Earth Day this year occurs in a world more aware and concerned about the environment and our effect on it. World leaders met recently in Paris to create real goals on curbing emissions. President Obama and others have called our generation the first to understand climate change and the last generation to be able to do something about it. The pope got into the game with an encyclical explaining that concern for the environment is a moral necessity. At the Oscars, Leonardo DiCaprio inserted climate change into his long-awaited speech.
It’s clear that we are starting to get the message. So, what can we do?
At the Broadway Green Alliance – the seven-year-old industry initiative that educates, motivates, and inspires the entire theatre community and its patrons to adopt environmentally friendlier practices – we have ideas drawn from the work of our colleagues.
First, the arts often are at the forefront of social change. Artists observe social conditions through a unique perspective. Importantly, arts can help change the culture by showing our audiences, fans, and friends that caring about our footprint is vitally important.
A scientist from the American Museum of Natural History recently said he was not worried about the survival of the planet Earth as the planet is strong and resourceful. He is worried about the survival of the human species on the planet, a species which needs a very particular environment in order to survive.
Second, climate change is not the result of one big problem, but rather the cumulative effect of billions of small actions. Progress must come from millions of us doing a bit better, getting a bit greener every day. Start wherever you are and take one step. Today.
Of course, musicians all around the world have found their own ways to contribute. Willie Nelson formed a company that produces his own brand of biodiesel called “BioWillie” (made from soybeans); the Dave Matthews Band has donated over $8 million to environmental organizations; Jason Mraz has a foundation that supports environmental protection programs; and Neil Young wrote a song about banning fracking. Then there’s the nonprofit Reverb that helps musicians like Radiohead, Maroon 5 and Phish tour in a greener way by sourcing food from local farms, providing compostable containers at their shows and purchasing carbon offsets to compensate for all of the miles they travel by truck and airplane.
But what can a Broadway musician do to get greener? Here are some ideas:
1. Meet or become a Green Captain. The BGA has a volunteer Green Captain at every show on Broadway, at 63 Off Broadway shows and companies, and at dozens of regional and college theaters as well as at many theatrical unions. If you’re a theatre musician and want to know who your show’s Green Captain is, contact Local 802 Green Captain Marisa Friedman (212-245-4802 ext 130, firstname.lastname@example.org) or e-mail Green@Broadway.org.
Your Green Captains are doing their best to work with musicians, cast and crew to become as green as possible. They will let everyone know when the BGA’s textile and electronics recycling drives are, explain the theatre’s post-collection sorting, and post items of green interest on the callboard. And if your show or venue doesn’t have a Green Captain yet, you should become one. It’s easy!
2. String us along. One thing your show’s Green Captain may be doing is collecting guitar strings for our popular guitar string bracelet project. Green Captains bring us used guitar strings from Broadway musicians, and we send them to the nonprofit Wear Your Music, which takes each guitar string, adds a silver closure and turns it into a bracelet. These are put into lovely boxes and sold during the fall and spring Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS donation periods. Guitar strings may be small but, according to string manufacturer D’Addario, up to 1.5 million pounds of strings end up in landfills every year. That’s why D’Addario now accepts all kinds of strings for recycling. To recycle strings, you mail them to the company and receive points based on their weight, which can be redeemed for new strings, guitar picks and other accessories. Or you can donate the points to the D’Addario Foundation, which funds music programs in underserved communities.
3. Make your water green. Purchase and use a re-usable water bottle so you never have to buy a plastic bottle. Nearly all Broadway theaters have filtration systems or water coolers where you can refill. Get a reusable bag and say no thanks to plastic bags throughout your day. Try to buy used, in bulk or recycled when you do need to make a purchase. You might even want to try a reusable coffee mug, utensils or napkins. Check out BroadwayGreen.com for more ideas.
4. Make some noise. Talk to your colleagues and friends about how you are getting greener and how they can too. Want to get involved with the Broadway Green Alliance? Add your voice to the musicians concerned about the earth. The Cooper Union recently held an event for musicians, artists, poets, and scientists to share their perspectives on a holistic path toward protecting our planet. Join other concerned artists and make your voice heard.
5. Turn it off. Remember to turn off lights and other electronics when not in use, including chargers that still draw energy when plugged in. When our Green Captain for “Les Misérables” heard that the pit fan there had been running continuously for weeks (or years?), she took action and got it changed. See if you can find some easily changed wasteful practice in your home or work.
6. Lighten up! Clean out your apartment (or your parents’ apartment!) and bring us your old stuff for our next recycling drive. We collect textiles, shoes, corks, small electronics, cell phones, iPods and vases for re-use and recycling. We even accept flowers for composting. If you have a bunch of old binders that you keep your sheet music in, we offer a free binder exchange. You can get a whole list of what we collect at BroadwayGreen.com – just search “collections.”
Start today and find one greener thing to do. It is habit-forming.
Rebekah Sale is the coordinator of the Broadway Green Alliance.