Making the Theatre Community Greener

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  • Sarah Gordin

The Broadway Green Alliance (BGA) is an incredibly important organization that works within the theatre community to adopt environmentally friendly practices. BGA has been around for the past ten years, having just celebrated its decade birthday. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak to Alice Stevenson, the Assistant Director of the BGA, about the organization and all that it does for theatre communities, not just in New York City, but across the country.

SG: How did BGA begin?

AS: The organization began when the Producer of “Wicked,” David Stone, became very involved in the environmental movement. He wanted to create change quickly and hosted a Town Hall at the Gershwin Theatre, where over 250 people in the industry interested in these topics showed up. One thing that everyone noticed was that people were doing things in the theatre community surrounding sustainability on their own. However, this Town Hall proved the need for a central organization that would help share knowledge and connect people who were doing the work already. That was when the Broadway Green Alliance (BGA) was born, and so we are an ad hoc committee of the Broadway League and now a visceral program of Broadway Cares. Additionally, BGA has the Natural Resources Defense Council as our environmental advisor. Before we do any dramatic project that we hope will reduce our environmental impact, we make sure to run it by them.

SG: What is the Mission Statement of the Broadway Green Alliance?

AS: Our actual mission statement is to educate, inspire and motivate the entire theatre community to implement environmentally-friendly practices. In more simple terms, we operate at the intersection of theatre and sustainability, so we do pretty much everything in that overlap whether that is helping people backstage to recycle better, making sure that the most energy-efficient lighting is being used, or educating cast and companies on environmental issues. We really try and act as a resource, so if anyone has any questions, we can be that central hub of information.

What do your volunteers do for the organization?

AS: We are very reliant on our amazing and passionate volunteers as the majority of our work gets done through them. We have our Green Captain Program, which is comprised of all volunteers. This program started out only for Broadway shows but has expanded to touring productions, touring venues, regional theatres, and college theatre programs. The Green Captain program involves having a representative on every show that we work with to get information out to the cast and crew. We have one liaison for every Broadway and Off-Broadway venue. The Green Captain also work backstage to help their companies become more environmentally-friendly. There is no specific obligation for the Green Captains as this serves as a kind of passion project for a lot of them. We also have several committees comprised of volunteers.

SG: How did you get involved in the Broadway Green Alliance?

AS: I started with BGA two years ago after graduating from Colombia with an MFA in Environmental Sustainability. I was always extremely interested in theatre but did not have a theatre background. I was excited to see that there was a way to combine theatre and my actual academic background. Everyone that we work with is very involved in theatre and I have been learning a lot from them.

SG: What is your favorite thing about BGA?

AS: My favorite thing about BGA are the people who are involved. One of our main principles at the BGA is that there is no way to be one hundred percent green… you can only be greener and the little things that we do in our daily lives make such a big difference. Seeing the volunteers taking little steps and then seeing the actual massive impact that they have is just so inspiring and gives me hope.

SG: What are some things that BGA has done in the past ten years that you are really proud of?

AS: “Wicked” used to use disposable batteries. In a year, they would have used over 15,000 batteries because they would replace them every show so they wouldn’t give out in the middle of the show. When they switched to rechargeable batteries, they now only go through 96 batteries a year which is crazy. This is common practice now in the theatre community so that is a huge waste reduction. Another thing that BGA has done is BGA members switched all the marquee lights on Broadway to energy efficient lights (CFLs or LEDs). This reduced over 7,000 tons of CO2 emissions at Broadway Theatres. Additionally, the BGA does two collection drives a year: for waste and for textiles in Times Square. These drives are for anyone in the community.

SG: How would someone who wants to volunteer get involved in BGA?

AS: A volunteer can get involved by going to the website. If you are on a show or working in the theatre industry, literally anything, we love having green captains. We have green captain kits that we send along which are pretty much a list of practices to implement no matter what theatre you’re involved in. We have over 300 students in colleges involved across the country.

SG: What are your plans for the future?

AS: While we have been around for a decade, we are still a relatively new organization. We are excited to see the BGA become more ingrained in the theatre community and for people to be more aware of what our members are doing. We would love BGA to be even more involved in the theatre community across the country. The actual environmental footprint of the theatre community is relatively small. There is a significant amount of waste from the theatre community but other than that, we don’t make a huge carbon footprint on the country. The actual cultural influence of Broadway and the theatre community is so massive and so far-reaching that there is so much opportunity for environmental education when you think of how many people attend shows.

To get involved or to learn more about The Broadway Green Alliance, go to https://www.broadwaygreen.com/.