Making Jersey Made Theatre More Sustainable
In 2020, we will celebrate 50 years of Earth Day. As a kid growing up in a small town in Iowa, I remember Target launching a campaign called “Kids Saving Earth Club.” In the 80s, household recycling was not very common. I took my literature from the store and gathered a room full of friends from school and prepared to save the planet from destruction. A 4th grader with high ambitions, I was ready to teach my friends about the dangers of chlorofluorocarbons and the need to reduce, reuse, and recycle. I thought we’d organize town wide paper collections and get people to stop using Aquanet. They ended up spending the time making prank phone calls. 30 years later, I am still engaged in climate justice and green initiatives.
We’ve come a long way from the dangerous practices of the mid 20th century. Here in New Jersey, we have a lot to be proud of. New Jersey spends more on beach replenishment than any other state in the U.S. We rank 3rd in the nation for solar jobs with nearly 500 solar companies. The cars we drive have to meet emissions standards that don’t exists in most parts of the country. But with climate science disappearing from public data bases and environmental regulations being rolled back, it is more important than ever to take responsibility for our home.
What are some ways that you can help? One way that I keep down our waste output at the office is by bringing coffee in from home. Instead of using a disposable K-cup at the office, I use a reusable K-cup at home to brew a carafe of coffee and bring it to work in a thermos.
Here are a few other ideas:
- Have a “leave behind” box at your exits so that patrons who don’t wish to take their Playbills with them can leave it to be reused. If the program isn’t in reusable condition, recycle it for them.
- Provide separate landfill, compost, and recycling receptacles for use in your public spaces and your administrative offices.
- Partner with your local agency to hold a recycling collection for things like small appliances or cell phones.
- Adopt a highway near your theatre then have team building days while you make your community more beautiful.
- Reuse flats, stairs, and other set pieces show after show. With a fresh coat of low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint, your audience will never notice! And if they do, they’ll thank you for it.
- As bulbs burn out, replace them with LEDs or CFLs.
- Appoint a “Green Captain” in your offices and your casts. Choose someone who naturally looks out for things like recycling and energy saving initiatives and who finds joy in going the extra step to make our planet a healthier place to live.
- Try making the switch to rechargeable batteries. Though they are an initial investment, they’ll pay for themselves in no time when you don’t have to keep buying AAs and 9 volts for all of your sound equipment! The New York production of Wicked went from using 38 batteries every performance (15,808 per year) to using only 96 rechargeable batteries in a year! Elphaba isn’t the only thing that is green at the Gershwin!
- Purchase 100% recycled copy paper.
- Plug all of your desktop electronics into a power strip that you can switch off at the end of the day.
- Provide reusable dinnerware and flatware for your employees to use in break rooms. Then use plant based soaps to clean up.
- If you sell concessions or have events or office parties, offer food in biodegradable packaging, and use compostable cups and utensils. -Ruth
- As a gift to your employees (and a fab marketing and visibility tool) have cool custom water bottles made that your staff and board members can carry with them in place of plastic water bottles.
- Have a stash of branded coffee mugs on hand for guests to use when they visit your office or keep a collection of eclectic mugs in your break area to let the personality of your organization shine through.
- Have some green space at your theatre? Collect coffee grounds and other food waste to compost and use to fertilize your favorite perennials.
- For many more ideas, visit the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Theatre Greening Advisor.
This list could go on and on, and maybe you can keep it going. Have a sustainability meeting with your team and talk about a few easy, inexpensive ways to make a change in your theatres and homes. Don’t forget, before you buy equipment or materials, check the NJ Green Room to see if the Alliance or another theatre is able to provide you with you need. Together we can help keep the Garden State blooming for generations to come.
After seeing this video about how our tiny bits of plastic - pen caps, water bottle caps, milk carton tabs, etc.- end up in Midway Island in the North Pacific, are eaten by baby albatrosses and eventually kill them, I started paying attention to the packaging of the items I buy, and I now opt for cardboard cartons and boxes rather than plastic containers whenever possible--even if it means spending another dollar or two. And I make sure they go into a recycling bin, rather than a trash bin. - Ruth Zamoyta, Communications and Development Director