Theatre Community Launches "Broadway Goes Green" Initiative

By Adam Hetrick
November 25, 2008

The Broadway theatre community has outlined a series of goals as part of a new environmental initiative, "Broadway Goes Green," which hopes to "to reduce Broadway's carbon footprint, adopt environmentally sustainable practices and promote environmental awareness in the creation and presentation of Broadway shows."

In partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council and the support of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the initiative will target all aspects of the theatre industry: from producers, theatre owners, designers and managers to design shops and more.

"This initiative and this commitment brings together the entire Broadway community. We've established three committees and they have begun practice and the adoption of better practices as the first step of an ongoing process in making Broadway greener. More task forces will be developed as more people get involved," said Broadway League executive director Charlotte St. Martin in a statement.

On hand for the Nov. 25 announcement at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre were Nina Lannan, Chair of the Broadway League and David Stone, producer of Wicked, as well as green characters from Broadway, including Elphaba from Wicked, Nicky the green puppet from Avenue Q and Frank from Young Frankenstein. The event also featured a new song from Nell Benjamin and Seth Rudetsky about the greening of Broadway.

"I'd always believed that the environmental movement didn't require my attention and was being handled by professionals and activists, until I saw 'An Inconvenient Truth,'" added Wicked producer Stone. "I decided that night to challenge all of the companies of Wicked across North America to take a stand to protect our planet. I urge every show, theatre, union and vendor to support Broadway's commitment to this very important plan to reduce individual consumption as well as the industry's collective carbon footprint."

"Broadway Goes Green" will focus on sustainable practices for theatre venue operations, day-to-day running of shows and the creation of shows from concept to stage. The practices include greener alternatives for new shows from the initial design stage to the disposition of scenery at the close of production, ultimately reducing the environmental impact of sets, costumes, lighting and transportation. Also in the works is a carbon impact inventory for each theatre so that goals can be set to reduce emissions, including the conversion of all exterior theatre marquee lights to more efficient bulbs.

The industry, it should be noted, has already begun its effort in this greener direction:

  • Playbill Magazine is working with NRDC to enhance their environmental practices, which are already extensive, and will be supporting the initiative by periodically reporting on the "Broadway Goes Green" efforts and regularly printing theatre related eco-tips in Playbill Magazine throughout the year.

  • Wicked has reviewed and revised its behind-the-scenes production activity to adopt greener practices.

  • Out of 39 Broadway theatres, ten have already replaced their marquee lights with more efficient lighting and an additional 14 conversions are underway. To date, over 10,000 exterior and interior bulbs have already been changed.

  • Production shops are offering environmentally preferable materials and are developing plans to recycle or reuse scenery.

  • Costumes are being washed in cold water whenever feasible.

  • Re-chargeable batteries are used in sound equipment whenever possible.

  • Many touring shows are offsetting the carbon emissions from transporting their equipment through investments in renewal energy and have purchased nearly 1,900 tons of offsets through the Touring Green program.

    Newly launched is GreenBroadway.com, which includes links to environmental resources and further information on Broadway's sustainable practices.