On World Environment Day, we reflect on the ever-present issue of climate change, highlighting the ways in which we strive to promote the preservation of our environment while sustaining creativity within the sector and society at large.
Humans are both creatures and creators of their environment; nowhere does this ring truer than in the cultural sector. Now more than ever, artists not only have the power to transform and shape the world they contribute creatively to, but also a personal responsibility.
At Sadler’s Wells, we are committed to championing action on climate change, a commitment that extends to all areas of our work. From making more conscious decisions about how we present our productions, to the way we operate our building on a day-to-day basis, or better support the education and environmental awareness of our staff and audiences, here are some of the ways in which we are making Sadler’s Wells, and the wider industry, a greener, more sustainable place.
Replacing plastic straws, take-away boxes and ice cream tubs in our café and bars with biodegradable paper alternatives such as cardboard seems like a giant leap for humankind, considering we were previously disposing of around 3,000 plastic straws every year!
Installing water fountains backstage to cut down on bottled water use, as well as introducing a 20p discount for reusable coffee cups in our café are among the steps we’ve taken in a bid to reduce plastic waste at our venues.
Since 2014, refurbishments to the theatre have helped us to control and monitor our gas, electricity and water use, reducing our CO2 emissions and energy use year-on-year. Addressing the need to create greener production spaces for the future, we have invested in LED show lighting where possible and converted to LED throughout our foyer spaces, auditorium and backstage areas. We are also part of Arts Basket, a consortium of arts venues purchasing energy together, and 100% of our electricity comes from renewable sources.
Thanks to the energy generated by our solar panels – located on the roof of our foyers and the fly tower directly above the main stage – we’re producing approximately 17000 kwh (kilowatt hours) on average per year – enough to power two family homes for a year!
Our ongoing programme of monitoring and reducing our carbon footprint not only applies to energy, but also water use.
The borehole, which connects us to the water source or ‘well’ underneath Sadler’s Wells, has been a permanent fixture of our building’s history since the early 1600s. Fast forward to 2019, it has become a vital part of our water reduction efforts – providing us with the water used for our sinks, toilets, heating and cooling.
TRANSPORT AND AIR POLLUTION
At Sadler’s Wells, we actively promote the Cycle to Work scheme. We also strongly encourage public transport use wherever possible. Both modes of transport are proving equally popular and are used by 95% of our staff when travelling to work.
In a bid to lower levels of pollution in our local community, our Green Team encouraged drivers with idling engines outside the theatre to switch them off as part of the 2017 Vehicle Idling Action campaign, which was supported by the Mayor of London and delivered in association with Islington Council. Since then, we have made a conscious shift to the exclusive use of taxi and courier services with robust green credentials, in order to reduce our carbon footprint and improve the city’s air quality.
Advocacy continues to shape our work around sustainability. We recently joined the Spotlight Programme – a committed group of 29 cultural institutions working across England with the shared aim of driving down the environmental impacts of our activities, both individually and collectively in the sector.
As a cultural leader in the arts delivering work locally, nationally and internationally, we strive to operate as sustainably as possible. Since October 2018, we have been part of an ongoing collaboration with our Resident Company New Adventures (in particular, the company’s environmental arm Green Adventures) and Norwich Theatre Royal to develop a new blueprint for environmentally sustainable touring.
This collaboration, made possible by the Arts Council England-funded Accelerator Programme, will develop new and innovative projects and initiatives through to March 2022, helping us to think more creatively about the relationship between touring companies and receiving houses.
Creativity and sustainability are among our core values; we believe both are not only intrinsically linked, but also integral to the future of arts and culture. We spoke to Jackson Fisch, dancer and Green Adventures Champion about the role both can play in furthering the fight against climate change.
Why is being a green champion important to you?
Being a Green Champion is important to me as it allows me to develop and change my own personal habits while having discussions with people about how and why we need to make changes to our daily lifestyles, as well as our touring habits, to make a positive change for environmental sustainability. I am in no way a perfect Green Champion, but being a part of the conversation has made me more aware and increased my ability to advocate for change.
What do you feel is your responsibility as an artist to ensure a greener, more sustainable world?
I believe my responsibility is to notice where I personally can change and develop greener habits, then to talk to and inspire others to do the same! A few months ago I became aware that, as a company, we were using copious amounts of paper towel to wipe the sweat off of ourselves while backstage during a performance. After noticing this, I went out and bought my own towel that I could reuse show after show in place of the paper towel that was just thrown away. As a company now, each dancer has a sweat towel provided to them and paper towel is no longer used!
Creativity and sustainability: What is the relationship between the two? How can we be more creative in our approach to protecting our environment?
All over the world artists, creatives and environmentalists are collaborating and thinking of new, sustainable ways to achieve what we now consider necessary ways of working and living. From fashion houses using sustainable materials, to architecture embracing natural materials and encouraging horticulture – the collaborative nature to advocate change always has a creative drive. Without creativity, new ideas driven by this passion and a desire for change would not come about.
Find out more about our Sustainability Policy on our website.