Going Green in the Theatre Industry


We see a lot of things going green these days: food, cars, banks, the White House... Here are some simple tips on helping make your carbon footprint smaller during your next theatre venture. Every little bit helps! And a bonus is that often times these things are green and they save you money on your budget!

1.The 3 R's- Reduce, Re-use, Recycle
I see a lot of people throw their sets away after a production. Not only does this seem silly to me because of the money you're spending but it seems to me there are some other ways that sets can be used. Wood is a recyclable product. You can find out more about Hong Kong's recycling programs here. Re-usable products shouldn't be sent to the dump. They should be sent to a recycling center. Used furniture can always find a new home as a set via Asiaexpat or Geoexpat. Small everyday props are also easily found on sites like these. You can also sell your set to someone after your show closes. Saves you on transport- and a newbie to Hong Kong gets a new couch!

For shows needing a lot of liquor bottles, I have found the bars in LKF to be quite giving in their empties. Just sterilize them before giving them to actors and recycle them at the end of the run! Organic paints are available as an alternative to paints that have a high chemical content. These are also great for people who are having to paint their sets in small enclosed areas as the fumes aren't nearly as bad.

2. Go Paperless
We don't need a fancy 5 page program with color headshots and bios. Trust me, we know who most of you are and we'd rather see the money spent elsewhere. Go recycled paper with soy based ink and you'll save a lot, both money and waste wise. You can also ask people to recycle their programs at the end of the night. About 50% of your audience will.  If doing a classical play, many plays are available for free on Ipads or Kindles for cast members who are now wanting to go digital in rehearsals.

You could even go paperless in your ticketing if you're using an independent venue. Many venues are using digital scans these days and allowing audience members to bring their tickets in via smartphones. HKticketing and URBTIX do not support paperless ticketing at this time but I hope it will come to Hong Kong soon as an option. Ticketflap, Eventbrite, Brown Paper Ticketing and Ticketing Over are all paperless ticketing companies that serve Hong Kong.

3. Beg/Borrow/Steal
We've already talked about it in the scenery department but you should be able to beg/borrow/steal your way through the costuming department of a production. Once again, online forums are a great way to find a specific piece. Clothes swaps are also a great way to trade costume pieces that you may never wear again.

4. Grotowski is Green
If all else fails, go "Grotowski" in your scenic and props designs. Save money and re-use those classic scenery pieces that never go out of style - black boxes, ladders, benches, tables, chairs, and fabrics. A Grotowski styled set is a worthy investment for all companies as you can use it on many different shows and as rehearsal furniture.

5. Lighting smartly
Knowing what a lamp is capable of is a very good thing to know. Sometimes you can get the same effect with less lamps and thus save power. This is more of a venue thing than an independent company thing but I think we should be aware of how much electricity we're using. Unplug all lamps that aren't being used because they draw power whether they're turned on or not. An example of smart green lighting is using a scoop for down light as compared to a parcan. They are better built for that type of lighting and have a lower wattage. A smart lighting designer knows which lamps are best for which jobs.

You can find more about going green in the theatre business from the Organic Theatre. Don't forget another part of going organic in the arts is buying local - supporting local artists creates a smaller carbon footprint for you as an audience member. We don't need to ship in a huge set or actors from overseas. Talk about a huge savings in fossil fuels! (And, as a bonus, the tickets are usually cheaper...)

Related articles:

green, hongkong, theatre


  • Charlotte
    09 October 2012

    Great article. We are wasteful in our industry. If I see someone buy an ikea chair and throw it out I might scream.
  • Sara
    07 February 2014

    Thank you for bringing this up! Let's start being more conscious of how much goes to waste at the end of show week. I often see sets and props getting trashed for the reason that "we don't have storage for it".

    I would also like to add one more thing under the paperless category. It would be great if we can cut down on the amount of flyers we print and waste. I personally don't keep any flyers anybody gives me. I actually pay more attention to publicity online than offline. Let's focus on boosting online presence instead. I'm sure you'd appreciate not running back and forth between the printer's and various ticketing outlets all across the city!
  • Nicole Garbellini
    24 February 2014

    Tell me about it! Have you ever wondered why we have such minimal sets for our productions? Because we don't want to throw anything away. Lesson learned during Six Characters In Search Of An Author. The set bought and brand new was literally tossed after a week. I swore myself never again!
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