Origins of the Greening Venues Pilot Project
The aim of this pilot project was to support venues and arts centres wishing to reduce their environmental impacts. Organisations that wanted to take part were asked to submit an expression of interest outlining why they wished to ‘Green’ their venue. Each participating organisation was asked to contribute €500 towards the cost of the audit, with the remaining costs being subsidised by Theatre Forum and Catríona Fallon.
Seven venues were selected to take part: Pavilion in Dun Laoghaire, Town Hall Theatre and An Taibhdhearc in Galway, Axis in Ballymun, VISUAL in Carlow, Belltable in Limerick and Hawk’s Well Theatre in Sligo. Engagement with the venues began in April of 2020, but the Covid-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the rollout, slowing down access to data for the venues and prolonging the project into 2022. One venue, the Taibhdhearc, was not in a position to complete the full project, but did submit energy and other data.
There was great enthusiasm from all of the venues to develop more sustainable ways of running their buildings and reducing their carbon footprint. All of the participating venues had addressed their environmental impacts to some degree, and a number had already created ‘Green Teams’. However, venues pointed out the real challenge of addressing climate change in their organisations without additional resources in terms of staffing, training, and additional finance.
We sought and measured data across the following headings:
- Energy Usage – Heating & Cooling
- Energy Usage – Electricity
- Energy Usage – Efficiencies / Awareness
- Waste and Waste Management
- Water Usage
We also gathered information on:
- Suppliers and Procurement
- Travel & Transport: Business Travel/Touring
- Travel – Staff Commuting & Audiences
- Organisational and Community Engagement on Environmental Issues
- Climate Adaptation
A key output was the the calculation of the carbon footprint of energy usage of all seven venues. Not all venues had data for waste so this could only be calculated for four venues.
Energy usage varied hugely between venues. This was not always directly related to the size of the venue, but the complexity of their activity and overall activity levels.
- The venue with the largest carbon footprint hit the scales at 210 tonnes in 2018.
- The venue with the smallest carbon footprint was less than a tenth of that, at 18 tonnes of CO2e in 2019.
- The energy carbon footprint of two of the venues represented over 60% of the total in both 2018 and 2019.
- There was a reduction in the energy carbon footprint of almost 8% in 2019 when compared with 2018. Much of this was connected to the decarbonisation of the Irish electricity grid.
Finding: If we really want to reduce our carbon emissions, reducing energy derived from fossil fuels has to be our main focus. Addressing waste is certainly important but plays a much smaller role in our carbon footprint (see below for further details on findings re. waste.)
ENERGY – HEATING & COOLING
Addressing heating and cooling is the biggest issue for the participating venues. All but one of the venues is heated using gas, one is heated using oil.
Five of the seven venues have difficulties in managing the heating and/or cooling of their buildings. The fabric of five out of the seven buildings is not conducive to comfortable temperatures. In spite of the high energy use in these buildings, most of the heating and cooling is deemed to be inadequate (ie. Too hot in summer, too cold in winter). In many cases the Building Management System is not operating correctly and is very dependent on human intervention, ie, ongoing tweaking and monitoring by technical staff. Inadequate zoning for heating is also an issue.
Venues with a lot of glass really struggle to cool their buildings in hot weather and most of the participating venues will have difficulty coping with increased temperatures in the years ahead.
ENERGY – ELECTRICITY
The ongoing decarbonisation of the national grid is supporting the lowering of carbon emissions associated with electricity in the arts organisations surveyed. Increased deployment of LED lighting, installation of more efficient equipment, and behavioural changes are also contributing to reduced electricity usage. All venues bar one had a night meter as well as daytime metering – though none knew why! None of the participating venues had availed of renewable energy technologies such as Solar PV panels or heat pumps.
All participating organisations had moved at least some of their building lighting to LED, two had completely converted. There was also evidence of increased acceptance of LED stage lighting. Only one venue had no LED stage lamps, and one had 37% LEDs in their lighting rig. There is less aversion to LED stage lamps than was current six year ago, but this technology is still viewed as not being suitable for contemporary drama and dance events. The longevity of the lamps and the costs and environmental impacts of replacing a whole rig were of concern to many. However, those surveyed felt the technology was constantly improving.
Only four of the seven venues were able to provide full data on waste. The other three did not have data on the amount of waste produced in the different categories – a key tool for establishing a baseline and reduction targets for waste. Waste provided between 2.3% and 5.2% of the total carbon footprint for these venues in 2018 and 2019. The venue with the largest waste footprint generated 10.5 tonnes of waste related CO2 in 2018. The smallest waste footprint generated less than half a tonne.
None of the venues in the pilot project separated out their compostable food waste in 2018, but one venue introduced that category in 2019 and others have followed suit in the intervening years.
All of the participating venues had taken steps to reduce paper waste:
- Reducing the number of printed brochures and promotional material
- Sending invoices and contracts electronically and
- Using email rather than printed mail by post for corresondence.
The key issues which emerged were:
- The amount of waste associated with incoming companies (particularly large local groups – stage schools, schools, pantomime groups)
- How to avoid using disposable plastic cups in the bar
- Getting compliance from other building users regarding good waste segregation
- The use of compostable cups without a brown bin in which to dispose of them was another issue – compostable cups must be disposed of where they can be processed in an industrial composting unit.
Only two of the venues had introduced any water conservation measures. This was an area that had not been been adressed by most venues
TRANSPORT & TRAVEL
Business travel is not a big issue for these organisations. Only three venues listed staff as travelling outside the country on an annual basis (generally once or twice a year), and regional venues generally used public transport to travel to larger cities (particularly Dublin) for meetings and events.
None of the participating venues had gathered data on customer travel. Not surprisingly, venues in the larger cities could cite anecdotal evidence of patrons using public transport, but not in any significant numbers. In the smaller towns, public transport schedules did not generally co-incide with performance times and were not an option for patrons.
Cycling, it was felt, would have much more take up by staff and customers if there were safer cycling options, good, adjacent and secure bike parking, and better options for showering etc for staff members.
STAFF ENGAGEMENT ON CLIMATE CHANGE
In all of the participating organisations, there were staff team members actively engaging with climate action for their venue. Where there was a broad consensus and engagement across the organisation that this was an important issue, the corresponding actions were greater and more meaningful.
Two organisations had already established informal Green Teams and others did in the course of the project. Only one organisation had formally noted environmental ambitions in strategic documents.
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT ON CLIMATE CHANGE
Two organisations had actively engaged with their local communities on climate action.
With the exception of Axis, a venue that was involved in the Cultural Adaptations Project, the venues had not addressed climate adaptation. This will be key in order to equip the sector to deal with future changes to our weather and climate. None had risk assessments or strategies in place to deal with future threats caused by climate change. They are not alone – many organisations are ill-prepared when it comes to climate adaptation.
Where the individual reports were fully completed, a detailed and extensive series of recommendations were included for each category of impact that had been analysed in the study. This serves as a menu of options from which the organisation can choose, beginning with small easy wins, and progressing to larger long-term projects. No venue is expected to address all of these recommendations, the intention is that some of them can be included in a Climate Action Plan for the organisation. For example, where no official Green Team had been established in an organisation, this was a recommendation. Where a building had potential to install a Solar PV array which could generate renewable electricity, it was recommended that this be investigated.
All of the seven participating venues were invited to take part in a Greening Arts Centres project which received funding from the Arts Council under the Capacity Building Support Scheme, running from September 2021 to May 2022. Six of the seven signed up, with the exception of the Taibhdhearc which was replaced by the Theatre Royal in Waterford. The aim of that project was to equip the participating organisations to build capacity to address the recommendations included in the initial reports.