The Greenhouse @ Edfringe (Oli Savage)

First ever Zero-Waste venue at the Edinburgh Fringe
The Edinburgh Fringe has made conscious efforts to reduce its harmful environmental impacts. They promote their sustainable practice award and recommend each show ‘think in the low thousands’ when they come around to ordering their flyers. There were, however, around 3,500 shows at The Fringe 2018, so even if we use the very conservative estimate of 1,000 flyers a show, then 3.5 million flyers would have been produced. That is 22 tonnes of paper that would have been thrown in the bin just to flyer for shows, which has serious environmental impacts.
We no longer have the luxury of climate change just being a vague background issue anymore, which is why BoxedIn Theatre is bringing The Greenhouse to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2019. The Greenhouse is a purpose-built, sustainable performance venue that will house eight shows, alongside workshops and musical events, six days a week for the entire month of August. Everything about the project is zero-waste; we are building our venue from recycled and reclaimed materials, and we have a sustainable marketing plan which utilises digital and in-person approaches.
The Greenhouse team are really putting their money where their mouths are. By creating an environmentally conscious space and prioritising sustainability throughout, The Greenhouse will demonstrate how easy it is both to create eco-friendly art, and to act in an eco-friendly manner around that. The Greenhouse Initiative takes this one step further, expanding their goals outside the venue. It will provide advice, support, and practical incentives for other companies to act in a more sustainable manner. The Greenhouse will utilise this collaboration to further a genuine, artist-led support for a greener, more sustainable Fringe.
What’s more, all their shows will cost no more than £5, with additional financial rewards such as bulk discounts for seeing more than one show. This project is so important for the protection and preservation of our environment. Which is why BoxedIn Theatre are endeavouring to remove any limits on public participation.
On top of their shows, the project will also feature an extensive programme of free workshops. These will give a greater insight into the project, its aims, and how it came into being. Want to find out about how they designed and built a sustainable venue? Or perhaps you are intrigued about their zero-waste marketing campaign? Maybe you just want to discover how on earth they manage to create theatre without any electricity? Well, that is the purpose of the workshops.
However, The Greenhouse is so much more than just a venue, it is a community. Hence why we called these events ‘workshops’ not ‘lectures’, because we want to have a conversation with our audience and with other artists too. We envision workshops as a welcoming space to discuss issues raised by our project, as well as providing a forum for other artists to practically experiment with these issues and explore how they can incorporate solutions in their own practice.

This is undoubtedly an ambitious project, and is one the whole team are extremely passionate about. As The UN stated recently, we only have twelve years to limit climate change catastrophe. The threat is real. Climate change is not an abstract problem. We need to work together to preserve our resources for the future, which is why we believe The Greenhouse by BoxedIn Theatre is so important. The project encourages a more sustainable approach to the quotidian, and implements this approach through its work, providing the space to actively make a difference.


What is the carbon footprint of bringing this production to Edinburgh, and have you incorporated any activities that enable you to reduce this?

That’s a really tough question to answer. It’s important to acknowledge that the carbon-footprint for the project can’t be zero. We have to collect all of our resources or have them transported (although we are working very hard to minimise the distance of transport, and using electric/hybrid vehicles where possible). Also, our cast and crew do not live in Edinburgh, so there is the impact of their transport up to Edinburgh.

As part of The Greenhouse, we are keeping a very close eye on every aspect of our carbon footprint, carefully recording the impact that the project has. This will be published in a handbook towards the end of the year, and will give us something to aim for at next year’s fringe!

In terms of reducing our carbon footprint, The Greenhouse is the first ever zero-waste performance venue at the Edinburgh Fringe, we have eliminated a lot of waste and a lot of our carbon-footprint. All set and props are made from found and recycled materials, and we are not using any disposable advertising (which means no posters and flyers). We feel like this is a big step in the right direction!

In what ways do you feel that theatre can bring anything to this discussion, especially in the light of the recent imaginative activism that has been engaging the media, such as Extinction Rebellion?

Simply put, theatre is a different class of activism. To draw on your example, one of the problems that Extinction Rebellion have been having in the media is their tone. The fact that they are protesters and activists means that their message has been interpreted as preachy and a little hostile. That comes across in the name.

Theatre has a unique power to create debate and discussion rather than instruction. We really and truly believe that people rarely change their behaviour from being shouted at and beaten in to submission. They need to come to their own conclusions – to realise the truth for themselves. Find furthermore, the discussion around climate change has focused on hard facts and figures for too long, and it hasn’t engaged with the emotional side of the debate. Theatre promotes exactly these kind of emotion-based discussion that are so essential if we are to see a more sustainable future for mankind.

Are there methods that theatre can use to do beyond ‘raising awareness’, since it strikes me that much of the audience will at least be aware of the issue?

Theatre is not just a medium of preaching – as I mentioned before, it is a medium of discussion. In its simplest form, it can present multiple conflicting ideas, leaving the audience to discuss and debate which are the most important. That’s not raising awareness, it’s creating discussion, and sparking active engagement with the issue. That is something that theatre can do.

Crucially, though, theatre isn’t just about the performance. At The Greenhouse (and our parent company BoxedIn Theatre) we believe good theatre has to be holistic. There is so much stuff that surrounds a theatrical production, why not use that to deliver a message as well?

This approach means that everything about The Greenhouse promotes and prioritises a sustainable future – both in the arts and beyond. Thinking about reducing waste in your marketing? Great! Check out how we’ve managed to pull off a marketing campaign without throwing anything in the bin. Considering more sustainable approached to construction? Fantastic! Chat to us about how we built The Greenhouse from found and recycled materials.

Our programme of workshops will provide a practical space for artists and audience members alike to actually DISCOVER ways of implementing sustainability in to their everyday life and work. Our outreach initiative will construct a community of like-minded audience members and artists and push them towards activism and practical change. It can be hard to feel like you are actually having an impact as a smaller, individual artist. We will be bringing people together so that everyone can start to feel like they are making a difference.

Once we as theatre makers accept that just ‘raising awareness’ isn’t good enough, we can realise just how powerful theatre and all of its trappings can be in actually providing inspiration, ideas, and toolkits for combatting climate change.

What elements of climate change do you explore, and what ideas are you keen for the audience to take away?

Fundamentally, this project explores the human side of climate change. We want to instil a love of the world in our audience, and a desire to make a difference. This project is a blend of urgency and hope.

Urgency because this is no longer a problem for later – it’s a problem for right now.

And hope because we know that, if we can address this problem completely, starting now, that we can all build a better future.

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