APDGreen Conversations – Imogen Ross

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” –Buckminster Fuller

This month’s green conversations have been with live performance designers Renee Mulder and Katja Handt about their choices to incorporate sustainability into their work. (Please see separate articles).

The full cycle of sustainability is understanding where our products are sourced from, what their layered, often complex impact on the environment is and where they can safely return to after use. Creatives are rising to the challenges with extraordinary ingenuity, innovating in materials. social, cultural and economic ways.

Now more than ever, designers need to keep environmental sustainability issues on their design tables, to make clear conscious choices about the materials and finishes we choose to use, and the safety of using these for others.

Production Designers and Art Departments can:

1.Discover small fixes that will make your productions greener by incorporating zero waste practices wherever possible. 

2. Suggest ways to introduce environmentally conscious practices into the design, execution and bump out process. 

3. Build for deconstruction and consider recyclable waste streams from the beginning

4. Prove that sustainability and imagination can intersect to promote new technologies, new materials, traditional techniques and great design.

5. Improve sustainable production practices by looking for ways to reuse materials for multiple productions, storing and maintaining costume and scenic stock.

6. Develop partnerships with film studios, TV production companies, local universities, high schools, and theatre organizations to share resources and recycle stock production materials whenever possible.

7. Replace old dimmer systems with contemporary systems and replace conventional lighting instruments with comparable LED instruments, resulting in fewer kilowatt hours used per production/event.

8. Explore how introducing sustainability into your production designs can save you and the company time and money.

These suggestions are not new, but unless we as designers actively champion them, tight budgets and timeframes will always push environmental concerns down the list of importance.

The impact of COVID19 on our industry goes beyond the obvious health and financial implications. The need to regularly wash hands, wipe and disinfect surfaces, keep safe distances between people on set and in theatres and stop construction teams from sharing tools will substantially increase our industry’s reliance on single-use disposable products on sets, in the art department, in wardrobes and backstage. 

In the next newsletter, APDGreen Conversation will focus on costume design and wardrobe practices, to ask production designers and wardrobe coordinators what are the current best practises they are implementing to reduce their production’s carbon footprint. 

Please get in contact before August 9th if there are environmentally conscious construction methods, alternative textiles, materials and new technologies we can promote to our members. We also want to know how COVID19 may be impacting on your sustainability choices and ways to solve this.

If you have ideas you wish to share or discuss, website links, sustainability articles relating to production design and personal stories of how you or your department has shifted studio / production practises, please send an email to Imogen at apdgreenConversation@gmail.com and keep these conversations going.

Useful Websites:

FSC certified wood in construction: https://au.fsc.org/en-au/buy-fsc-certified/10-reasons-to-choose-fsc

Polystyrene waste: http://www.polystyrenereforming.com.au/recycling/, https://is-recycling.com.au/

Sustainable alternatives to polystyrene: mushroom poly alternatives, & Caneite (sugarcane board)

Environmentally friendly paints:

https://www.architectureanddesign.com.au/features/product-in-focus/five-of-australia-s-best-low-or-zero-voc-paint-pro, https://renew.org.au/renew-magazine/buyers-guides/an-eco-paint-buyers-guide/

Scenery Re-Use ideas (USA): https://propspropsprops.com/listing/scenery-salvage/

Props Hire: http://www.propco.com.au/cgi-bin/Catalogue

Recycle/reuse centers: https://recyclingnearyou.com.au/community-recycling-initiatives/

E-Waste E-waste recycling drop-off points | Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, Australian Government]

Lighting – http://www.sustainablepractice.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Green-Guide.pdf

Creative Industries Pact [Green Spark]: https://creativeindustriespact.com/




Broadway Green Alliance http://www.broadwaygreen.com/

The Center for Sustainable Practice and the Arts http://www.sustainablepractice.org/

Earth Matters on Stage https://www.earthmattersonstage.com/

The Green Theatre http://www.thegreentheater.org/the-green-theatre-or-teaching-sustainabl…

Sustainable Theatre Reading:


Arons, Wendy and Theresa J. May. Readings in Performance and Ecology. Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

Fried, Larry K. and May, Theresa J. Greening Up Our Houses: A Guide to a More Ecologically Sound Theatre. Drama Pub, 1994.

Jones, Ellen. A Practical Guide to Greener Theatre: Introduce Sustainability Into Your Productions. Taylor & Francis, 2013.

Lavery, Carl. Performance and Ecology: What Can Theatre Do?. Focal Press, 2018.