The 50 Shades of Green Conference: GAI Exchange Room

30th October 2015

The 50 Shades of Green conference in October was an interactive event for (and by) the green arts community. Our GAI exchange room focused on how the arts can promote wider engagement - with artists, audiences and staff members.

The arts often reflect and challenge the society they exist within, and the sector has a wealth of experience in engaging those it works with on a whole range of issues. The GAI Exchange Room heard from three members of our Green Arts Initiative as to how they had explored engaging their various stakeholders in environmental sustainability.

Summaries of the presentations of each of our speakers can be found below:

Martin Latham, Aberdeen Performing Arts: Engaging Staff in Sustainability

Mark Latham of APA kicked us off with a run through of the theatre’s green team and how it functions. He explained some of the green team’s fundamental features:

  • Only one member of staff from each department can join to ensure equal representation across the 300 staffed organisation
  • They meet every 2 months
  • Anything can be added to the agenda by any of its member
  • They review their policies (which includes monitoring and reducing energy and water usage and waste production) annually

Some successful initiatives have included

  • BINWATCH, saving money by keeping an eye on how full the bins are for collection and also keeping track of waste outputs according to what’s on at the APA venues.
  • Power down policy: successfully engaging staff to turn off appliances both in the office and at home, having double the impact

The green team have ensured the credibility of their decisions be ensuring that their meeting minutes are reviewed at board meetings. Martin emphasised the benefit of this in reducing the space between different levels within the organisation – “Housekeeping now has a direct line of communication to the board”.

Donald Smith, Scottish International Storytelling Festival: Engaging Audiences in Sustainability

Donald gave us a different angle on the connections between creativity and environmental crisis, suggesting the two might be more linked than we think. He questioned whether we are at a tipping point both in terms of how we experience culture and how we inhabit the planet. Suggesting, with a twinkle in his eye, that gardening might be the new art form for the 21st century – as an activity which binds creativity and our wider ecosystems – he advocated a more open and more participatory view of culture that involved audiences in its making with the potential to connected participants with the natural environment.

Barry Church-Woods, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Barry provided an overview of some of the initiatives instigated by the Edinburgh Fringe to engage artists and audiences in environmental sustainability when participating in or attending the summer festival. He highlighted the influencing role that an organisation such as the Fringe can play, when working with such a large number of visiting companies (3000+ shows this August), to highlight creative opportunities for more resourceful practices. Examples included the Fringe Sustainable Practice Guide, the Swap Shop for unwanted props and materials to be re-used/upcycled, and the Fringe Sustainable Practice Award which celebrates innovative practice.

50 Shades of Green: Stories of Sustainability in the Arts Sector took place on 6 October 2015 at the Pearce Institute in Glasgow. It was Creative Carbon Scotland’s first conference for green arts organisations working to affect their environmental sustainability. A copy of the programme for the event can be found here.

To become part of the Scottish green arts community, and to hear more about events like 50 Shades of Green (as well as our other free training sessions and resources), sign up to the Green Arts Initiative.


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A project initiated by Edinburgh’s Festivals with key partners the Federation of Scottish Theatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network

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