Turn on the Green: How to Make Your Production Eco-Friendly 

Jeremy Karafin 

For most small theater companies, being eco-friendly is not some liberal/luxury concept Ė itís a necessary part of who they are.  Hundreds of plays are presented throughout New York City on miniscule budgets with which the possibility of purchasing new scenic items or renting more lights than already exist at their theater is simply not a possibility for them.  The basic eco-friendly practice of utilizing found and discarded items has been built into the Off-Off-Broadway theater movement since its beginnings and is to this day a small theater company survival skill.

For this reason alone, small theater company producers have an ingrained appreciation for general green theater practices regardless of whether or not they realize it!  Itís easy to make the eco-choice when the savings are obvious. The real challenge for small and growing theater companies comes when the eco-friendly option may actually cost a little more.

But letís be honest: regardless of how eco-friendly you try to be, the process of producing theater will leave behind a carbon footprint of some kind, considering that theater lights use a ton of electricity, scripts will require printing, and the process of building a set and costumes will almost always leave behind at least some scrap wood and material that will never be re-usable. This should present all theater companies with an existential exploration of their true goals with their productions and to what degree being eco-friendly helps fulfill those goals.

Here are the Wild Projectís tips for greening your productions:

  1. When deciding with your company how eco-friendly you will be, specify how much more money and time your company is willing and able to spend.
  2. When you can spend money, invest in long-term infrastructure, good quality items that you can use for future friendly productions as well.
  3. Embrace minimalism in your productions! The upcoming production of Goliath (Poetic Theater Productions presents at Wild Project May 23-June 3) was previously in the Planet Connections Theater Festivity in 2011, a festival celebrating eco-friendly theater. The Production uses three milk crates and a copy of The New York Times as the entire set, and the costumes are real military uniforms. This minimalist production was awarded Outstanding Production of a New Play, Outstanding Direction, Outstanding Ensemble, and the Planet Activist Award. Minimalism can be a very effective form of theater!

    Photo from production of Goliath at Wild Project.  Photo Credit: Jonathan Weiskopf

  4. Always respect the theater space you occupy. That means keep it clean! Iím convinced that the cast, crew and audiences alike treat a theater more kindly if its clean when they arrive. This means less wear and tear on the space, less building maintenance and less waste.

When considering which theater to rent for your next production, ask the theater what efforts they have taken to be eco-friendly.

Questions to ask a theater:

  1. Do they use any renewable energy sources? Technology isnít quite there yet for it to make sense to run theater lights utilizing only the energy generated from solar panels, but that doesnít mean that you canít run the rest of your electricity using them. At Wild Project, we have two solar panels on our roof that power the majority of the theaterís electrical needs. We also have a skylight above the stage to take advantage of the sunís natural light instead of turning on the work lights.
  2. Does the building make any effort to decrease water usage? At Wild Project, all toilets in the lobby bathrooms and the dressing room bathrooms are outfitted with Water-Saving Dual-function handles to reduce water waste.
  3. Does the theater provide eco-friendly products?  Wild Project purchases toilet paper and paper towels made from recycled paper. The recycled items tend to cost just slightly more than the non-recycled versions, but that is a worthwhile expense to decrease our carbon footprint. For theaters looking to purchase eco-friendly items look at Marcal, Greenstripe, and Sustainable Earth products.
  4. Does the theater have a green roof? Roof gardens help the local ecology and act as effective insulation, lowering air condition costs in the summer and heating costs during the winter. As an extra bonus, a roof garden provides an amazing environment to take a break from the busy theater world on occasion and read a book. Check out photos of our roof garden, solar panels, sun light and more. Every theater company faces their own challenges and opportunities at becoming more eco-friendly, but the ingrained relationship between Off-Off-Broadway and eco-friendly practices is natural and will continue to develop.

We hope that our efforts to minimize our carbon footprint inspire other theater companies and theater spaces to do the same. And if you canít make it to one of our upcoming performances, email me at Jeremy@thewildproject.com if youíd like to come by for a site visit to see the theater first hand!

Upcoming at the Wild Project:

Goliath May 23-June 3
Wed-Sat @ 7pm, Sun @ 3pm +
Special Memorial Day Performance:
Monday May 28 @ 7pm
Underground May 23-June 3
Wed-Sat @ 9pm, Sun @ 5pm
Recall June 8-July 7
Previews: June 8-11 Opening Night: June 12

Other Greening tips from our Guest Bloggers:


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