in 2009 the STAPLES Center replaced all 178 urinals with waterless urinals—formerly consuming 44,000 gallons each annually—for total water savings of over 7 million gallons of water a year and about $28,200 in direct water costs. Read more about the STAPLES Center’s greening efforts.
The American Airlines Arena, home of the Miami Heat, earned LEED Certification for Existing Buildings, Operations and Maintenance (EBO&M) in April 2009. LEED qualifying features include: reflective roof materials that reduce cooling needs; a drip-and-soak irrigation system which runs underground and reduces the amount of water that evaporates; drought-resistant landscaping; underground parking that reduces the amount of exposed asphalt causing heat island effect; and the elimination of an on-site water chiller at the arena which reduces energy use. Energy and water cost savings achieved by these improvements save $500,000 annually, or 10 to 15% of utility costs. Read more about the American Airlines Arena’s greening efforts.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the 16th busiest airport in the US, increased its recycling from 100 tons diverted in 2001 to 900 tons diverted in 2005, saving $178,000 in waste disposal fees in just one year. A composting program with concessionaires increased waste diversion to 1,300 tons in 2009. In 2010, the airport introduced an innovative off-aircraft recycling program and computer automated compactors, raising their annual savings to $250,000 in avoided disposal fees. The airport is aiming for a 50% recycling rate by 2014. Read more about the airport’s greening initiatives.
Between 2000 and 2004, Bank of America reduced its paper consumption dramatically through an institution-wide campaign of online reports and forms, email, double-sided copying and lighter-weight papers. By reducing the basis weight of its ATM receipts from 20 pounds to 15 pounds, Bank of America saved more than just paper; this simple move also gained the bank additional savings in transportation, storage and handling costs, to the tune of $500,000 a year. Paper used for internal operations decreased 32%, saving more than a billion sheets of paper. A cost cut of $20,000 was made on a single report, by sending out postcards notifying clients that it was available online. By making forms available online instead of sending out hard copies, the company saved an estimated $10 million, not including the savings in postage and storage.
By taking steps to divert recyclables from its waste stream and increasing the efficiency of its energy and water use, the Oakland Processing and Distribution Center of the US Postal Service has totaled savings of $500,000 a year.
By redesigning its packaging in 2005 to incorporate reusable plastic totes for internal distribution, Ghirardelli Chocolate Company was able to avoid the purchase and disposal costs for 580,000 cardboard boxes, resulting in savings of $520,000 a year.
Greening initiatives can often provide a visible and interactive opportunity for theatregoers to engage with theatres right in their community. Theatres and productions can promote the benefits of environmental initiatives and align their green program with existing community-based projects.
Theatres can also work with community programs to provide hands-on learning materials for the local community, teaching them about the importance of environmental stewardship. These initiatives give theatres the opportunity to combine community engagement and environmental benefit with their brand.