Climate change on the stage: N.L. theatre companies working to address carbon footprint

They are far from the biggest polluters, but theatre companies in Newfoundland and Labrador are thinking about their carbon footprint.

“It’s a new lens we’re applying to our work,” Patrick Foran, chair of the Association of Professional Theatres of Newfoundland and Labrador told the St. John’s Morning Show. 

Carbon footprints and climate change was the subject of a workshop hosted by the Association of Professional Theatres. The discussion was led by Sarah Garton Stanley, one of the co-curators of a climate change project led by the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.

“I think in Canada, institutions are just at the beginning of determining what policies they can bring forward for sustainable creativity,” Garton Stanley said. ” And practice within major buildings, from heating, to plastics use, to materials used for set building.”

Garton Stanley said one of the biggest carbon emitters in the theatre world is travel.

Performing on an island like Newfoundland, Foran said, can make managing carbon emissions tough, but work can be done to reduce the carbon footprint.

“There’s a couple things we can do so we can minimize that travel as much as possible,” Foran said. 

“Try and make it continuous so there’s not a lot of toing and froing … hopping from one city to the next, to the next.”

Foran has also looked into carbon offsets, paying an extra fee when travelling to offset the cost of emissions released while travelling on an airplane.

Sarah Garton Stanley is the co-curator of a climate change project led by the National Art Centre in Ottawa. She met with members of Artistic Fraud digitally, rather than travelling. (Submitted by Patrick Foran)

Garton Stanley said discussions like the one in St. John’s are happening across Canada with the hope of finding different ways to tackle climate change. One example comes in trying to do more things digitally in an effort to reduce emissions during a commute.

“There’s so many new ways to think about how to do things,” Garton Stanley said.

“We’re sort of looking at the different ways of thinking about how we make the work, rather than just getting on planes [and] trains.”

Garton Stanley said solutions will come with teamwork and collaboration. She points to the work done by Newfoundlanders during the recent blizzard as an example of community and interdependence.

“For me, it opens up an idea about commons and how we can help one another in different ways, as we’re looking at climate change,” Garton Stanley said.

“Sometimes we think about climate change, and it’s a bit overwhelming,” Foran adds.

“It’s wrapped up in terms like ‘crisis’ and ‘disaster’. We see major weather systems, but at the same time, there are little stories of hope that come from adaptation and this sort of community resiliency.”

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