Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Is That a Rainforest on Your Stage?

Thanks to the 40 theatres that participated in Childsplay’s sustainable materials survey through the Production Managers Forum. As promised, here are the results:

Is there a rainforest on your stage?

The majority of respondents (20 theatres) purchase 100-500 sheets of luan plywood per year…that’s roughly 75,000 linear feet of wood that is sourced primarily from tropical rain forests. If only 20 theatres are using 75,000 linear feet, imagine how much our entire industry consumes on an annual basis!

Pitch it? Recycle it? Repaint it for the next show?

58% of participants throw away most or all of their scenic material at strike. At our summit, most shops estimated filling at least one large container per strike…added together, that’s quite a landfill.

Not surprisingly, the most common reasons for not saving materials are lack of storage space and the labor costs associated with dismantling/moving materials. Time, people, money…

Of those theatres that send materials to external recyclers, steel and aluminum are far and away the most common choices. Steel and wood are the materials most frequently saved for re-use.

What positive steps is the industry already taking?

30% of participants are already researching or implementing “green” material alternatives: using MDF in place of luan wherever possible, looking for less toxic materials, etc.

66% of participants report re-using at least some stock pieces – cost-saving and sustainable!

What more can we do?
50% of participants would be willing to budget 5-10% more to purchase sustainable materials.

55% of participants would partner with other theatres for bulk purchasing of sustainable materials; another 42% would consider it for specific projects.

Childsplay and the Global Institute of Sustainability (GIOS) team are working with at least one manufacturer on developing a sustainable alternative to luan. We will report back with more information about cost, minimum purchases, etc.

Less than 20% of participants recycle wood during a strike. There is a common mis-perception that the wood and steel from flats cannot be recycled unless they are dismantled and stripped of hardware. At our first Sustainable Stagecraft Summit, we learned from a regional recycler that not only could we recycle our flats without completely dismantling them, but also that many recyclers will actually send a container to your theater at strike, reducing both labor and transportation costs. You might even get a few dollars back!

Childsplay and the GIOS team are working with regional recyclers to develop an updated list of the materials that are eligible for recycling and, hopefully, with a national database of recyclers to help theatres find a local center that will recycle their sets.

-- Jenny Millinger, Childsplay


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