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Broadway Goes Green: Productions Commit to Reducing Carbon Footprint

December 3, 2008 - Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and members of the Broadway community announced a commitment for Broadway to “go green” and become more environmentally responsible as they reduce their carbon footprint. In cooperation with the Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability and the Natural Resources Defense Council, producers, theatre owners, actors, organized labor, and companies supporting productions will now consider environmental impacts when putting on Broadway shows.

Broadway Goes Green is the next in a series of challenges the Administration has made to institutions – starting with universities – to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and adopt more sustainable practices to help achieve the PlaNYC goal of reducing the City’s carbon footprint 30 percent by 2030. The Mayor was joined at the announcement, which took place at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre, by Nina Lannan, Chair of the Broadway League, David Stone, producer of Wicked, as well as green characters from shows now on Broadway: Elphaba from Wicked, Nicky the green puppet from Avenue Q, and Frank from Young Frankenstein. The press announcement concluded with a new song written by Nell Benjamin and Seth Rudetsky about the greening of Broadway that was performed by cast members from each running show.

“Nearly a quarter of Broadway theaters have already switched the theaters’ marquee lights to more energy-efficient bulbs – and the remaining theaters have pledged to do so within the next 12 months,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “By this time next year, the lights on Broadway will burn just as bright, but the energy bills and our City’s carbon output will be lower. This commitment will raise the level of awareness for everyone involved in these shows – including the audiences – and that’s going to have an impact that reverberates far beyond the Big Apple.”

Ten Broadway theatres have replaced over 10,000 exterior and interior bulbs and an additional 14 conversions are underway. The rest of the theaters have pledged to do the same within the next 12 months. Steps like these will help to reduce the load on the taxed electrical grid in Midtown Manhattan.

“Broadway reaches a huge audience, so in addition to Broadway doing our part to help the Earth, we hope to encourage theatergoers to take personal action to make meaningful changes in their daily lives,” said The Broadway League Chair Nina Lannan. “An enormous thanks to Mayor Bloomberg for his leadership, his consistent support for the Broadway community, and to the City’s commitment to environmentally sustainable practices.”

As part of Broadway Goes Green, production shops are offering environmentally preferable materials and are developing plans to recycle or reuse scenery, costumes are being washed in cold water whenever feasible, and re-chargeable batteries are used in sound equipment whenever possible. Further, touring shows are offsetting the carbon emissions from transporting their equipment through investments in new wind and renewable power projects. Broadway theaters will also hand out tip cards to tell their audiences the things they can do to reduce their carbon footprint at home. Wicked has also reviewed and revised its behind-the-scenes production activity to adopt greener practices.

“I’d always believed that the environmental movement didn’t require my attention and was being handled by professionals and activists, until I saw An Inconvenient Truth,” said David Stone, producer, Wicked. “I decided that night to challenge all of the companies of Wicked across North America to take a stand to protect our planet. I urge every show, theatre, union and vendor to support Broadway’s commitment to this very important plan to reduce individual consumption as well as the industry’s collective carbon footprint.”

“As Broadway shifts its theatre productions toward environmentally preferable operations its influence and leadership will reverberate throughout the entertainment world,” said Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, Senior Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Broadway’s unique global visibility and unparalleled cultural influence offers a rare opportunity to move the marketplace towards environmentally intelligent products and, at the same time, help theaters save money and inspire their patrons. Bravo to Broadway for its leadership on this critical issue.”

PLAYBILL is working with NRDC to enhance their environmental practices which are already extensive, and will be supporting the initiative by periodically reporting on the Broadway Goes Green efforts and regularly printing theatre related eco-tips in PLAYBILL Magazines throughout the year.

Broadway shows sold 12.27 million tickets in the 2007-2008 season, grossing $937.5 million. Broadway contributes $5.1 billion to the economy of New York City on top of ticket sales and supports 44,000 local jobs. More than 6 million tickets are purchased by visitors who come to New York City (or extend a trip) specifically to attend a Broadway show or shows.

Shows in pre-production, long-running shows, and theater owners/venues have set the following goals to achieve within one year:

- Evaluate opportunities that will provide greener alternatives for new shows, from the initial design stage through the disposition of scenery at the close of production;

- Conduct greenhouse gas inventories for the theaters and use them to integrate the reduction of carbon footprints into long-term business plans;

- Develop educational initiatives and provide information for producers and vendors to allow them to make the smart choices so they can reduce the environmental impact of sets, costumes, lighting and transportation;

- Work with the theater and stage lighting industry and manufacturers to develop more energy-efficiency technology that still meets necessary aesthetic qualities;

- Share proven techniques to reduce carbon emissions, waste, and other ecological impacts, including more efficient use of energy, water and paper to running shows so they can take the same steps;

- Implement and share better practices with theatre production and show venues across the country;

- Use local scenery, lighting, projection, sound, and costume vendors promoting sustainable practices;

- Optimize show transportation routes, schedules, and loads to reduce mileage and trips; and create an avenue through which productions can recover and re-use material;

- To promote “going green” to theater goers using regular reporting,” tip” cards handed out at the shows and a public internet site that will be updated regularly with the progress of this initiative.

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