GO GREEN: “Sustainability is important to me, not just as a musician, but as a human being. We have a responsibility to look after our planet. Ideas for musicians: read music from digital devices instead of printing music on paper. Use water bottles and mugs instead of disposables. Recycle everything, including guitar strings. It is crucial we make changes like this now!”
-Carmel Dean, Local 802 member and Green Captain.
See www.BroadwayGreen.com for more information and how to get involved.
How do you make the theatre more green? When a group of Broadway professionals came together in 2008 to share success stories about how they made their shows more environmentally sustainable, they brought together venues, productions, unions and others, and sought to have at least one person at each serve as a point person. Using the example of union deputies and stewards, the Broadway Green Alliance created the “Green Captain” program. Today, the alliance is a solid group of theatre professionals, students, and fans working to make theatre “greener,” and our Green Captains are now everywhere!
The Broadway Green Alliance has a Green Captain at every Broadway production, at over 45 Off Broadway companies and venues, at every major theatrical union, and at dozens of regional and college theatres throughout the country. Being a Green Captain is great work and it feels good – this season alone we have five former Green Captains serving again on their current shows.
Volunteer Green Captains come from all aspects of productions. Among their ranks are musicians, music directors, stagehands, stage managers, dressers, and actors, including high-profile stars like Bryan Cranston, Alan Cumming, Hugh Dancy, Blythe Danner, Brian D’Arcy James, Rachel Dratch, Michael C. Hall, Harriet Harris, Carol Kane, Judy Kuhn, Audra McDonald, Chris O’Dowd, Sophie Okonedo, Nancy Opel, Anthony Rapp, Keith Reddin, David Strathairn and Ruth Wilson. Anyone in a production can volunteer.
The Broadway Green Alliance supports Green Captains in a variety of ways. We provide a welcome kit with resources, links and a checklist of greener practices to put in to place at their show. This list is always evolving as Green Captains add new ideas. It includes things like explaining the recycling program to cast and crew, making sure everyone has a reusable water bottle, and posting notices about our textile and electronic waste recycling drives. We gather Green Captains at quarterly meetings where we often present guest speakers on green issues. For example, reps from the two largest commercial trash haulers on Broadway have spoken to our group, giving them the inside scoop on what happens to the trash they pick up from Broadway theatres. (The good news is that all recyclable materials are separated out and recycled at a materials recovery facility.) And we send out a monthly e-newsletter to all of our Green Captains to keep them up to date on what we are doing, complete with news about how NYC is getting greener.
Green Captains themselves often also come up with new ways of spreading the message. Green Captain and Local 802 member Carmel Dean had the idea to turn Broadway musicians’ used guitar strings into bracelets when she saw the nonprofit Wear Your Music do the same with rock musicians’ old strings. Our Guitar String Bracelet project is now going strong at several Broadway shows; we recently worked with “If/Then,” “Once,” “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and “The Book of Mormon.” The entire cast then autographs the bracelet box. The guitar-string bracelets are on sale directly after the show, and all proceeds go to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. We’ve raised tens of thousands of dollars over the last four years.
Green Captains help rally their companies to gather textiles, electronic waste and other materials for recycling. They remind cast and crew members to turn off lights and unplug unused devices. Green Captains have helped shows switch to rechargeable batteries, and recycle old cast T-shirts and cleaning rags when the set is struck at the end of a show.
Some changes are more subtle, but have big effects. You’ve probably been to a play where the program includes a sheet of paper explaining that an understudy will be playing a role that night. These paper inserts are called “stuffer slips.” They can be printed in advance by a professional printer or printed as-needed by a show. If printed as-needed, it can save reams of paper and thousands of dollars a month.
Some of the creativity is truly inspiring. Green Captain Bethany Russell created individual kits for each member of the cast of her show “Mothers and Sons.” Each kit contained a mug, a set of utensils and a cloth napkin, thus cutting down on lunchtime plastic waste.
Green Captain John Carrafa from the stage directors and choregraphers’ union (SDC) was able to get his union’s executive board to issue a statement of support for the Broadway Green Alliance and encourage all of their union members to get involved.
Micah Stock, the Green Captain at “It’s Only a Play,” has shown up at every recycling drive with materials from his cast and crew for recycling.
Katherine McNamee, the company manager of “Phantom of the Opera” and longtime member of the Broadway Green Alliance, encouraged the company to recycle the show’s old vinyl ads into actual bags that she and Green Captain Satomi Hofmann handed out to cast and crew for its anniversary.
Finally, being a Green Captain is just plain fun. Jessica Lea Patty put it this way: “My two favorite things about being a Green Captain are working with the other captains, who are just as passionate about the cause as I am, and getting to share valuable information with the people in my company about the critical state our planet is in and what we can do to help.”
This Earth Day (April 22), let’s give a big thank you to all Green Captains past, present, and future for their enthusiasm and hard work, and for making the theatre a greener place.
Rebekah Sale is the coordinator of the Broadway Green Alliance.
GO GREEN AT YOUR BROADWAY SHOW
The following items are from the Broadway Green Alliance’s “Green Captain Checklist”
- Provide the use of mugs instead of disposable cups for water and coffee. Offer the use of reusable bottles instead of disposables for water bottles. (Suggest to your producers/general managers that water bottles with the show logo make a great first rehearsal gift!) Ensure that the cast and staff have labels for their water bottles and mugs, as well as access to natural or organic dish washing solution. Finally, make sure cast members know where their mugs and bottles are located in the theatre.
- Explain that RECYCLING IS MANDATORY and ensure that recycling bins are set up in convenient areas. Encourage the company to recycle their payroll envelopes – offer a place for company members to return their envelopes to company management.
- POST NOTICES by all light switches (especially in bathrooms) reminding people to turn off the lights when they leave a room – personalize these notices with your show logo!
- PRINT paperwork on either recycled paper or scrap paper, and use both sides whenever possible.
- Use TISSUES made with a high percentage of recycled content (go to NRDC.org/paper for a list of environmentally preferable tissue products).
- Use POWER STRIPS to make it easier to TURN OFF all computers, printers, sound systems and any other electronic equipment that you have in rehearsal at the end of the day.
- CONTROL the air conditioning that you need for rehearsal, and make sure it is turned off at the end of the day.
- Use CFLs instead of regular light bulbs wherever you can.
- Use rechargeable batteries whenever possible. If using regular batteries, give them away to company members if there’s any life left in them, or recycle them.
- Use environmentally-sound versions of paints, glues and solvents. Properly dispose of hazardous liquids, such as paint, paint thinners and glues.
- Use eco-friendly detergents (go to NRDC.org/greeningadvisor for a list of supplies). Wash clothes in cold water. Air-dry clothes whenever possible. Reuse old t-shirts as rags.
Musicians who want to learn more about making sure their gigs are green or who want to volunteer to be a Green Captain can contact Marisa Friedman, Local 802’s Green Captain, at Mfriedman@Local802afm.org or (212) 245-4802, ext. 130.
For all the info on the Broadway Green Alliance, see www.BroadwayGreen.com.
For some recycled crafts and tips, see the Broadway Green Alliance’s page on Pinterest, at www.pinterest.com/LaurelAnn/bga-crafts.